Why choose a charter school? A longtime educator explains

By November 15, 2022 News

Angela Brooks, charter parent and administrator:

‘I was looking for more’ 

Angela Brooks’ soft-spoken demeanor belies her passion for shaping students’ minds. The dean of secondary education at Pinnacle Classical Academy in Shelby, Angela launched her career in 2004 at a Gaston County public school. As a high school history teacher, she often taught students nearing the end of their K-12 studies. She noticed some were better prepared, especially the students who previously attended a nearby charter school.

“Those students seemed to have a really great foundation,” Angela says. “They stood out above some of the other students.”

That got her thinking. Still, she and her husband were busy raising their own children, Will and Amy. Both attended the local elementary school. A precocious reader, Amy completed classwork easily, turning to books to fill the school day. Teachers were great, Angela says—but challenges were scant.

What to do? When Pinnacle launched in 2013, Angela leapt at the opportunity to teach at the new charter school. She quickly signed on as a fifth-grade teacher, enrolling Will and Amy in first and third grades. “I loved the experience I had when I was in a public school,” she reflects. “But I was looking for more—as an educator and a parent.”

Angela Brooks and her daughter, Amy, outside Pinnacle Classical Academy in Shelby, North Carolina. Photo credit: Angela Brooks.

Building on a strong foundation

She found more at Pinnacle. Angela was most intrigued by the rich, college preparatory curriculum, taught within the classical tradition. At Pinnacle, students master core knowledge, tackling rigorous texts. Accelerated coursework pays off: Over half of Pinnacle’s seniors earn an associate degree along with a high school diploma.

Angela also relished the dual challenges of shaping a school even as she shaped students’ minds. “I really wanted to be part of building this new school,” she says. “I was inspired by being able to teach students foundational things at an elementary level, and then building on that as they grew.”

Free markets fuel innovation  

As she closes in on a decade at Pinnacle, Angela is reflective about the benefits of the charter model. She prizes charter flexibility, especially for the freedom it gives her to choose curriculum. Moreover, she sees benefits that reach beyond the confines of her charter school. “That free market idea has helped better educate all students in the county, not just the students here at Pinnacle,” she says. “It keeps everybody looking for what is best for students.”

Educational choice has also created options for families. “It’s hard for working-class and lower-income families specifically to be able to choose a school where tuition is going to be a factor,” she says. “And that’s one of the areas we excel at, in terms of test scores. Our lower income demographic tends to do very well here—better than in the county.”

Shaping students’ minds—again   

Amy, that erstwhile third grader with her nose in a book, is poised to graduate from Pinnacle this spring. She is honing her leadership skills and planning her own role in education. Last spring, State Superintendent Truitt tapped Amy to serve a two-year term on a Student Advisory Council, the only charter student in the state to do so.  “I really enjoyed it over the past year,” Amy says. “My favorite part was being able to travel to Raleigh and meet the Superintendent and the department heads at DPI and talk to them about our ideas.”

What’s next? Amy doesn’t know yet where she’ll go to college. But she’s sure about what she hopes to study. Like her mother, she wants to shape students’ minds. “I would like to get a degree in elementary education,” she says.  Stay tuned.

Kristen Blair

Author Kristen Blair

Kristen Blair is the communications director for the North Carolina Coalition for Charter Schools.

More posts by Kristen Blair