Houston District Contracts With National Company To Give Students Second Chance At Alternative Campus

This week there was the official ribbon cutting at Beechnut Academy. The company Camelot Education started a five-year contract with HISD in 2012 to run the campus.
Students who consistently misbehave in Houston schools may not get expelled. But they can be sent to an alternative school for nine weeks or more. The ultimate goal is for students to eventually return to their home campus.

Last year, Jasmine Lewis got into trouble at school. So she was sent to a new school, Beechnut Academy in Southwest Houston.

“It was because I had two fights on and off campus and I had had a backpack in my possession that had the two girls’ names on it with bad language on it.”

Student Jasmine Lewis
Student Jasmine Lewis attended Beechnut Academy, run by Camelot Education, in Southwest Houston after getting in trouble at her home school. She says she learned a lot.

Jasmine attended this alternative school for more than three months.

She says it was stricter than her old school. But she liked it.

“I learned to be an even better person and actually learned more things than I have in the past.”

This kind of student progress is the goal at Beechnut Academy.

It’s run by a private company called Camelot Education. It has alternative schools in other parts of the country like Chicago and Philadelphia.

But this is Camelot’s first campus in Houston.

Regional Director Cory Thames disagrees with its strict reputation.

“As far as being strict, we follow up. I don’t think it’s a strict thing.”

Thames says Camelot does focus on certain rules. He calls them “norms.”

“We continually ask for the norms to be followed. We don’t see someone not following a norm and say, ‘Oh, it’s ok because it’s Monday.”’

Those are rules like no one has the right to hurt another person.

Besides improving behavior, the Houston Independent School District wants students here to keep up with their academics.

Michael Cardona is with HISD.

“If we do a really good job, then they’re not getting that educational gap, they’re not losing education. So that’s really the ultimate goal.”

Cardona says HISD pays Camelot about $11,000 per student. That’s almost double the typical funding for a regular student in HISD.

He says that extra cost makes sense because these students need more resources like counseling.

It’s been worth it for Jasmine Lewis. The 17-year-old is back in class at her home school Westside High.

She also just won an art contest depicting the symbol of her old alterative school. It’s a phoenix — the mythical bird that dies only to rises from its ashes.

“To me, it means that when you do stuff and, you know, you come into a bad place, and then when you die, you know, you rebirth. It’s all over again. You have a second chance of life.”

Jasmine has one more year in high school. Then she wants to go on to college. Maybe even become a doctor.

Bio photo of Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for KUHF, including K-12 and higher education.

Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and regularly contributed to WLRN, the local NPR affiliate and Miami Herald news partner...