Monthly Archives

February 2024

Vote for pro-charter candidates in the primary election!

By Election 2024
Early voting for the upcoming primary election ends at 3 p.m. this Saturday, March 2. Please vote for a pro-charter candidate–whether you vote early or on Election Day, March 5!  To educate voters about how the primary candidates stack up on support for public charter schools, the Coalition Board of Directors has endorsed a slate of pro-charter candidates.

Candidates endorsed by the Coalition

North Carolina House of Representatives
North Carolina Senate
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
*Candidates with an asterisk are not incumbents.

In a press release announcing the candidate endorsements, Lindalyn Kakadelis, executive director of the Coalition, said:

Our organization endorses candidates exclusively on the basis of their support for public charter schools. Parents deserve a choice in their public schooling, and we use what resources we have to see to it that parents know who supports their choice and who doesn’t. These candidates have a track record of supporting public charter schools. They embrace the idea that parents deserve options in deciding which public school environment will best help their children achieve their full potential.

More information about voting in the primary election

Election Day voting on Tuesday, March 5, runs from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. Access more information about your in-person voting place on Election Day. When you vote, remember to bring your photo I.D.
Elections have consequences. The success of North Carolina’s charter movement pivots around the outcome of elections. Working to elect pro-charter candidates means the Coalition is able to advance our legislative goals at the General Assembly of protecting charter autonomy and pushing for fair funding. Please vote!
Coalition endorsements are non-partisan and issue-driven. View our Guidelines for Candidate Endorsement.

Last Call to Register for the 2024 Advocacy Summit

By News
The Charter Advocacy Summit is just over ONE WEEK AWAY, and we are expecting A BIG CROWD! This is the last call to register. You can register for the Summit HERE.

Important links:

Hotel information:

The deadline for booking a hotel room under the Coalition’s group rate has passed, but there are lots of other hotel options nearby! Options include: Embassy Suites Raleigh CrabtreeHampton Inn & Suites Raleigh/Crabtree Valley, and Hilton Garden Inn Raleigh/Crabtree Valley.


CCS-Leland Earns Top 20 Honors Nationwide on the Classic Learning Test

By News

A North Carolina public charter school has earned a berth among the “top 20” schools on a rigorous, nationally standardized test. Middle schoolers at Classical Charter Schools-Leland, a Coalition member school, earned scores on the Classic Learning Test (CLT 8) in 2023 that were higher than any other public school in the nation. All other schools ranked on the top 20 list were private schools that charge tuition. Congratulations, CCS-Leland!

The Roger Bacon Academy, the charter network behind CCS-Leland, attributes student success on CLT to the intensive–and longstanding–efforts of the school’s curriculum leaders:

CCS-Leland’s scoring in the elite Top Twenty is due to the twenty-five years of continual development by RBA’s Curriculum Department under Jessica Lopez, Dean of Classical Humanities, and Ali Cause-Nance, Dean of Math/Science, along with the coaches and teaching teams dedicated to educating the children of North Carolina.

Source: The Roger Bacon Academy, “Classic Learning Test (CLT) 8: What is it? How did we do?”

RBA has developed a table (above, and in a memo summarizing test scores) showing the ranking by location, school type, and tuition level. CCS-Leland is one of just three North Carolina schools on the list, and the only public school.

About the Classic Learning Test

CLT 8 is a diagnostic and summative assessment for 7th and 8th graders across the nation. Designed to evaluate high school readiness, CLT assesses student learning in several core areas: verbal reasoning; grammar and writing; and quantitative reasoning. The test incorporates robust, rigorous texts from classic literature. Think Virgil, Chaucer, and Tolkien, as examples of cited authors across CLT exams. View a CLT 8 practice test.

For college-bound high schoolers, CLT has gained traction as an alternative to the SAT or ACT. More than 250 colleges now accept CLT scores in lieu of SAT or ACT scores. Florida’s state university system approved CLT in 2023 as a college admission test. (Read more here.)

What’s CLT like? Education researcher Daniel Buck, writing in The Hill, sums it up:

Created in 2015, the CLT hopes to revive what we consider an education of old — logic, grammar, Shakespeare, Tolstoy. In format, it resembles its competitors, featuring passages with multiple choice questions. Yet students instead read the likes of Plato on tyrannical man or St. Teresa of Avila on the virtues of a humble life.

Meet the 2024 N.C. Charter School Teacher of the Year

By News

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction has named Lee Haywood of Uwharrie Charter Academy (UCA) in Asheboro, North Carolina, the 2024 N.C. Charter School Teacher of the Year.  Haywood is also one of nine finalists for the overall N.C. Teacher of the Year honor, which will be awarded April 5.

Recently, Kristen Blair, the Coalition’s communications director, spoke with Haywood about her work as a middle school visual arts teacher, her passion for cultivating creativity in her students, and her goals this year as she represents the state’s charter schools.

 We share the full interview below.

This is your 19th year of teaching. What initially compelled you to pursue a career as an educator?

Lee Haywood: I always thought I would teach in some capacity but didn’t always know what route I wanted to go. I lived with a single mother growing up, and she was my rock. When I was in fourth grade, my mom was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of breast cancer and was given three months to live. She was such an incredibly smart lady. She decided—and this was very brave of her—to pull me out of school, to order a homeschool curriculum, and to teach me at home. Her goal was mainly to spend more time with me, with the time she had left.  

It was amazing. We both fell in love—my mom with teaching, and me with learning from her. Even though she was very sick for a little while, we tried to take advantage of every learning experience possible. She kept getting stronger and recovered quicker than anyone thought she would. We loved learning at home and kept doing it for the next three years. I loved being with her. It really lit a fire under me for teaching later on.

In middle school, I wanted to go back—to graduate from the high school that my older brother attended, and to play sports. I had an incredible high school art teacher named Mike Durham, who I watched promote his students in every possible way. So, I had a great, strong model at home and a teacher who inspired me.

I did lose my mom in 2021, but I got about 30 extra years with her that I never thought I would have, and she was able to meet all of her grandbabies.

Lee Haywood (second from left) is honored in December as the 2024 N.C. Charter School Teacher of the Year. Also pictured, left from right: Bobby Sample, Kristy Priest, and UCA Superintendent Sharon Castelli. Photo credit: Courier Tribune.

What drew you to teach at a public charter school—and to Uwharrie Charter School?  

Haywood: I have been in lots of different settings. I went to a traditional public school. My mom pulled me from a magnet school to homeschool me. I taught in a traditional public school for 10 years: I worked in Davidson County and taught in three schools—1,000+ kids a week—and loved every second of it.

But when I started to plan a family, the schedule wasn’t going to work. I wanted a school that was closer to home, and I was looking for something different. When Uwharrie Charter opened, they started with their high school, but in 2015, the middle school was starting to open. My sister-in-law was one of the first teachers hired at UCA for high school, and I had always heard about how much she loved it. My brother was announced as principal of the new middle school, and he kept saying, “Hey, I know you’re happy where you are, but take a look.”

I walked in for a tour. At that time, the middle school was going to be in an old furniture showroom, so it wasn’t really a traditional school setting. But there was something charming about walking into something that wasn’t a school. It was different. I walked in, and being an art teacher who loves to repurpose things, I saw everything that it could be. I came over and absolutely fell in love with middle school. I finally feel like I am living up to my true potential as a teacher here at UCA. 

Uwharrie Charter’s STEAM [science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics] program was really appealing to me. Every teacher here has a STEAM class on something they’re interested in, and the kids choose what they take. The first couple of years, I taught a “Diggin’ DaVinci” class about Leonardo DaVinci’s inventions. Now I teach a recycled art class called “Trash to Treasure,” and we explore environmental artists—ones that work with manmade objects, but also environmental artists who work straight from nature.

Could you tell us why you’re passionate about integrating art across content areas, and why art is so important for student learning?

Haywood: I think it just comes naturally in the art room. To me, it’s never separate. Today I was studying mandalas from India, and we were talking about fractions, dividing a circle into pieces.  I also think it’s important for creating that well-rounded student. CEOs cite creativity as the number one thing they look for in a new employee: They’re looking for creative problem solvers. If that’s so important now in our workplace, why aren’t we naturally integrating it into all of our classes—if we’re building a well-rounded student and worker of tomorrow? That’s the biggest reason it’s so important to me, but it happens in my class every day.  

 Several years ago, I had an idea to get together with other teachers and create an arts night. What we encouraged everyone in the building to do is start pulling out lessons that have any kind of art tie-in. So, we have a “Night at the Museum,” where art is featured in every class. We’ve had a trashin’ fashion show, flash mobs, and poetry slams to celebrate the arts.  

You established a partnership with a local nonprofit organization that takes donated materials to divert trash from landfills. How does this partnership impact your students’ growth as artists, and as members of their community?

Haywood: There is a store in Greensboro, inspired by The Scrap Exchange in Durham, called Reconsidered Goods. They take in and sort discarded materials, bringing them to the floor for sale. They also recycle things for artists to repurpose or upcycle in some way. We have taken several field trips, and have gone to them with ideas that we can focus on here at school. They have a make-and-take lab, where students work on a piece of art there. A lot of times we take it back and finish it here at school.

We’ve created identity trophies, where we took discarded trophies and attached things to them and thought about what our superpowers were. Most recently, we created junk animals out of different materials we found there.

Reconsidered Goods has been more than helpful with my STEAM class and my art students—helping them understand that nothing we throw away can’t be turned back into profit or into something meaningful, aesthetically pleasing, or helpful in some way.  

I have also taken some workshops with Bryant Holsenbeck, an environmental artist from Durham. Her work is really what catapulted me to want to do this STEAM work to begin with. I start the kids with looking at the trash islands that float in the oceans, and where they come together because of currents. They really do start to think about what they’re throwing away.  

In December, you were honored as North Carolina’s 2024 Charter School Teacher of the Year. What was that like, and what are your goals for this year?  

Haywood: It was an incredible day. I don’t like surprises much, and they pulled one off when I walked in the gym. I couldn’t help but think about my mom, of course—how proud she would be. My family was there. It was an overwhelming experience in the best possible way. You don’t hear what is said about you behind closed doors, so to hear some of the things that were said has been incredibly humbling. I’m very lucky because not everybody gets that chance.

I am super excited to represent charter schools and all of our public school students across North Carolina. The most important part of it all is going to be to listen. I know I have a lot to learn—listening to students, staff, administrators, and leaders to see what changes are needed, and then focusing on that.

A big part of my platform is arts. Eighty-five percent of superintendents say they don’t have enough funding for the arts (ArtNC). That’s definitely something I want to work on. Among the other regional finalists [for 2024 N.C. Teacher of the Year], we have a high school art teacher, a former art teacher, and a teacher with some graphic design background. I feel like it’s a great year to make a real change for the arts. That’s my goal.

What is your favorite charter school moment?

Haywood: It’s easy for me. I remember the first time I ever left my classroom during STEAM. Walking through the hall during that STEAM time, our school came alive. There was hammering going on down the hall; kids were painting in the hallways. We had a CrossFit STEAM, and they were flipping giant tractor tires through the gym. There was a teacher with a dog training class—and a radio broadcast, a news channel, and smells from our bakery.

It was such a beautiful moment. The school came alive with all of this hands-on learning. I’ll never forget that moment—hearing the sounds, and smelling the smells, and seeing the sights. It was like living in a small city. I believe in our STEAM program. That’s what our school is built on.

That was a great charter school moment for me.

Is there anything I didn’t ask that you believe is an important part of this conversation?

Haywood: I’m a teacher mentor and have been for a really long time. That’s part of my platform. I’m big on working with beginning teachers, because we have lost so many since the pandemic—and also the rejuvenation of veteran teachers, post pandemic, with professional development.  

 So, I’m passionate about professional development for all teachers, and learning to go in, all the way, if you’re going to commit to this profession. It’s an impossible job; we have so many hats. But it is so worth it! “Never be average” is written on my board. Don’t come in halfway. Our students deserve your absolute best, every single day.

 Read more about Lee Haywood in the Courier-Tribune.

Changes to Your State & Local Funding: Summit Panel Deep Dive

By News

Over the next two weeks, we’ll publish a series of blog posts taking a deep dive on panels at the Coalition’s upcoming 2024 Advocacy Summit on March 7-8, 2024. These panels are built around critical information that impacts your charter school funding, operations, and growth. Today, we highlight our panel on state and local funding.

Understanding Shifts in Your State & Local Funding

Did you know the model for determining your ADM is being completely revamped, with changes rolling out soon—for the 2024-25 school year?  During our 2024 Summit funding panel, we will review the state’s new model and how it will affect your funding.  We’ll also address the local funding process in North Carolina that was standardized statewide last year, with greater transparency. The Coalition was involved last spring in sharing input into this process, and it is essential that charter school leaders understand it. Charter CFOs need to expect school districts (LEAs) to use a common spreadsheet in determining local funding.

Our funding panel will feature some of the state’s leading experts on both of these funding changes: Aaron Beaulieu, a partner at School Operations Specialists; Dr. Andrew Smith, Asst. State Superintendent at DPI’s Office of Innovation; and Christy Berry, the finance director at Lincoln Charter School. Both Aaron and Christy served on Dr. Smith’s committee working to standardize the local funding process.

These three leaders will guide you through impending changes in how your state funding will be calculated next year, and ensure you leave understanding what to expect as the 2024-2025 school year launches. They will also share why all charter schools and districts should use the same template when determining local funding.  This is must-have information—with direct impacts for your charter school’s financial bottom line!

Student Opportunity: National Rising Leaders Initiative

By News
Recruitment for the Rising Leaders Initiative through the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools began this week! Applications opened February 5 and remain open through March 8, 2024. Who’s eligible? Students must be in high school and enrolled in a charter school. They must also be in good academic standing and have a record of service, along with an interest in “advocacy, leadership, and policy.”
Participating students are eligible to receive a $3,000 stipend.

Here’s the description of the Rising Leaders Initiative from the Alliance:

The Rising Leaders Initiative is a one-year advocacy training program for high school students who attend charter schools. It is designed to inspire student engagement in education advocacy and cultivate the next generation of young leaders who will shape education policies in their local communities and states. By providing students with the tools and resources they need to become effective advocates for choices in public education, we can create a brighter future for all students.

New Summit Invite: Join us March 7-8!

By News
Please join us for the Coalition’s 2024 Charter Advocacy Summit in Raleigh on March 7-8! We share our new Summit invitation below, with information on our confirmed speakers and session topics. You won’t want to miss it, as we’ll cover lots of information–from impacts of new legislation, to shifts in funding–that will help YOUR school.
We’ll honor State Superintendent Catherine Truitt and members of the N.C. General Assembly at our evening reception on Thursday, March 7. National advocate and reformer Jeanne Allen, the founder and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Education Reform, will headline our Summit luncheon on Friday, March 8.

Other Summit speakers include these leaders:

-Senator Amy Galey

-Senator Steve Jarvis

-Representative Jeff Zenger

-Karen Fairley, Executive Director, Center for Safer Schools

-Dr. Jason Wray, Superintendent, Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy

-Ashley Baquero, Director, Office of Charter Schools

-Bruce Friend, Chair, Charter Schools Review Board

… as well as other key industry leaders and charter stakeholders!
Learn more about session speakers and panels by reviewing the Summit agenda.
Register for the Summit here.
Book your hotel room at the Raleigh Marriott Crabtree Valley here.
Don’t wait to register: The early bird discount on Summit registration ends Thursday, Feb. 15, and so does the guaranteed group rate on hotel rooms!

New 2024 Charter School Principal of the Year

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Dr. Sarena Fuller is the 2024 NC Charter School Principal of the Year. Photo credit: ArtSpace Charter School.

Dr. Sarena Fuller, the executive director of ArtSpace Charter School in Asheville, is the new 2024 Charter School Principal of the Year. The Department of Public Instruction on January 25 announced Dr. Fuller’s distinction in a press release naming eight other Regional Principals of the Year. All nine school leaders will go on to compete for the statewide distinction of Wells Fargo Principal of the Year, awarded on May 24.

In DPI’s release, State Superintendent Catherine Truitt stated:

Principals are challenged with creating a culture of excellence and advocating for both students and teachers. Though these nine regional Principals of the Year are from diverse backgrounds and different areas of the state, what they have in common is an unwavering commitment to improving student outcomes and making an impact on their communities.

DPI’s release also included this summary of Dr. Fuller:

After nearly two decades in education, Fuller has developed a leadership philosophy guided by the doctrine of charity. By assuming the best intentions and building a culture of trust, her school has been able to avoid the staffing shortages that many others face.

“Truly, the school operates as a dynamic ecosystem, each part of each process depending on another to function well,” she said. “By their nature, educators are some of the most generous, creative, compassionate, hard-working people I know. I see my job as a school leader to support, empower and serve them in a way that allows them to thrive, for it is then that they do their best work for students.”

ArtSpace had a banner year in 2022-23 under Fuller’s leadership. The school was recognized as an ESEA National Distinguished School for its work with students with disabilities, its middle school team won the “Team to Watch” award from the NC Middle Level Educators Association and the school was a semifinalist in the national IMPACT Award in Innovation.

Congratulations, Dr. Fuller! We celebrate your leadership–and its impact on our state’s charter schools.