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NC charter schools Archives - North Carolina Coalition for Charter Schools

TMSA Students Recognized at NC General Assembly

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As part of National Charter Schools Week, House Speaker Tim Moore on Wednesday recognized students from TMSA Triangle Math and Science Academy and The Math & Science Academy of Apex. These students, who gathered in the House Gallery with parents and school leaders, represent charter school excellence in multiple areas, and at various ages.

Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis and Coalition lobbyist Lee Teague organized the event with TMSA students and lawmakers. Rep. Erin Paré, District 37 (Wake), sponsored their visit.

Below, we include the write-up of the visit from TMSA leaders:

It is with great pride and excitement that we extend the highest honors to six of our outstanding students from TMSA Triangle Math and Science Academy and The Math and Science Academy of Apex. Led by the NC Coalition for Charter Schools and sponsored by Rep. Erin Paré, the visit honoring these remarkable students provided them with recognition in the House Chamber of the NC General Assembly. House Speaker Tim Moore called out their names and read their achievements. They then received a standing ovation from all of the representatives in the House Gallery. Students’ parents also joined the event and met Rep. Erin Paré.
These students have demonstrated exceptional talent, dedication, and achievement in various fields. We acknowledge their remarkable accomplishments and invite you to join us in congratulating them! The students are:
  • Aashritha Karthik Kamu (Grade 5, TMSA Triangle)
  • Abeeha Yasheen (Grade 7, TMSA Triangle)
  • Vatsalya Vishnoi (Grade 6, TMSA Apex)
  • Daniel Loeffler (Grade 6, TMSA Apex)
  • Sina Dehghani (Grade 11, TMSA Triangle)
  • Alekhya Kotha (Grade 11, TMSA Triangle)

Here are some specifics about these students’ achievements:

Aashritha Karthik Kamu won 1st prize across all five categories in the Elementary division for a special award by NC One Water in the NC Science and Engineering Fair.

TMSA Triangle FLL team, the Cyber Tigers, achieved a remarkable feat at the North Carolina FLL Semifinals. With their incredible project, “The Arithmacade,” they not only captured the imagination of all but also earned the prestigious First Place Innovation Project Award and advanced to the NC State Championship. Abeeha Yasheen is recognized on behalf of her team.

Sixth graders Vatsalya Vishnoi and Daniel Loeffler were ranked top at the NC State Science Olympiad State Tournament. Vatsalya and Daniel competed with 40 teams consisting of 7th and 8th graders and came in first in the Air Trajectory category.

Sina Dehghani received 2nd Place in Travel and Tourism in the 2024 DECA State and 2024 DECA Internationals. Additionally, Sina achieved 2nd Place in the College Physics and Community Awareness Project in 2024 HOSA States.
Alekhya Kotha distinguished herself as a USA Biology Olympiad Semi-Finalist, ranking in the top 500 out of 10,000 participants from 44 states.

Congratulations to these exemplary students! We share photos from Wednesday’s visit:

Six students from TMSA visit the General Assembly on Wednesday and meet with Rep. Erin Paré.

Students and leaders from TMSA stand outside the House Gallery at the General Assembly.

Left to right: Coalition lobbyist Lee Teague, Rep. Erin Paré, TMSA leader Fatih Sahin, and Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis at the General Assembly. Photo credits: TMSA.

Charter Schools Week Op-Ed from Lindalyn

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Lindalyn Kakadelis, the executive director of the Coalition, has a new op-ed out to mark National Charter Schools Week. The op-ed, published yesterday in Carolina Journal, highlights the growth and popularity of North Carolina’s public charter school movement–even as the political divide on charter schools grows.

Here’s an excerpt from the op-ed:

It’s National Charter Schools Week, and there is much to celebrate about North Carolina’s charter school movement. Public charter schools in our state now educate 145,000 students in 63 counties, and charter popularity continues to grow with families. In fact, the state’s charter school waitlist now features over 85,000 student names. Despite widespread popularity, however, charter schools face mounting political challenges.

First, some facts: Charter schools are free, public, and open to all. Yet, as more parents turn to them for their children’s education, there remains a threat that these public schools of choice will face new regulatory obstacles or even a cap prohibiting new charter schools from opening. The reason baffles me, but some corners view public charter schools as a threat to be tamed, rather than a dynamic educational environment that provides the best choice for some children.

A broad bipartisan coalition birthed public charter schools decades ago, and has supported the movement for many years. It has long been my dream for the politics surrounding the issue to return to that.

Read the full CJ perspective here.

NBC News Analyzes Declining Public School Enrollment Nationwide

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NBC News has published a 10-year analysis of public school enrollment, showing public schools are losing K-12 market share across the nation. Between 2012-2022, for instance, public school enrollment dropped in every state except Delaware and Rhode Island, with the enrollment downturn occurring despite population growth. NBC ties the shift to the national proliferation of school choice programs and initiatives, including charter schools. However, NBC inaccurately and unfortunately positions charter schools as an “alternative” to “public schools.” In fact, charter schools are public schools. They are not private schools, so they are not part of education “privatization” efforts–and they are open to all students, just like district public schools.

Here are some key takeaways from NBC’s report:

Between 2012-2022, the share of children ages 5-17 attending public schools nationwide declined by nearly 4%, from 90.7% to 87%. Some states, including North Carolina, experienced much larger “public school” enrollment decreases during this 10-year timeframe. Here are the states experiencing the largest declines:

  • Kentucky: -7.73%
  • South Carolina: -7.35%
  • Alaska: -6.88%
  • Mississippi: -6.78%
  • Florida: -6.53%
  • Idaho: -6%
  • West Virginia: -5.75%
  • Montana: -5.72%
  • North Carolina: -5.64%
  • Alabama: -5.6%

North Carolina’s changing K-12 sector

NBC does not report enrollment trends in the one public schooling sector in North Carolina that has grown dramatically: public charter schools. Between 2012-2022, the same timeframe NBC News studied, N.C. public charter enrollment shot up 175%. More recently, between 2019-2022, public charter enrollment in North Carolina increased 19%, as the state’s Office of Charter Schools has noted.

A shift in what parents want in education

The report makes clear what other previous studies have affirmed, which is that parent preferences have changed–with education sectors outside district public schools scooping up K-12 market share, as we have noted before. Notably, however, parents are leaving public schools even in states without a robust school choice environment. For example, Kentucky, which has the largest share in the nation of students exiting public schools, does not provide families with publicly-funded school choice programs. Lawmakers have sought to create such opportunities, but legislation creating a way to fund charter schools was struck down in December; in addition, the state Supreme Court has ruled against education tax credits. Instead, parents are leaving Kentucky public schools for home or private schools, which account for around 15% of the state’s K-12 population, according to a 2022 report from EdChoice Kentucky.

NBC’s map of public school enrollment declines nationwide:

Read the full report on NBC News.

 

It’s FASTAR® Championship Week at Classical Charter Schools of America

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For Classical Charter Schools of America, it’s FASTAR® Championship Week! FASTAR® is a fun academic competition assessing rapid recall of math and reading skills–with an obvious nod to NASCAR (can’t miss those checkered flags!). According to CCS-A, two of the four North Carolina schools have finished early FASTAR® competition already: CCS-Whiteville and CCS-Wilmington. CCS-Leland competes today, while CCS-Southport launches tomorrow. Competition culminates in next Wednesday’s “Race of Champions.”

Student winners receive trophies after qualifying races are over. Roger Bacon Academy, which partners with CCS-A, developed the clever competition, re-purposing the lingo of NASCAR into new roles for academic pit crews, crew chiefs, timing trials, and more. Watch a CCS-A video about FASTAR® here.

Here’s the update from CCS-A’s newsletter today:

CCS-America students competing in the annual FASTAR® (Fluent Academic Skills Tournament in Arithmetic and Reading) competition will race to the finish line this week, with the Race of Champions scheduled for next Wednesday, April 24th. CCS-Whiteville and CCS-Wilmington checkered-flag champions have completed their preliminaries after two exciting race days filled with close competition!

Congratulations to these Coalition member schools! We share pictures below from Classical Charter Schools-Whiteville and Classical Charter Schools-Wilmington.

Above and immediately below: Students from CCS-Whiteville at FASTAR 2024. Photo credit: Facebook, CCS-Whiteville.

Above and below: Students from CCS-Wilmington at FASTAR 2024. Photo credit: Facebook, CCS-Wilmington.

Q&A with Erica Nielsen, Charter One’s Student Data Expert

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An expert on student information systems shares what parents and schools can expect from North Carolina’s conversion to Infinite Campus

Erica Nielsen is the student information systems (SIS) director for Charter One, an education management organization that partners with public charter schools in North Carolina as well as other states. She has extensive experience working with student data, and she currently serves on the steering committee for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s (DPI) Phase One of SIS modernization efforts. 

Kristen Blair, the Coalition’s communications director, spoke with Erica to learn more about what parents and school leaders can expect with North Carolina’s upcoming SIS conversion to Infinite Campus. Conversion is occurring as a result of a state law, which mandates SIS modernization in the state’s public schools. (Read more about that here.) One-third of North Carolina’s public schools launched Phase One implementation in February and will use Infinite Campus for the upcoming 2024-25 school year. All other North Carolina public schools will convert from PowerSchool to Infinite Campus by July 2025.  

It’s great to talk with you! Could you tell us about your background, and how you became involved with student information systems?

Erica Nielsen is the SIS director for Charter One, an education management organization. Photo credit: Erica Nielsen.

Erica Nielsen: It’s all by chance. I worked in hospitality through my first degree, which was a BS in Health Promotion, and I carried two to three jobs for a very long time, one in education at a private school, ending up as the admissions director. I left to complete my master’s in educational leadership, later stumbling on an opportunity to work for an IT firm on CRM (customer relationship management) and Microsoft products, staffing, and software development. That’s when I learned that education is my passion. I stayed on with the IT firm part-time but decided to go back to education.

I looked specifically at American Leadership Academy (ALA). They were bold about leadership being part of their core values and combining this with excellent academics. I interviewed them seven times before I took the position! I eventually ended up on the student information systems team because of my background with software. I already had a lot of experience with data, and in a school setting, too. I ended up leading the department, and that was over 10 years ago. Eventually, we moved into Charter One as a management organization in 2017. We wanted to be able to provide charter school support anywhere—with our mission and vision. So, Charter One came about as a company, and I stayed on. I have been with Charter One this whole time, on the SIS side.

What drew you to the charter sector, specifically?

Nielsen: The biggest thing that stands out to me is the ability to have a choice. I was drawn to ALA specifically because of the leadership component and mission; those are the things that have kept me with the same company.

We don’t choose for families; they get to make the choice for education and we get to partner with them. That’s what has stayed with me all of these years.

What do parents and school leaders need to know as North Carolina prepares for its SIS conversion from PowerSchool to Infinite Campus? What are some of the key benefits and differences Infinite Campus will offer families and schools?

Families:

Nielsen: For parents, I’m really excited. I firmly believe Infinite Campus is a far superior system than any other student information system out there. It is more sophisticated with more capabilities, and it has more solutions. No system is perfect; I do recognize that. But in my experience with the different systems we have worked with, this is by far more robust.  What I’m most excited about for parents is that it’s a “one stop shop.” There’s a really easy way to log in to their parent portal. In PowerSchool, parents have to claim their kids and input all of these numbers on each of their kids—and then they can get their family all put together. To me, that’s a lot of work. The transparency that parents get with the parent portal in Infinite Campus is important. Making that streamlined and easier for them is going to give them the resources to be a partner in their student’s education.

A lot of this has to do with the contract DPI created. Infinite Campus has several modules that DPI put into the contract. When parents log in to the parent portal, they have access to grades, attendance, missing assignments—all of what they are used to. In addition, online payments, for example, are part of the contract. Parents can pay fees online through the parent portal as well. It’s almost like an Amazon account. They don’t have to log in to any other system.

The food service module with Infinite Campus is not part of the contract, but if schools implement that, parents can see their kid’s lunch account in the same portal—what they’ve eaten and their balance. They can add money to it. With different plugins over the years, PowerSchool has been able to have solutions, but with Infinite Campus, you don’t have data sync issues. You don’t have multiple vendors for parents to work through.

Schools, teachers, and staff:

On the staff side, DPI has done an incredible job with the contract they’ve created. They’ve included online registration, Messenger, online payments, the LMS (learning management system)—which helps with transferring grades back into the system from options such as Canvas. It really helps teachers and the implementation of academics inside the classroom. The LMS portion of the contract speaks very easily to software such as Canvas. In other states, we’ve had slim to no issues in configuring this for our teachers. With PowerSchool, it has been a really big hurdle. There are going to be some efficiencies in use. The gradebooks are really similar between systems, but there are some better features—it’s ease of access, the views teachers get across the gradebooks. Teachers are definitely going to see an improvement, and I think they will be better equipped.

For the rest of the staff, online registration (OLR) really helps data flow more easily into the system. OLR is a huge component in Infinite Campus that’s going to create a lot of efficiencies. Staff can run transactions at the front desk, parents can pay online—providing ease of use for managing fees and lunch accounts. Messenger is another product in the contract; it’s all real time and it’s all live. When a student comes into the system, there’s no synching that needs to take place. Schools are going to benefit from efficiencies, ease of use, and access to data. I’m excited for staff and what they’ll be able to utilize. It will create a lot of good processes, and it will be faster so schools can take care of the kid in the seat instead of being stuck in administrative processes.

Broadly, what sorts of data does the Department of Public Instruction collect about students, and how are data points used?

 Nielsen: There isn’t anything personal. It’s all statistical data used for growth and performance. Every state has the same goals: How can states better improve their educational systems and track their money? The data they pull is demographic, grade level, and end of year assessments. That’s to identify growth; it’s more about the specific student population rather than individual students. You’ll get a lot of subcategories in there as well, as far as performance and resources.

Those are the data points they’re collecting to help with performance and growth metrics—where you get your school report cards, your graduation rates, dropout rates. Other data points? It’s always funding—making sure the funds are being managed. Every state has a unique way of managing funding and distribution among the schools. Again, it isn’t personal—it’s about each enrolled student and how that funding is going to work.

There is never personal identifying data going back and forth, which is why there are unique identifiers. It’s like your Social Security number; you’re a number. It isn’t about an individual student. It’s about being able to identify growth and progress for the schools and for the state.

How secure is student information?

Nielsen: I love that question. It’s based on the integrity of the organization. I do believe DPI has a lot of integrity and confidentiality in making sure there is a lot of awareness and they’re tied up tight in security. Actually, that is part of the reasoning that Infinite Campus is a better system—they have more integrity with their system than I’ve seen with others, and there are a lot more controls in place that secure data and ensure it stays secure. That’s going to be a benefit for DPI in making sure there’s that security. It comes down to the schools ensuring they follow best practices and that they’re in compliance.

Each organization needs to be aware and progressive in using resources to ensure data security is always there. DPI has that goal. I’ve absolutely seen it from Infinite Campus. I’m confident in our organization. It’s going to be up to the schools to make sure they uphold their side of it.

You’ve been involved in the recent Phase One implementation of Infinite Campus, which launched in February. Could you share your experience with Phase One and your key takeaways as schools prepare for SIS conversion?

Nielsen: A third of the state is moving in Phase One, which will involve a lot of learning for everyone. Phase Two will have some improvements that would have been done in Phase One, had people known. This is a big lift moving an entire state from one system to another. The preparation that schools really need to process through is this: Now is the time to be perfect and accurate with your data. That will make transitioning from one system to another much cleaner and easier to sift through. Trying to clean it up at the last minute or not paying attention to certain data points will bog the process down.

In addition, we can put any system in, but if we don’t utilize training, it won’t matter what system we have. People don’t need to understand the entire system; they need to be very proficient in the area they manage. That’s a big focus. We’ve worked with Infinite Campus over 10 years; they are very knowledgeable on their product and care about the end user experience. They’ve got a lot of great programs and training material, which will help schools prepare. Training will play a huge part in helping to alleviate people’s fears about a new system.

Is there anything I didn’t ask that you think is an important part of this conversation about student data?

 Nielsen: This is such a huge transition. The state has everything from a little charter school—that has to do this on its own, without the backing of a district or education management organization—all the way to a major district or EMO with incredible talent within its teams. DPI is doing its best to keep everything coordinated and keep lines of communication open.

So, take advantage of that and the resources DPI is putting together, in addition to what Infinite Campus has always done really well. Be open-minded and unafraid. That will make it a better experience. Charters—all the way up to district schools—are going to benefit. I am really excited to see this change for North Carolina!

High schoolers: Enter the Congressional Art Competition

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Calling all N.C. charter high schoolers! Would you like to see your artwork displayed in the U.S. Capitol? Consider entering the Congressional Art Competition, sponsored by the Congressional Institute. This annual art competition first launched in 1982, and since that time, over 650,000 students have participated. Artwork submissions are due April 12, so don’t wait if you’d like to participate!

Here’s a short blurb about the competition from the U.S. House of Representatives:

Students submit entries to their representative’s office, and panels of district artists select the winning entries. Winners are recognized both in their district and at an annual awards ceremony in Washington, DC. The winning works are displayed for one year at the U.S. Capitol.

Screenshot from the U.S. House of Representatives’ Congressional Art Competition webpage: The Misty Window by Alliana Chenault, Alabama, District 4.

Interested in participating? Read more from Congressman Dan Bishop, or view the instructions from his office below:

Each entrant must submit a Student Information and Release Form. A TYPED copy of the Student Information and Release Form, signed by the teacher, a parent or guardian, and the student, must be securely attached to the back of the artwork to certify the originality of the piece. Please retain a copy for your records.

Artwork submissions are due to one of Congressman Bishop’s District Offices by April 12, 2024.

Monroe Office:
Historic Courthouse
300 N. Main Street
Monroe, NC 28112

Salisbury Office:
The Gateway Building
204 E Innes Street
Salisbury, NC 28114

Questions? Email Melissa Merrell in Rep. Bishop’s office at Melissa.merrell@mail.house.gov or call (704) 218-5300. View the 2024 rules for students and teachers.

See one of the 2023 winners below, or view selected 2023 artwork here.

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

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

 A K-8 public charter school, ArtSpace focuses on arts integration throughout the school curriculum. ArtSpace is also a North Carolina A+ School, a school network and program established by the North Carolina Arts Council.

 Kristen Blair, the Coalition’s communications director, spoke with Dr. Fuller about her work to create a supportive school culture, the importance of arts integration in learning, her autonomy as a charter leader, and more.

 We share the full interview below.

You began your career as a teacher, later becoming a school administrator. What initially drew you to education as a career?

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

Dr. Sarena Fuller: I always wanted to be in education. I never really saw another career path for myself, even from a young age. Education was always it for me! I attribute that to being in the North Carolina public school system—it was such a fulfilling, engaging experience for me as a child. I was really lucky to be in schools that fostered a natural curiosity and love of learning.  

Once I graduated high school, I became a Teaching Fellow and went to East Carolina University. ECU’s program and the NC Teaching Fellows Program offered such a comprehensive experience for college students to see different educational environments across the state. There was a whole summer bus tour! I remember seeing charter schools then—and traditional schools as well as a military-based school. It was just a whole new lens, and it deepened my love for this work.

What compelled you to work at a public charter school, and at ArtSpace Charter School in particular?

Fuller: I started out as a high school teacher in a traditional district, which was a phenomenal experience. I was lucky to be on the faculty of a new traditional high school. Then I moved to a state-run school, the North Carolina School for the Deaf, which was a very different context and environment. Both of those were incredible experiences, but I needed something at that point in my career with more flexibility and autonomy. That’s why charters spoke to me. I always felt like I wanted to do more to support the integrity of the classroom. The charter environment, with its autonomy and flexibility, was designed to be innovative and take risks. That was really appealing to me.  

ArtSpace took that concept and doubled down on it. Innovation is a way of thinking, embedded in the culture. Risk-taking was encouraged, as it’s modeled after artists in the arts-integrated curriculum. Art is a process, as is learning. Art can be messy, and so can learning. That spoke to my philosophy and motivation.

Why is arts integration in learning so important? 

Fuller: Humans are naturally artistic, even if we don’t feel like we’re great singers or dancers or we can’t draw very well. Having an appreciation for art is part of our being. Who among us doesn’t love to crank up the radio on a commute in and sing at the top of our lungs, even if we’re off key? It’s one of these things we can connect to.

Art also provides a non-threatening access point to the curriculum. A student might have math anxiety or shut down if you put a worksheet in front of him, or say, “Hey, let’s multiply some fractions. Let’s talk about ratios.”  But if you approach that with an art lens first, and say, “Hey, let’s listen to some music.” Or better yet: “Let’s look at this guitar—the frets, the strings. Did you know that’s a ratio?” You’ve got him bought in, before you even talked about math. You’re making a connection to something that is not intimidating, that he can already connect to and see. There’s so much interconnectedness in what we study in our world. Art bridges that connection.

Dr. Sarena Fuller at ArtSpace Charter School. Photo credit: Sarena Fuller.

You’ve spoken about how a school is an interrelated ecosystem. Could you share more about that?

Fuller: I think about all that schools do for students and the community, and how everyone you meet in any context is going to have a connection to a school. They’ve been to school, they have children in school, or they know somebody who’s a teacher or works within a school system. Schools are one of the bedrocks of our society, and everyone is connected to that in some way.

What a parent needs from a school is very different from what a student needs from a school. Yet teachers’ experiences at school will drive both of those relationships. And my relationships with the teachers will influence how they interact within that system. So, acknowledging all of these layers of importance, and how one impacts the other, is really how we create a culture based on trust and respect. It’s what allows that ecosystem to thrive for the student, ultimately.

How do principals shape school culture?

Fuller: Principals set the tone. They set the example, and they lead the way. Sometimes leading the way means getting out of the way! It’s recognizing that everyone is coming into this building giving their best. You have to trust that. Sometimes that’s stepping out on a limb, especially when things are challenging, post pandemic—when everything feels a little bit harder. But you trust that everyone’s coming into the building with their best.

People want to be happy. [Teachers] want to be happy at work. The kids want to be happy in the classrooms, and they want to be successful. With that understanding, you just find ways to create space and acceptance—for the good days, the bad days, for things that go well and things that don’t.

Students are no less respected for having bad days, for failing a test, or for making a bad decision. They are still loved, welcomed, and appreciated; they have value, regardless. If you create that space, people shine. And that’s the culture: the people, and giving them the space to be their authentic, true selves.

ArtSpace Charter was recognized last year for work with students with disabilities, middle schoolers, and overall innovation. To what do you attribute the school’s success, and what would you share with other school leaders about creating a culture of excellence?

Fuller: We had back-to-back banner years in student growth. We’re really thrilled and so proud. I attribute that to our people, one hundred percent—our teachers, support staff, and the community that supports us. In the same ways that I spoke about a school leader giving people space, the community gives us space to work, and they’re supportive. I think what really drives that home is the culture that builds. It’s so worth the investment in people and thinking, “People first, students first.”  

You hear so much about socio-emotional regulation, and what schools need to do to support that, post-pandemic. It really is prioritizing the whole child before you can even think about high dose tutoring and doubling down in academics. Some schools have cut art programming and recess to lengthen the academic day. While I understand the intent to do that to make up on the academic loss, we’re people first. We need that outlet, and we need to build in SEL [social and emotional learning] through the content and how we interact with one another in our school environment.

That’s the advice I would give to school leaders. Think about growth, not first as academics, but as growing people. People want to do well. We’re just creating the environment where they can thrive. So, it’s the environment, culture, and trust.

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

Fuller: It was such a special moment. We had a school assembly and DPI [Department of Public Instruction] visitors and our board chair here. Sharing that news with our students and seeing how excited they were for me—for us—was really fulfilling. There are hundreds of school leaders statewide who deserve accolades and honors for the work that they’re doing. So, it is an honor to carry that banner on their behalf. I’m humbled as well. As a reflective practitioner, I always look at our work: What could I do better? Where can I improve? What can I learn from other people who are doing great things as well?

My goals for the next year include, first, shining a light on the innovative things happening in our charter schools statewide. That includes the incredible work of teachers and school leaders to get back on track and create positive learning environments.  

Second, I want to learn from others. I feel great about what we’re doing here at ArtSpace. But there are other models, other charters, and other philosophies that are different from ours and worth learning from.  

If I am chosen as the state Principal of the Year, I would want to use that to honor North Carolina’s public school system. This would be a full circle moment for me because I am a product of, and believe in, North Carolina’s school system.  

What is your favorite charter school moment?

Fuller: A moment that cemented the value and importance of charter schools for me occurred on March 13, 2020. That’s the day everything shut down for the pandemic. Being at the table with other charter leaders in my region as well as district leaders, I saw how quickly charter schools could pivot. I saw how in tune charter schools were to their community needs, without doing a survey or going back to the office. That’s the beauty of being a charter. We know our community, and we know the students we serve. We have the ability to turn on a dime because we have autonomy and flexibility. That was an “aha” moment for me.

Given the circumstances, this wasn’t my favorite snapshot in time. But it was a pivotal moment for me in my leadership.

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

Fuller: It’s all worth every minute. Our work is challenging—the physical and emotional labor—and the public narrative is perhaps controversial. We have schools dealing with a lot of things that are thrown at them, and teachers, students, and school leaders are feeling that burden. It’s important to me to remind people that it’s worth it, and that we do it for the right reasons because we care.

One thing that I keep telling my staff is to zoom out, mentally—when you feel overwhelmed, or you’re looking for the good in the day, or you need a little pick me up—just for fun, once a day or once a week. Think outside your office, your classroom, and your school. See all the good, all the ripples that we create through the work we do—the late nights, grading papers, and board meetings. Zoom out and see the impact because it matters.

 

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.

WE APPRECIATE OUR SPONSORS, WHO HAVE MADE THIS EVENT POSSIBLE!

National report: NC’s charter growth is third-highest in the nation

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A new report out today from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools reveals North Carolina has experienced the third-highest charter growth of any state in the nation since 2019. The report, “Believing in Public Education,” includes four years of data (2019-2023) for 42 states, analyzing enrollment shifts fueled by the pandemic. Texas, Florida, and North Carolina lead the nation in charter growth, according to the Alliance report.

Nationally, charter schools have continued to grow since the pandemic. District schools, however, have not recovered from a dramatic enrollment downturn early on in the pandemic. Since 2019, 1.5 million students have left district public schools, while over 300,000 additional students have enrolled in the nation’s public charter schools. This represents a 9% enrollment increase for charter schools and a “net loss of 3.5%” for district public schools, according to the report.

North Carolina findings

  • North Carolina has experienced an 18.81% charter enrollment increase since 2019. Between 2019 and 2023, 22,308 additional students enrolled in N.C. public charter schools. District school enrollment, on the other hand, decreased by 2.89%, according to the Alliance report.
  • Black and Hispanic students are driving the state’s uptick in charter enrollment. They accounted for a larger share of North Carolina’s charter school enrollment increase, with 20.45% and 36.89% growth, respectively.

National findings

  • Hispanic students are driving charter growth across the country. They account for 50% of all new charter students nationwide since 2019.
  • Charter enrollment increases represent a national trend. Of the 42 states included in the Alliance analysis, 40 have experienced charter school growth since 2019.
  • Last year, charter schools added students at exponentially higher rates than district schools. The study reports nationwide that “charter schools enrolled nearly ten times the number of new students as district schools in the last school year.”

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

North Carolina has embraced the idea that parents deserve a choice in their children’s schooling, and parents are responding. Importantly, the state’s charter movement also continues to diversify as it grows, as this report makes clear. Public charter schools offer something different, from innovative curricula to concentrations in STEM, the arts, and more – representing an appealing option for families across demographic groups.

This table from the Alliance report captures enrollment shifts across the country between 2019-2023.

Source: “Believing in Public Education: A Demographic and State-level Analysis of Public Charter School and District Public School Enrollment Trends,” National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, December 12, 2023.

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Open Now: Registration for the 2024 Charter Advocacy Summit

By News

Advocacy and action that help YOUR school!

The charter movement notched big wins at the legislature this year. Understand how new policy changes benefit YOUR school—and what you can do to keep up the momentum.

Join other charter school board members, heads of school, and senior administrators for the Coalition’s 2024 Charter Advocacy Summit in Raleigh on March 7-8, 2024. We’ll share an official school flyer before Christmas—but you don’t need to wait until then to sign up. Registration is open NOW!

Our 2023 event was a resounding success, with 87 charter schools participating in our kick-off evening reception or Summit. In all, 200 charter operators, stakeholders, industry leaders, and lawmakers attended the reception, while 160 attended the Summit. What did participants think about the 2023 Summit? Read charter leaders’ testimonials.

We expect another very strong turnout in 2024!

Held at the Raleigh Marriott Crabtree Valley Hotel, our 2024 event will launch with a wine and appetizer reception on Thursday evening, March 7, followed by the day-long Summit on Friday, March 8. State Superintendent Catherine Truitt is a confirmed speaker and honoree at the evening reception.

“But, what does the Summit mean for ME?”

  • Learn what to expect from the new Charter Schools Review Board, with information about charter renewals, approvals, rules, and more.
  • Understand recent policy changes impacting your local funding, construction permitting, and county funds for facilities.
  • Hear the legislative outlook for the state’s charter movement, an analysis of 2024 election primary results, and a review of court cases affecting charter schools.

Register for the Summit here and book your hotel group rate here. Hotel reservations can be canceled up to 24 hours before the arrival date.

Questions? Contact Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis at lkakadelis@nc.chartercoalition.org.