Compass Academy Charter School has a new addition and a new board president that are tied together by friendship, legacy and tragedy.
Brian Madison is the new school board president. He replaces his friend Kenny Comstock, who died in a September 2020 car accident. Comstock’s wife, Melissa, also was killed. Their three children survived.
The addition to the school is the Comstock Athletics & Fine Arts Center. It is the second of three phases for the growing campus. The third phase, a junior high and high school, was put on hold for now to gather financing, Superintendent Kathy Killingsworth said. But the school has purchased land for it.
Comstock was the executive pastor of CrossRoads Fellowship. The church donated the initial land that Compass was built on and supported the school throughout the years.
This is Madison’s third year on the Compass board. He said Comstock brought him on and he was vice president before becoming president of the nine-member panel.
Madison said he cries every day in some form because he misses Comstock so much.
“He was more than just a pastor,” Madison said. “… He had a far-reaching effect on people outside the church.”
He said Comstock promoted good ventures in many areas and was not judgmental.
Madison said if there’s a situation where he doesn’t think he has the right answer he tries to think what Comstock would do.
Killingsworth also worked closely with Comstock and would bat things back and forth daily.
“We had great discussions, and what was real uncanny is two weeks before he passed. I asked Kenny, I said, if something happens and you’re not with us who do you think should be the board president?” Killingsworth said.
His answer was Madison.
She added that Comstock had his ducks in a row on many things.
“… He made a huge impact on all of us …,” Killingsworth said.
Although he was young, Comstock was sharp and “maneuvered and managed people better than anyone I’ve ever seen. He could manage and move things forward dealing with difficult situations and groups … and I admired him for that,” she said. “He was a dear friend …”
She said she feels honored that the school and board named the athletics and fine arts complex after the Comstocks. A dedication is planned for 5:30 or 6 p.m. Aug. 12. The exact time hasn’t been set yet.
Madison added that he is still learning. There is one similarity between education and business and that’s relationships.
“… That’s the name of the game in my mind; relationships from the board to the administration and also being able to listen to the parents and teachers. … If you can, you can develop enough deposits in the bank, you can afford a few debits,” Madison said.
This has been a challenging year as president with the COVID-19 pandemic, trying to handle the opinions of the parents and their trepidation “because everybody was nervous,” but ultimately the goal was to do the right thing for students and get them back in school.
He added that it was the right decision that Comstock and Killingsworth made together.
Madison acknowledged that the students did better with in person instruction and their test scores were “really, really good.”
“I think last year will prepare the board and the administration for just about anything to come,” Madison said. He added that Compass now has a plan for just about anything that comes up.
Madison added that he has three children, twin girls who will be in fifth grade, and a son in seventh grade, who attend Compass. He wanted to serve any way he could.
“… This is probably the best use of my talents. I’m not a great, volunteer if you will, at a booth or anything like that but just any way to serve the schools and give back what it (has) given my kids,” he said.
Many board members have children who attend Compass.
Madison said it’s been rewarding to see the changes in Compass coming from the previous location on Pagewood Avenue to the current one at 5530 Billy Hext Road, the growth in students and having the first graduating class coming up next year.
“You’re seeing the traditions form right in front of your eyes,” Madison said.
Killingsworth said the administration and students are excited about the addition of Phase II, which also includes a common area, large gym and stage, practice rooms, coaches offices, a multipurpose room, a patio area so students can eat outside under shade and a large trophy case, among other items.
Having started in 2011, Compass has doubled in size since 2015 in terms of enrollment, staff and budget, Killingsworth said. The campus now had 1,300-plus students and is expecting roughly 1,420 next year. There are still portables on campus and a waiting list of 758. Killingsworth said they had more than 900 last year.
Madison is a Permian High School graduate who attended Blanton for elementary and Nimitz for junior high.
“And so, it’s really been interesting to think that my kids are going to graduate from Compass, even though I have this great pride for Permian and Nimitz and even Blanton for that matter. … But it’s been neat to … chart a new course …,” Madison said.
He added that the board and parents are proud of the test scores, but also the education their children are receiving.
“… It’s not a private education. We’re almost getting a private education for free and I think that’s why you see so much gratitude from a lot of the parents and willingness to help …,” Madison said.
He added that many parents could send their children to private school, but they don’t because they see what kind of education Compass offers. Parents take their children to and from school.
Madison said he wants to tell the story of Compass and let people know what they are doing there and the difference they are making in education for students.
“I think some people view Compass as this exclusive thing when it’s not. It’s public and your kid can come and we’re educating the heck out of these kids and holding them to a standard, to an expectation that when you come here you take care of business,” he added.
Killingsworth said students have to fill out an application and go through a lottery process. It’s the luck of the draw, they do not screen students and they take all types of special populations, like special education children.
The average class size is about 24 students to one teacher. There were 90 teachers last year and they will add another six teachers for 12th grade and more custodians.
Killingsworth said one of the things the school did that affected homeowners was refinancing its bonds, which saved Compass about $6.3 million.
“… And that’s very significant for us, so that frees up money we can use for other things. So it’s over 200,000 a year in savings. That’s our latest accomplishment,” Killingsworth said.