‘Charter Schools Are Being Undersold’
Parent and advocate Yvette Bell speaks up for charters
“We are firm believers,” Yvette Bell says of the power of public charter schools. She and her husband, Kim, describe their youngest son Marcus’s transformative charter school experience with ebullience and obvious pride. A trailblazer at Alpha Academy in Fayetteville, Marcus was one of the “magnificent dozen”— Yvette’s name for the school’s inaugural 12-student graduating class.
But education wasn’t always exciting. As a middle schooler, Marcus was bored and disengaged. In fact, had it not been for an offhand conversation at church, the Bells might have missed Alpha Academy altogether.
Misconceptions and a nearly missed opportunity
A military family, the Bells relocated to Fort Bragg a number of years ago, following a stint at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. At the time, Yvette and Kim enrolled all three of their children in Hoke County district schools. While the older children flourished, Marcus did not.
Clearly, the Bells needed another option. “One of our church members, Ms. Norma Jean Campbell—who was on the board of directors for Alpha Academy—approached us and said, ‘Have you guys considered Alpha Academy?’” Yvette remembers.
The answer was no, but not because they hadn’t seen the school. “We pass by it every day going to work,” they told Ms. Campbell. “We thought it was a private school!”
“No, no, no,” she said, explaining the application process. The Bells applied and Marcus enrolled for 7th grade. “He didn’t look back,” Yvette says. “It was a total transformation for him. He was so excited about class and school.”
Marcus’s math teacher got him into Math Counts; Science Olympiad followed. Later, Marcus even enrolled in Alpha Academy’s Drone Remote Pilot Institute. The innovative drone program garnered local media coverage: The Fayetteville Observer featured Marcus in a news story in 2021.
Salutatorian for Alpha Academy’s Class of 2022, Marcus is now majoring in cybersecurity at East Carolina University.
The Bells celebrate Marcus’s 2022 graduation from Alpha Academy in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Photo credit: Yvette Bell
Speaking up—and out—for charters
What was it about the charter model that was so beneficial? The Bells cite several factors: personal attention, small classes, an outstanding teaching staff. Communication was excellent and equitable. At Alpha Academy, Yvette notes, “Everybody has a say.”
For Yvette, that’s truer than ever now. This summer, Superintendent Catherine Truitt named Yvette and 47 other parents to a new statewide Parent Advisory Commission. Commission members represent the panorama of North Carolina’s K-12 offerings: district schools, public charter schools, private schools, and home schools. They all have a say.
Personal experience and core convictions drive Yvette’s advocacy. She knows parent voices matter; she has seen its impact. “You have to be involved to see greatness that your children have,” she says. ”I’ll do what I need to do to be an advocate for charter schools. This was our first experience. Your first impression is everlasting.”
What does she wish parents knew about charter schools? Clearing up misconceptions would be a great place to start. “Other parents have said [of Alpha Academy], ‘I thought that was a private school,’” Yvette says. “That’s what we thought, too.”
In addition, she affirms the importance of rallying behind charter growth. “The [traditional] public schools are already overwhelmed as it is. There has to be another option for our children,” Yvette says.
She’s ready to speak up—and she knows what she wants to say. Parents, the education community, and politicians need to know about the good work charter schools are doing, she believes.
“Charter schools are being undersold,” she adds. “Our charter schools are a jewel.”