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

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The N.C. Department of Public Instruction has named Lee Haywood of Uwharrie Charter School 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 (middle) is recognized as the NC 2024 Charter School Teacher of the Year in December. Photo credit: NC Department of Public Instruction, LinkedIn.

 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

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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

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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!

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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.

School Choice Week 2024 Recap

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It’s a wrap! National School Choice Week 2024 ended officially on Saturday. The week marked celebrations of school choice around the state and nation. We’re especially proud that our winning dance video for NSCW from Community Public Charter School (CPCS) made it into the national organization’s wrap-up video. We share the video below–as you watch, be on the lookout for CPCS students throughout!

 

More

  • In case you missed it, you can watch the original CPCS video here.
  • Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis has a new op-ed out about parents as the best decision makers in a child’s schooling. Read it here.

Lindalyn Kakadelis Weighs in on Parent Choice in Education

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Photo credit: National School Choice Awareness Foundation.

Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis has a new op-ed out today in Carolina Journal. The editorial, which highlights the fundamental importance of parent choice in education, coincides with celebrations across the nation this week for National School Choice Week (NSCW).

Here’s an excerpt from Lindalyn’s new commentary:

I have a feeling most people involved in education policy intuitively accept the conclusion that parents should be the final word on what’s best for their child. But I also believe some don’t really understand its implications. You see, if we accept as our guiding principle that final authority rests with parents, then the answer to many of the debates roiling education policy becomes patently obvious.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the debate over school choice. Should all children have one schooling option, determined by a family’s address? Or should children have multiple schooling options, determined by parents and based on what they think is best?

If our guiding principle is that final word rests with parents, then it stands to reason parents should have options for where to send their children to school — and the more options the better. In this way, the public school system supports, rather than supplants, a parent’s decision-making by offering an array of options for parents to choose from.

That’s what public charter schools offer: another option, often with a curricular concentration, such as STEM or the arts or even a classical focus.

Read the rest of Lindalyn’s editorial here. In addition, if you missed it, you can view the winning video from the Coalition’s dance video contest for NSCW here. It showcases the dance moves of students and faculty from Community Public Charter School. Read more about the winning video in this Coalition blog post.

We Have a Winner: Coalition Dance Video Contest for NSCW 2024

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As our kick-off for National School Choice Week, we are especially excited this year to announce the winner of the Coalition’s dance video contest!

And the winner is … Community Public Charter School!

On Saturday, we announced Community Public Charter School in Stanley, NC, as the winner of our NSCW dance video contest. Lindalyn Kakadelis, the Coalition’s executive director, broke the happy news to the CPCS Trailblazers in a call the day before. We really loved the video (here or below), and think you will, too. The CPCS video also made it into National School Choice Week’s newsletter yesterday!

Here’s to Community Public Charter School, and the awesome students, faculty, and staff! Dance teacher Christie Stuckey, a former member of East Carolina University’s Dance Team, led efforts to pull the video together. Kudos to Christie and to the CPCS community!

Shannon Parsons of CPCS shared the school’s response to winning the Coalition’s dance video contest:

“We’re still in disbelief! Participating in the School Choice Week’s dance video competition was an honor, and winning feels incredibly humbling. In just over a week, Miss Stuckey’s dance classes practiced, recorded, and nailed the dance, showcasing the dedication of both the teacher and students. This victory reflects the resilience of our school community, and we’re grateful for the opportunity. We look forward to what comes next and eagerly anticipate Miss Stuckey’s creativity for the next school choice week dance contest video!”
Community Public Charter School, the Coalition celebrates your school choice spirit—and your super-slick dance moves!  

2024 NC Teacher of the Year Finalists Announced

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The Department of Public Instruction today announced the nine finalists for 2024 North Carolina Teacher of the Year. The winner will be named on April 5. In a news release, State Superintendent Catherine Truitt said:

“These nine educators are just a sampling of the incredible talent we’re lucky to have in North Carolina public schools. They represent excellence across disciplines, from core subjects to career and technical education to the arts. I commend each of them for their dedication to getting students excited about learning, and I can’t wait to see what this cohort accomplishes together on behalf of students in the year ahead.”  

According to DPI, the nine teachers are as follows:

  • Anita Rubino-Thomas, Currituck County High School (Northeast)
  • Nardi Routten, Creekside Elementary School (Southeast)
  • Rachel Brackney, SouthWest Edgecombe High School (North Central)
  • Jennifer Blake, Carthage Elementary School (Sandhills)
  • Will Marrs, Davie County High School (Piedmont Triad)
  • Sarah Lefebvre, Health Sciences Academy at Monroe Middle School (Southwest)
  • Erik Mortensen, Watauga High School (Northwest)
  • Heather Smith, Waynesville Middle School (Western)
  • Lee Haywood, Uwharrie Charter Academy (Charter School)

Congratulations to all of these teachers, but especially, to Lee Haywood as the Charter School Teacher of the Year!

Lee Haywood (middle) at a recognition ceremony in December, honoring her as the 2024 Burroughs Wellcome Fund NC Charter School Teacher of the Year. Photo credit: NC Department of Public Instruction, LinkedIn.

Here’s what DPI’s release said about Lee Haywood:

An 18-year veteran educator, Haywood teaches both visual arts and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), weaving the two together to show students the importance of creativity across all disciplines. 

“Integrating the arts into content areas and into NC schools from top to bottom is an absolute must if we plan on our students being competitive, creative and innovative,” she said. “The more math, ELA, science, history and STEAM that my students can learn through their artwork, the more well-rounded education they will receive.”

Haywood established a relationship with a local nonprofit organization that takes donated materials from manufacturers and individuals to divert trash from landfills. In addition to creating art from what they find there, students learn about civic responsibility, their community and art as a profession. 

She is active in several national- and state-level arts advocacy groups, including the Randolph County Art Education Alliance, the NC Association of Scholastic Activities, the National Art Education Association and the NC Art Education Association.

2024 Political Forecast for Charter Schools: Q&A with Lindalyn Kakadelis

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As another year launches, the Coalition is intent on framing the issues—both good and bad—facing our state’s public charter schools. Who better to do that than the Coalition’s own executive director, Lindalyn Kakadelis? A former teacher and member of the Charlotte Mecklenburg School Board as well as the state’s Charter Schools Advisory Board, Lindalyn has a long history as an educator and advocate. In 2018, she helped found the Coalition with other charter school leaders, seeking to establish a strong, statewide voice to protect and promote public charter schools.

The Coalition’s communications director, Kristen Blair, spoke with Lindalyn about what to expect in the year ahead. We share the full Q&A below.

Lindalyn Kakadelis speaks at an event hosted by the Coalition.

We’re at the beginning of a new calendar year, with primaries and a general election on the horizon for 2024. What’s the forecast for charter schools?

Lindalyn Kakadelis: The 2023 General Assembly was extremely favorable to charter schools. But what happens in the future depends heavily on the results of the election primary in March, and then of course the general election in November. The bottom line is that we need to elect General Assembly members who see the value of public charter schools. In addition, we want to make sure that each public school student in North Carolina receives the same amount of money, whether that child attends a district school or a public charter school.

The 2024 legislative session will be brief, so we don’t expect as much to be accomplished, simply because it’s the short session. But we’re getting ready for 2025, and that’s going to be very important. The elections—both the primary and general elections—will directly affect the 2025 session, not the 2024 session.

You’ve said before that charter schools are “politically fragile.” What does that mean in practical terms for schools?

Lindalyn: The General Assembly established charter schools in 1996 through legislation. So, the legislature is the body that has control over charter schools, along with the State Board of Education. If North Carolinians don’t elect a majority of pro-charter General Assembly members—Democrat or Republican—then we can’t get our bills passed. If that happens, we will not be able to keep the autonomy that is necessary to fulfill charter schools’ purpose. Unfortunately, we have seen more and more regulatory creep over the years, both at the statutory and regulatory levels. We need a State Board of Education that will work with us, but that is totally dependent on the governor. The governor appoints the State Board of Education members to eight-year terms.

Right now, some members of the State Board of Education have not been confirmed. So, the day a new governor takes the oath of office, he can appoint several new State Board members who are favorable—or unfavorable—to charter schools.

The General Assembly takes care of charter funding issues and policies that have a far-reaching effect on charter schools. Then, the State Board implements that legislation, but if we don’t have a favorable State Board, we risk the Board implementing legislation in the worst possible way. So, really, it’s a domino effect—and it all hinges on elections. Elections really do matter.

Many people do not want to enter the political fray, and I totally understand that. But here’s reality: If you are in a charter school, you are political. We’ve always stated that it’s better to be at the table than on the table.

Why is it so important to elect lawmakers who support charter schools? How can elections impact charter school capacity to grow and operate?

Lindalyn: In the General Assembly last year we were able to end the enrollment cap for any charter school that is not low performing. Now, because of that legislation, charter schools can grow to capacity without having an enrollment cap. That’s so important for our state’s families, as charter schools reported over 77,000 students on their waitlists last year. But if we make the application process so stringent and bureaucratic, it becomes too hard for people to start new charter schools. So, we want to work with the General Assembly to potentially provide facility funding, startup funding—none of that is available right now. That’s what we need to do to make it easier to start charter schools.

Last year, we also successfully pushed for a new law that allows county commissioners to provide facility funding for charter schools. Previously, this was not an option. We’ve already had charter schools take advantage of that. People may not know that up until that legislation, charter schools received no funding for facilities from counties or from the state, and they had to pay for all of their facilities out of their operating funds. That could be as much as 10-15% of the money they receive from the state.

District schools, on the other hand, have bond packages that pay for their facilities. They never have a facility cost that comes out of their operating fund. When I was on the Charlotte Mecklenburg School Board, we had our budget, and then we would request bond funding. It’s two totally separate funding streams. But charter schools receive no funds from bonds. People don’t understand that.

What do parents need to know about charter schools and the broader political context? What can they do to support the charter school movement?

Lindalyn: Parents need to realize that charter schools have only been around since 1996, and they can be closed down. If charter schools don’t perform, the state shuts them down, and that is as it should be. But there’s another threat to charter schools, which is regulatory reform. That can absolutely stifle charter schools. The Coalition tries to stop regulatory creep, so that charter schools can flourish with the flexibility and innovation they were intended to have.

In addition, parents and charter stakeholders need to know accurate information about charter schools and understand when charter school myths are being pushed by anti-charter special interest groups. One common myth is that charter schools drain money from district schools. This is simply untrue. When a family decides to send their child to a charter school, the charter school takes the student and the money to educate that student. But that charter school isn’t “draining” money—the money should belong to the student, not the system. And the district is no longer educating that student or bearing costs associated with that child’s education!

So, in grocery stores and places of worship, parents need to be able to share accurate facts about charter schools. Parents should also share on social media about their experience at their charter school—why they are happy with it, and that they want it to continue.

Finally, in some of our charter schools, parents don’t realize how political charter schools are. They see them as similar to a district school that will never close. But that is just not the case. Charter schools can be closed, and they must also apply for renewal at set intervals established by the state. It’s important for parents to know that there are people who do not want school choice to exist. They believe the system is more important than the child, and they don’t recognize that one size does not fit all. But we must have educational options for families outside of their zip code.

How are politics in North Carolina right now impacting charter schools—and what is at stake?

Lindalyn: When a charter school has a bad actor or doesn’t perform, the anti-charter special interest groups do their best to make it look like all charter schools are like that. But that isn’t the case. Unfortunately, there are bad actors in every type of school—private, public, religious, independent—but we should not try to sink an entire schooling movement because of one bad actor. But that’s what we’re seeing: Anti-charter groups leverage one bad situation as the reason to call for more stringent charter regulations across the board.

What’s at stake? Stifling all the innovation at a charter school. Innovation is what parents really like about charter schools. But if regulatory creep continues, charter schools will have their hands tied behind their backs and will not be able to do what the parents want.

That’s why it’s important for people to read the Coalition’s blog and communications pieces, because we consistently advocate for flexibility and innovation. The Coalition is constantly fighting to stop regulatory creep and protect autonomy. But we are seeing more regulatory creep now than ever.

The Coalition is holding its second annual Charter Advocacy Summit in March. Why should school leaders attend, and what can they expect to learn?

Lindalyn: Our first Summit was such a success. We know everyone is so busy, and so we plan intentionally to fit everything into a one-day format. We let our charter leaders know what is happening in Raleigh, how to advocate for charter needs, and how to build relationships with General Assembly members. We do that important relationship-building with lawmakers through a reception the night before.

School leaders, we try to get as many representatives as possible there to meet you. We’ll also share what you can expect from the new Charter Schools Review Board, along with recent policy changes that impact your funding and school construction. And our Government Relations Team will provide a legislative outlook, analyze new election primary results, and share an overview with you of the legal landscape.

We’re doing all of this to help not just the charter school movement but to help your school, too! If you aren’t aware of the new charter school renewal policy that the State Board of Education just introduced, for example, then how can you advocate for change? Before the Coalition, charter school leaders often found out about things after the fact, without having the chance to be proactive. They had to throw their hands up and say, “That’s just the way things have to be.”

Now, the Coalition is here, saying, “Things don’t have to be that way.” We look at the legal way to protect your charter autonomy and flexibility, and we work strategically and effectively with the General Assembly to ensure that happens.