Last week Brenda Soucie, from the Charter School Institute, spoke to new charter school developers about her experiences from starting a charter school back in 1994. Brenda helped start the Academy of Charter Schools (Adams 12) and was on the governing board for many years.
Back in the early days of charter schools in Colorado:
* Technology was almost non-existent. A few people had DOS-run word processing and dot matrix printers.
* No one had email.
* Many wrote charter applications and submitted them to a district that had never received/reviewed one before.
* Many founders had already exhausted several attempts to work with their district or local school to modify educational programming.
* Many had to appeal the denial of their charter school application to the State Board of Education. This meant many charters were not approved until May, June or even July; just weeks before opening.
* Many were truly "pioneers" setting out in a land they knew nothing about. Everything they did was done for the first time.
Brenda's school wasn't approved until August. They opened Sept. 25th. Brenda has many of the common characteristics of charter school founders: perseverence, driven by the need for a better education for her children, and a passion for doing what's right.
Brenda working for the Charter Schools Institute is very apropo. She's been through the trenches and knows what it's really like to operate a charter school. Too often, people who have never worked in a charter school tell others what to do. Until you've been there, like Brenda, it's hard to fully comprehend what parents will do in order to get a better education for their children!
As Dean Titterington, a CSI board member, said last week to the new charter school developers, "Every time I vote on a charter school application I ask myself if I'd put my own children in the school." If only everyone would remember that it's all about the kids!