In 1995 the Texas Legislature authorized the establishment of charter schools in Texas. Just 3 years later in 1998, Life School opened its doors in Oak Cliff, TX, with a small team of 15 staff members to serve 266 students. Sparked by the vision of Dr. Tom Wilson, the school was established to “provide a quality education and give parents educational choice regardless of their ability to pay.” Today, Life School employs more than 600 staff and serves more than 5,500 students across the Dallas area.
Following early success in Oak Cliff, the district expanded its unique brand of life skills, leadership training and K-12 education into surrounding communities. Life School now operates in Carrollton, Cedar Hill, Lancaster, Red Oak, Oak Cliff, Mountain Creek, and Waxahachie. However, the district’s impact goes beyond traditional city lines. One chief advantage of open districts is the ability for parents to choose a school outside of traditional boundaries. As a result, Life School serves families living in 47 cities.
Chief Development Officer Eddie Davis says, “We see a lot of family mobility. Many of our families choose to drive across city lines because they see tremendous value in the education their students receive at Life School.”
As the district has grown, so have its academic offerings. Life School offers a wide range of athletics, extracurricular activities, dual credit partnerships with Navarro and Dallas College, and Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. As if to punctuate nearly 3 decades of success, the district awarded its 3,000th graduate in 2022.
Meanwhile, the district celebrated high scores in Texas Education Association (TEA) Accountability Ratings in 2022, earning a “B” with 87 out of 100 points. The district also earned 7 campus distinctions – one of which was a distinction for Postsecondary Readiness at its flagship campus in Oak Cliff.
Twenty-five years old, Life School continues to find new ways to innovate. In late 2022, the district announced its decision to move toward a 4-day school week beginning in August 2023. The move received overwhelming support from teachers, staff, and most notably – parents. More than 2,800 families representing 74.5% of enrolled students contributed to a public survey. Of those who responded, approximately 75% awarded the idea 4 or 5 out of 5 stars. The results were similar regardless of county, preferred language and economic need.
Families noted a variety of reasons they felt a 4-day school week would benefit them. They indicated that the move would benefit their child’s social and mental well-being by allowing for “better self care and mental health” and giving “better quality of life, school/life balance.” They also said that it would provide “less stress” and help students “get that extra day to be able to rejuvenate.”
One of the biggest benefits of a 4-day school week is its appeal to staff and teachers. Amid teacher and substitute teacher shortages, districts across the country are looking for ways to attract and keep quality and experienced teachers.
Superintendent Brent Wilson, Ed.D. said, “Today, many organizations are rethinking work-life balance. As Life School celebrates our 25th anniversary, we remain focused on ways we can create new opportunities to better serve our students, families and staff.”
But, even before the addition of the 4-day school week announcement, Life School took care to steward its family atmosphere. Sometimes referred to as “Life Lifers,” a few staff members have remained at Life School since its inception.
Asked why she stayed at Life School for 25 years, Life Lifer Tamara Crane explains, “I was here in 1997 when Dr. Tom Wilson laid out his vision for Life School and how he wanted to provide more opportunity for families in Oak Cliff. I bought into that vision, and I’ve been here ever since. Even my own children attended Life School.”
Chief of Staff Scott Fuller is also a Life Lifer, and he can often be observed with a sentimental tear in his eyes at graduations or public events where he gets to see Life School students in action. Both of his own children attended and graduated from Life School. When asked to describe the heart of Life School, he says, “At Life School, your student is not just a number. Our incredible staff sees individuals who have a name and need to be loved, encouraged, and supported so they can be ready for life. I am thankful for the impact we have made in the communities we serve.”
Life School is a tuition-free, public charter school with campuses in Carrollton, Cedar Hill, Lancaster, Mountain Creek, Red Oak, Oak Cliff and Waxahachie, TX. Life School develops leaders with life skills through strong academics, character training, and partnerships with parents and the community. Its mission is accomplished in part through the financial support of donors who provide scholarships and embrace making students ready to learn, ready to lead and ready for life.
Parents who are interested in enrollment can visit lifeschool.net/learn-about-life. Enrollment for the 2022-2023 school year is open until March 10, 2023. Partners who would like to support Life School financially can give online at lifeschool.net/give.