What does a charter school parent look like?

This is my personal story about why I care about education.

What is the state of education in Georgia?  Why so much debate about Amendment One and the benefit or detriment of charter schools to the status quo?  I think it might be a good time for me to introduce some charter school parents:

I'll start with introducing myself.  I grew up in the Army and attended 10 schools from first through 12th grade.  Some of the experiences were great and some of them were absolutely terrible.  I went through the ups and downs of being liked in one place and bullied in another – moving to schools where curriculums were challenging sometimes and too-easy other times.  I attended four high schools.  I went to a public high school in VA for 9th.  Went to a private school in the area for 10th and hated it and moved back to my public high school after half a year.  For 11th grade, we moved to California.  The next summer, my father retired from the Army so we moved again and I went to 12th grade here in GA.  That move blew my mind. 

The school was ill-prepared for transferring kids from other school districts so, for instance, they made me take a class called English Literature even though I pointed out that I'd taken British Literature in 10th grade.  "Yes, but you didn't take English Literature."  But, but... England and Britain are the same place!  Didn't matter.  So, I took it again.  By then, I was an expert at comparing schools and was really surprised that, not only was the grading scale the easiest (in VA, the lowest A someone could get was a 95) but that the curriculum was lax compared to VA and CA. 

When my daughter was born, I worried about school and knew I'd be looking into trying to find her the best options I could.  She went to a private preschool and, when she went to Kindergarten at her local public school, basically polished everything she'd already learned.  I was thrilled with her first grade teacher beyond words!  I liked her second grade teacher though my daughter says she was "strict" – but I explained to her that there are all kinds of bosses out there and that we need to learn how to deal with ALL kinds of personalities in life so that was just fine.

When Cherokee Charter Academy opened up, we applied and got invited to go.  I nearly faltered when I found out that we were not going to have buses.  What a commute!  What a commitment!  But my husband reminded me that we could always decide to go back to our old school – but that the opportunity to get into CCA may not be there if we didn't take the chance when we were given it.  So, she attended her third grade year at CCA and I am so glad she did!  I LOVE Ms. Gapen!!!  She taught differently than I was used to – nearly every lesson had a hands-on experience for it and my daughter absorbed information like a sponge.  (She knew details and nuances about the Apollo 18 mission and taught ME things I didn't know before.)  This year has been more of the same for her.  I am thrilled that an unexpected bonus for us has been the parent benefit I hadn't anticipated.  There is a network of engaged, excited, committed parents here who are passionately working to provide the kids with the best experience possible. 

Yes, it was new, it was our great experiment and there were bugs to work out.  There still are bugs to work out.  But the good news is that we can work out the bugs.  We can look at them, call them out, fix them.  The red tape is minimal.  The hurdles are few.  That is the biggest difference from the regular public school: my daughter abd I have a voice and we matter and we count and we are valued.

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Frank Jones November 06, 2012 at 11:25 PM
Debbie...I'm not familiar with any potential lawsuit that you are referring to. Based upon my understanding of the law, the state BOE has the authority to approve charter schools and that wasn't an issue of the state supreme court decision last year. As such, the state should legally be able to approve special charter schools going forward. If Amendment 1 should pass, I for one would gladly contribute money towards any lawsuit to overturn it as Amendment 1 should be unconstitutional based upon the biased language used on the ballot. I'm all for laws and constitutional amendments as long as they are clearly written, factual in nature and needed to solve real problems. Unfortunately, Amendment 1 fails in all regards.
Holly J November 08, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Wow, "anti-charter regime" "the end of independent charter schools in Georgia" - that's some hyperbole there, Ms.Pascoe. That kind of language is most assuredly the way to bring folks together to improve education. Not. Here's a thought in the wake of the elections- how about you "charter school parents" not label yourselves as such for starters. Y'all made such a big deal about charter schools being "public schools." Well then, you are a public school parent, just like me. Stop dividing yourselves from the rest of us. This "us versus them" mentality and continuous slamming of public schools, the teachers who teach in them, the administrators who lead them and those of us who support them is the main reason you had to have Amendment One in the first place. Did it ever occur to any of you charter folks that heaping nothing but scorn on your local BOEs might not dispose them to work with you? If someone came in lambasting my all employees as lazy and ignorant, and telling me that how I ran my business was a disgrace, and then said "So, we'd like to do it differently and need you to sign off on it," they shouldn't be in the least bit surprised when I show them the door. And let's not forget that there are numerous charter schools in GA which were approved by local BOEs. Just because EVERY charter application wasn't approved does not mean that local BOEs are hostile.
Holly J November 08, 2012 at 08:43 PM
I am tired of being told by the charter crowd that because I believe in public schools and support them that 1) I don't care about kids, 2) I am only interested in protecting someone's turf, 3) I am happy with the status quo, and 4) I don't believe public schools need improvement, only more money. That is all I have heard for months now and I am fed up. I care just as much about my kids' education as charter parents do and I'm sick and tired of being cast as a lazy parent who uses school as a babysitter. Charter schools are not magical and will not cure everything that ails public schools. I want ALL kids to have a great education. I DO believe that charter schools can be a PART of that, but I also believe that they should work with, not against, local schools. The whole point of the charter movement was to try out new strategies in a small setting and then, if they work, expand them into the public schools. Now it all seems to be about creating some "special" niche education for a select group of kids. Now it sounds like charter schools want nothing to do with the rest of us. Why aren't charter folks lobbying to let all schools be charters? To let all schools out from under some of the ludicrous mandates that stifle good teaching and learning? If it's good enough for charters, why isn't it good enough for my kids- and the other 95% who attend traditional public schools? All I hear from the other side is the chirping of crickets.....
Debbie Pascoe November 09, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Holly, I think you and I have the same mindset. Your frustration about the charter people being frustrated with the BOE is just about a chicken : egg situation. I would argue that charter schools have started out trying to be a compliment to all the rest of the schools in GA and have been routinely snubbed and denied by BOEs. You and I both want education in GA to be great -- we just evidently disagree on the "how" to get started getting it there.
RA November 09, 2012 at 02:13 PM
It is not about charter schools being better than public schools. It is about consumer choice, accountability, and what environment will best meet the needs of an individual student. Idealistically it would benefit all students if Public and Charter Schools worked together for the purpose of innovation and improving the Education System. However, we are not there yet as Debbie pointed out. The small size, freedom from many state laws in exchange for performance accountability, flexibility in teaching strategies/methodologies, emphasis on parent involvement, ability to make change easily are just some of the qualities that contribute to a Charter's success. That is not to say Public schools are not successful or Charter schools are better. It is all about the individual student and what teaching environment best meet their needs allowing them to be successful. As time goes on, I am hopeful that GA Charter and Public schools will work together to achieve great educational outcomes for our students and to become an example/leader for other states . As you may already know Fulton County has recently become a Charter System - that is a good thing.


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