Lt. Governor Mark Robinson has appointed Stephen Gay, the executive director of Bradford Preparatory School in Charlotte, to the Charter Schools Advisory Board (CSAB). Stephen will replace Terry Stoops, and will be seated at CSAB’s meeting on Monday, January 9. A veteran educator, Stephen has more than 30 years’ experience in public education. He began his career in Hickory Public Schools, working as a teacher and administrator. In 1999, he became the principal of American Renaissance School, later leading East Wake Academy for nine years before coming to Bradford Prep.
The Coalition is delighted that Stephen is joining CSAB. We caught up with him this week to hear his perspective on the state’s charter movement. Below, we share our conversation.
Tell us what drew you to work in charter schools.
What really drew me to charter schools is the way you can impact students very quickly. I also enjoy the challenge of taking an educational vision and making that happen. I’ve been with Bradford Prep since July. I love what Bradford stands for and its focus on the whole child.
As you step into this new role at CSAB, what do you hope to accomplish on behalf of North Carolina’s charter movement?
I’m a very big proponent of choice. We also need to protect ourselves from legislative creep. I think we also need to look at growth: Where are we growing? Why are we growing? Are there too many charter schools in certain areas? Are we opening quality charter schools? My big thing is quality over quantity.
What are key hurdles ahead for the state’s charter movement?
Our biggest issue is legislative creep. In addition, more EMOs are coming into the state. Is that good or bad? I don’t know. As long as they’re quality, that’s what we need.
Could you share your vision for what North Carolina’s charter schools could and should be?
We need to ensure we’re providing a quality education. Focus on the mission that’s best for our kids. What do the kids in the community—where a charter school is located—need in order to be successful?
What’s your favorite charter school moment?
I’ve done building programs at American Renaissance, at East Wake, and now, at Bradford—so, seeing those facilities come to life. At American Renaissance, we were in a warehouse our first year. What you learn from that is it isn’t about the building. It’s about the people you put in the building.
In addition, I love the partnership we have with families. At charter schools, especially young charter schools, parents are very involved in their kids’ education. They feel like they’re on the same journey with us.
Is there anything we didn’t ask that you’d want other charter leaders to know?
A lot of charter leaders feel isolated. They’re trying to survive day to day. But if you get isolated, it isn’t good for your school, and it isn’t good for you as a person. You have a vision, but you need to go out and interact with other leaders. Go where good things happen!