International Leadership of Texas (ILTexas), a free public charter school network, on Thursday, Sept. 9, hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for its new ILTexas Brigadier General Ramirez K-8 campus south in the Santa Fe community south of Plum Grove, Texas.
The groundbreaking ceremony featured traditional Chinese Lion dances and more than 30 students from the ILTexas Marine Corps JROTC. Abner Lyons, community liaison for District 142 State Representative Harold Dutton, was also in attendance and presented a certificate and a flag that was flown over the State Capitol to the new campus principal, Coral Martinez. A staff member from the office of State Representative Ernest Bailes (District 18) also participated in the groundbreaking ceremony.
ILTexas BG Ramirez K-8 will begin serving students in the 2022-2023 school year and be home to 1,416 scholars. In addition to the ILTexas BG Ramirez K-8, ILTexas will also open a second kindergarten through eighth-grade campus and a high school in the 2023-2024 school year. Both K-8 campuses will serve 1,416 students, and the high school will serve 1,200 students.
Eddie Conger, founder and superintendent of ILTexas, said the location for the new campus was picked based on the unprecedented growth that is being experienced within Cleveland ISD.
“This area was selected because there was some outreach from the Texas Education Agency saying that Cleveland ISD had super-growth and TEA was looking for options for the students and parents in this area,” Conger told Bluebonnet News.
In May 2021, Conger paid a visit to the community and met with some of the stakeholders, who showed enthusiastic support for the project.
“We applied for the expansion with the State and it was approved. The owners of the land have been very, very supportive in our mission to provide a different option for the students,” he said.
The new school is being built on 17 acres along Community Drive in the Santa Fe community that was donated by Colony Ridge Land, LLC. Trey Harris, owner of Colony Ridge Land, LLC, said he is ecstatic to see other educational opportunities being offered to students.
“Obviously, Cleveland ISD is struggling to keep up with all the growth. This ILTexas campus is a gift from the state and I could not be more pleased,” Harris said. “Anything that is good for our communities, we want to be a part of that. I would have turned backflips to get them here. They came highly recommended by the chairman of the Texas Education Agency, Mike Morath. He had wonderful things to say about this school system.”
Conger, a retired Marine with 20 years of service who describes himself as a “traditional educator” through his teaching work at Hillsboro, Garland and Dallas ISDs, says he appreciates that the new school is in Liberty County.
“Liberty means having the freedom to make a choice without having the government tell you where to send your kids to school,” he said.
As a charter school, ILTexas offers a unique education as students learn three languages – English, Spanish and Chinese.
“It’s all about our mission to prepare kids for exceptional leadership roles in the international community, by emphasizing leadership, mastering the three languages, and strengthening their minds, bodies and characters,” Monger said.
The quality of education received at ILTexas schools was affirmed by two mothers – Nancy Salazar and Manya Leach – who work for ILTexas and have children currently enrolled in the program.
“I love the education they are receiving. They are getting something that I believe they wouldn’t have received at a traditional district. I feel like it will give them an advantage in life,” said Salazar.
Applications are currently being accepted for students in the 2023-2024 school year. Conger said they have already received an unprecedented number of applicants from families within Cleveland ISD, but that should not discourage others from applying as new students will be admitted based on a lottery system.
“You can be the last student to apply and still get in, or you can be the first and not get picked by the computer lottery system,” he explained.
As the campus will not offer transportation, parents or guardians of applicants must be willing to transport their student to and from the campus each school day, or live within walking distance for the students.
The new campus will be named for Brigadier General Joe E. Ramirez, Jr., a native of Houston and a graduate of Texas A&M University. Ramirez is a retired Army officer with more than 30 years of service who now works as the interim vice president of Student Affairs at Texas A&M University.
In April 2022, the computer lottery system will be activated and students will be picked. Students do not have to go through the lottery system again once they are enrolled. Each February, ILTexas sends out “intent to return” letters to all students. Once that form is completed and turned in, they are enrolled again the following year. New spots within the school open up as students graduate, move away or leave for other opportunities.
To apply for enrollment at the new campus, go online to https://www.iltexas.org/.