Charter Faces

JOHN FRANKLIN: PUBLIC CHARTERS GIVE KIDS A CHANCE

John Franklin, VICE PRINCIPAL AT DOVE SCIENCE ACADEMY TULSA

I've worked at a public charter school for 13 years. I didn't understand what public charter schools were prior to working for one; now you couldn't drag me away.

I'm a bit of an "agorist" - I believe in the freedom of the marketplace of ideas, and that it's only possible when we start with a level playing field. The best ideas and the hardest work should bring the most rewards, and I believe it's a moral imperative to give kids the best possible start. Usually, this means mitigating the disadvantages foisted upon them by a system designed to stymie real competition. 

Maybe that means giving students a choice in schools so they can pick the one that's the best fit for their learning style and goals. Maybe that means giving hard-working families a school that dares to have high expectations for their kids.

We exist to serve the underserved, the dissatisfied, the marginalized, and the overlooked. No secret weapons, just small schools giving kids a chance. 

DARRIAN GILYARD: MY PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL OPENS OPPORTUNITIES

Darrian Gilyard, STUDENT FROM HARDING CHARTER PREP

I first heard about public charter schools in fifth grade and I chose to attend Harding Charter Prep because it's a good school. I choose to attend a public charter school because I want to go to college. Having access to a public charter school means a better opportunity for me to learn what I need to get a good job. 

This experience has helped me get a better education. Public charter schools impact my community by giving everyone a better chance to go to college. Communities should support public charter schools because they help students prepare for a successful future. My public charter school helps give me a higher chance of getting into a good college. 

ALONDRA RAMIREZ: MY PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL IS PREPARING ME FOR COLLEGE

Alondra Ramirez, STUDENT FROM HARDING CHARTER PREP

I first heard about public charter schools in elementary school and I chose to attend Harding Charter Prep because I wanted a better education. Having access to a public charter school means I’ll have a private type of education, but it’s still public.

Being at a public charter school has been a learning experience for my family. A common myth I’ve heard is that public charter schools do not have any funding, however this is not true. Charter schools impact my community because they make the community better by providing a better education that results in educated individuals that will affect the future. I am better prepared for college and I am not worried about my future.

Drew Shadoan: Public Charter Schools Provide A Good Education For All

Drew Shadoan, STUDENT FROM HARDING CHARTER PREP

I first heard about public charter schools in middle school, and I wanted to experience the unique educational opportunities that a public charter provides. Being able to attend a public charter school means I have gotten a great education with minimal resources for the teachers to use. Everyone here at Harding Charter Prep really cares about the students. A public charter school is a place that works well for everyone.

Having this experience means a lot because it sets students up for a better future. Some common myths I have heard about public charter schools is that they have very little funding, however this is not true. Public charters are involved in the community and offer a better opportunity for a good education for all.

ALLISON TAYLOR: MY PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL GAVE ME A PROPER EDUCATION

Allison Taylor, STUDENT FROM HARDING CHARTER PREP

I chose to attend my public charter school so I could have a better education from a school that prepares me for college as well as for life. I learned about public charter schools through a family from my church who sent their children to my charter school. 

My public charter has given me a proper and fulfilling education, and an introduction to more diversity. In elementary to middle school, I attempted a private school and tried going to a public school for 6th grade. I wasn't comfortable with the chaos that comes from a large public school, so I went back to private school and continued my high school at a public charter school. It's a more accepting and comfortable atmosphere than the public school had. 

I wouldn't have gotten this far in my education if I didn't attend a public charter school. Some common myths I've heard are that it's hard to get into a public charter school, however, this is not true. 

We are required to have community service hours so we get to help our community through our school to represent our school as well as support the community. Public charter schools are more economical in an educational way. My public charter school doesn't tolerate bullying, and I think that has a large impact on how I am growing into adulthood, because at a normal public school, bullying was a big problem. 

MR. ILHAN GUZEY: HOW PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS YIELD POSITIVE STUDENT OUTCOMES

Mr. Ilhan Guzey, ASST. SUPERINTENDENT AND PARENT FROM DOVE SCHOOLS 

Being a parent and an employee of a public charter school, I am able to observe the positive student outcomes personally. As we increase the number and quality of the instruction and programs that are offered at the public charter schools, we will have more productive and responsible citizens in our community. 

The public charter schools give vision to the students in their community and provide alternative and effective ways for college engagement. Social activities, academic contests and college bound events that are organized by the charter schools help those students develop and maintain their personal goals, grow socially and get them college-career-citizenship ready. 

Community engagement is a vital piece to achieve better results in education. Since public charter schools try to do more with less funding, the community support will help to reach the short and long-term goals of those schools. As we strongly believe the necessity of community (including parents)-teacher-student triad, collaborative work among those groups will improve the students' performances, which will eventually bring positive contributions back to their communities. 

 

FROM KIM JOHNSON, MOTHER OF KAYLEE JOHNSON: HOW CHARTER SCHOOLS PROMOTE A POSITIVE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

From Kim Johnson, MOTHER OF KAYLEE JOHNSON, STUDENT FROM EPIC CHARTER SCHOOLS 

We decided to send our daughter, Kaylee, to Epic Charter Schools because she was starting to be bullied in middle school because of her Tourette's Syndrome, and we needed to be able to keep her safe. Since starting at Epic, her grades and comprehension have gone up!

Kaylee was being bullied and mocked while also struggling with surrounding noises from the other children, making learning difficult. Epic has meant everything to us! It's been less stressful for the whole family and, most importantly, Kaylee. Charter schools build stronger and smarter kids for the community and help eliminate bullying. 

Kaylee's teacher, Rachel Ogadah, has been such a blessing to us this year. She's been patient and understanding of Kaylee and her Tourette's Syndrome.

FROM THE FAMILY OF JESSICA CIFUENTES: HOW PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS HAVE DEVELOPED OUR DAUGHTER INTO A WELL-ROUNDED CITIZEN

 

From the Family of Jessica Cifuentes, ASTEC CHARTER HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT

We decided to send Jessica to a public charter school because we believed it was a better alternative to a regular Oklahoma City public school. We thought of ASTEC Charter High School as a diverse and safe environment where Jessica could avoid problems such as bullying and an extensive self-conscious image. Our other four daughters attended a public school successfully, but we thought that Jessica should attend a charter school.

We first heard about public charter schools when Jessica was in elementary school. We were looking for a middle school to enroll her in and found ASTEC Charter Middle School and Belle Isle Middle School among our top choices, which Jessica was very excited about.

Our family recommended we choose a public school. We were concerned on how to enroll Jessica because we wanted to grant her a good education while keeping her safe. We also wanted a school that cared about their students, and we heard ASTEC was an optimal choice because the teachers and staff care and show devotion to their jobs and students.

Having access to a public charter means having an alternative to a public school. Jessica has shown us a multitude of times that she has learned to take on opportunities and to do her best in class. This is due to the continuous support from her teachers and school staff encouraging her to apply herself and be involved in an array of community and school projects. For example, Jessica was encouraged to apply to the Youth Leadership Exchange “Youth in Action” group her sophomore year. She was able to help support addicted students by fundraising with other teen leaders in Oklahoma City. After this eye-opening experience, allowed and encouraged by her public charter school, she is now able to see the world differently. She enjoys doing philanthropic work and strives to help others in all aspects of her life. Seeing her succeed in her high school career is an amazing opportunity that her public charter school supports and is responsible for implementing the correct motivational actions.

The experience with ASTEC means a successful future for Jessica and our family. By ASTEC’s supporting actions, Jessica has learned to take chances and to strive for excellence. She is a role model for the next generation in our family and has already influenced her nieces and nephews to work hard in school.

Some common myths that we have heard include that public charter schools are too expensive, only the brightest students get to go to them and that the schools are private institutions - of which none of these are true.

Charter schools impact my community mainly by offering a different managing system for school staff and administration. This gives the schools opportunities to hire the most remarkable teachers based on performance and experience. These qualified educators can then refer to their past experiences to teach others by providing a diverse background. 

Communities and residents should support public charter schools because they can bring communities together in a safe and positive atmosphere. Public charter schools use resources from the community to provide or serve families in creating successful students. This support drives schools to continue to provide opportunities for students, who can in return impact communities in the future after graduating. 

 

AMANDA SCHMIDT: GIVING STUDENTS EVERY OPPORTUNITY POSSIBLE TO SUCCEED

Mrs. Amanda Schmidt, OVCA MIDDLE SCHOOL SPANISH TEACHER

I wanted to be able to stay home with my daughter, but keep my career too. Teaching at Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy has allowed me to have the best of both worlds! I heard about OVCA from a fellow teacher. I love that teachers are given a say in what we teach and how we teach it. This has given me the chance to be creative and make learning more fun.

Being able to stay home with our baby has meant the world to my husband and me. It has been life changing, for sure. It's often thought that public charter schools cost money, or that there may be special entrance requirements, however, these aren't true. Charter schools do a great job of encouraging parent involvement, making everyone a part of the learning team!

Charter schools are providing a variety of options that help kids succeed and learn in ways that are better suited for them. We should give our kids every opportunity possible to succeed!

I love being able to work closely with the parents, as well as the students. With all of us working together, it is more likely that the student will enjoy learning and will succeed!

KIMBERLY RING: ONLINE PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS PROVIDE A ONE-ON-ONE EXPERIENCE EVERY DAY

Mrs. Kimberly Ring, OVCA THIRD GRADE TEACHER

I love the idea of online school. It allows students to work without distractions and without falling into the cracks like they might at a traditional school. It was also an added bonus to be able to stay at home with my child and still be a teacher. I first heard about public charter schools in 2013. I still wanted to be a teacher even though I was a new mom, but I also wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. Working for Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy allows me to do both.

Having access to a public charter school means that I get the wonderful opportunity to stay a teacher, which is what I’ve worked so hard to be. I have the ability to change students’ lives and further my career, while at the same time getting to be home with my only son.

Being a part of OVCA gives my family stability. I’m able to teach anywhere in Oklahoma and be with my child. A common myth I’ve heard about public charter schools is that the education level is easier, which isn’t the case. Hopefully learning will be easier for the student without the distractions that come from a traditional school, but the education is in many ways more rigorous than traditional education.

I know Enid is growing and many families are choosing to do a public school option because they aren’t happy with the districts here. I believe OVCA is another way to reach students that aren’t in traditional education. Some students have real difficulty in a traditional classroom because there are too many distractions or the education is not meeting their needs. Public charter schools help reach the students who are not being reached.

I’ve had many parents tell me that before coming to OVCA, their student could not read. After one year at OVCA, they are able to read. Online Public Schools provide a one-on-one experience for each child every day.

NICOLE ELLISON: WHEN STUDENTS ACHIEVE ACADEMICALLY, THE COMMUNITY WINS!

Mrs. Nicole Ellison, OVCA MIDDLE SCHOOL FAMILY ENGAGEMENT COORDINATOR

I first heard about public charter schools in the summer of 2010. Every student matters and there is no “one size fits all” model that works for everyone. Having access to a public charter school for Oklahoma students means more than words can describe to me.

I grew up living in a very unstable home with a single mother. Then I was taken away from her and placed in foster care and a children’s home. School was a safe place for me, but looking back, I recognize there were times where traditional education were not the best fit for me. While I was successful, the odds were stacked against me. If there would have been a school choice that better met my needs, school may have been more enjoyable allowing me success earlier on.

The experience of helping others by working in an online public charter school, like Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy, has meant being able to enjoy what I do, pour passion into the families I am working with daily and see students achieve success where success seemed impossible before this option. It has also allowed me to be more actively involved in my own children’s lives.

Some common myths I’ve heard about charter schools relate to tax dollars, however this isn’t an issue. Charter schools allow parents a choice in ensuring their student is enrolled in the best educational setting for their unique needs. Communities should support public charter schools because when students achieve academically, the community wins at the same time!

I help train families at our in-person enrollment events called “Start Up Success Sessions.” It is during these sessions I get to know why a family is choosing OVCA. These moments are meaningful because the family always has positive intent on helping the student succeed. Oftentimes, these families have been “let down” by other educational options and feel relieved to have found this option. 

 ERIN GOODRIDGE: VIRTUAL SCHOOLS GIVE FLEXIBILITY

 

Mrs. Erin Goodridge, ART & MUSIC TEACHER AT OVCA 

I enjoy working at Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy because I can work from home, raise my family and continue my career goals simultaneously. I first heard about public charter schools during my first year of teaching about 13 years ago. I was looking for an alternative because I wanted to raise my children at home and avoid putting them in daycare.

I taught in brick-and-mortar schools for 13 years as a music and art educator. I have a passion for teaching the arts and inspiring young minds. Last year, my husband and I were blessed with our first child, a baby girl. I was torn between my desire to continue my career as an educator and my desire to stay home and raise my daughter. My husband and I both need to work to adequately provide for our family. Reluctantly, I took a leave of absence from my school district and searched for other options.

Last summer, as I searched for alternative job opportunities, I discovered OVCA and K12. The concept of teaching online from home intrigued me, so I applied. It seemed too good to be true! I was hired as OVCA’s middle school art and music teacher. My job at OVCA has been an answer to my prayers and has allowed my husband and I to raise our daughter at home. I am also able to further my career as an arts educator and stay current through professional development opportunities. This public charter school has given me the ability to do two things that are incredibly important to me: be a stay-at-home mom and continue my career in education! I had never thought it possible before now.

OVCA has made our family stronger, smarter and has saved us so much money! There is no costly daycare for my children and my schedule is flexible so I can accomplish family goals while also accomplishing my work goals. Common misconceptions about public charter schools are that they are not as rigorous, we get to pick and choose our students and there are not as many extracurricular opportunities as traditional public schooling, however these couldn’t be further from the truth.

Public charter schools allow parents to choose the education that best fits their children and families as a whole. Families don’t have to “settle” when they have other options. The freedom of choice in raising and educating children is a hallmark of a free and democratic society. Public charter schools allow families to do just that.

I am always amazed at how important teachers are to students no matter the environment. Even though I am a virtual teacher, my students still need me, connect with me, appreciate me and vice versa!

 

KIMBERLEY KELLY: HOW PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS EXPAND EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES

Ms. Kimberley Kelly, TEACHER FROM INSIGHT SCHOOL OF OKLAHOMA

I wanted to help students and families that needed an optional learning environment to exceed in their educational goals and pursuits. I first heard about public charter schools through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. I looked for a public charter school that utilized state requirements but focused on the specific needs of students and families.

Public charter students are achieving their goals while tackling many other responsibilities like family, work and children. These students are not only meeting the requirements, but they are exceeding them and becoming more confident in their abilities and self worth. We have many students who became a member of the Oklahoma State Honor Society who had never earned above a C in their previous public schools. We are very proud of them and their determination.

This option has provided more time with family and an increased and richer growth as a professional educator. I heard a common myth that public charter schools do not follow the same state assessment and regulations. This is incorrect. Charter schools do follow the same regulations and more!

Our public charter school is available for any student in Oklahoma. Students from around the state have enrolled in our school from urban and rural locations. This is a new concept for many people, however the community can have a stronger workforce through the efforts of public charter schools. Hosting community town hall meetings and publicizing the great impact of public charter schools will help educate the public.

A meaningful moment was when our students attended Capitol Day and they had an opportunity to share their stories with the elected officials about how school choice improved their lives. It has been heartwarming to see how students and families have embraced the public charter school option in Oklahoma.

SANDRA POWELL: VIRTUAL SCHOOLING SHOULD BE AN OPTION

Mrs. Sandra Powell, PRINCIPAL FROM OVCA MIDDLE SCHOOL 

I chose to send my son to Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy when he was in 8th grade because of bullying issues we had at his middle school. I was blessed to be part of OVCA’s first high school as a science teacher. School should be a best fit for our children, not a one-size-fits-all approach. Virtual charter school really helped my son.

I first heard about public charter schools when I was teaching in Indiana. I love the idea. It is not a cookie cutter approach to learning.

I love being able to provide a safe, in-home public schooling experience for our students and families. I found OVCA during a very rough time in our family’s life, and it was the difference between a successful school career and having a high school drop-out. I see that desperation in many of our families. A brick and mortar school may not be able to provide exactly what the student needs, but the parent can. Virtual schooling is not for every child and family, but it should be an option.

I can work from home and still be a mom and a professional. I sing the praises of virtual charters to everyone who will listen! It greatly reduced the stress of going to a traditional school, which allowed my son to develop renewed confidence in himself.

I hear all the time that charters do not have to follow state rules or state tests. I am very clear to those who say this (including other administrators) that we, at OVCA, follow every rule exactly like they do!

In May, we had our last OVCA get together. It was “Super Kids Day,” where we played outdoor games and met each other one last time for the school year. It allows students to also meet next year’s teachers. We had a student and her parents drive four hours one way to meet some of her teachers.

I live in a rather small town, so we don’t have charters here. Our virtual options are the only way a family can become a charter family. Communities should support public charter schools because they offer choice. More choice leads to better schools. 

CHRISTIE ARDOIN: WHY EDUCATION IS NOT A “ONE SIZE FITS ALL” PROPOSITION

Christie Ardoin, PARENT OF EPIC CHARTER SCHOOL STUDENT ETHAN ARDOIN

My primary reason for choosing Epic is for health reasons for our son Ethan. Home dialysis takes almost 12 hours each night. He’s been a long-term patient at OU Children’s Hospital since he was an infant. Ethan tried school off and on over the years but always ended up missing so many days, it was not possible to keep up with his schoolwork. We first heard about public charter schools five to six years ago. Epic allows a more flexible schedule, working at his own pace and taking time off for appointments without the added stress of playing “catch-up” after not feeling well.

I home schooled my son Ethan for a few years when he was younger. Now that he’s a teenager it is very nice to have another person involved in his education. Ethan’s Epic teacher is supportive and encouraging. It’s nice to have another adult, aside from myself, working with him to achieve his goal of earning a high school diploma. We are thankful to Epic Charter Schools.

We need to take an honest look at children and their individual needs. Not every child has the ability to attend school full time. The community benefits by allowing teachers to focus on the students who are able to attend school and help them meet their goals. When parents are more involved in a child’s education, the community benefits. Each situation is different, and education is not a “one size fits all” proposition. This year my son has already asked, “Can I have Ms. Reynolds again next year?” She has made a positive impact on his life and I am thankful.

DR. PANTON OKON: WHY CHARTER SCHOOLS MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE

Dr. Panton Okon, TEACHER AT DOVE SCIENCE ACADEMY OKC

Dove Science Academy pursues a disciplined, organized and vigorous education for its students. I wanted to teach in a school with a culture that provided an academically challenging environment and encouraged students to reach their full potential.

I started teaching at Dove Science Academy (DSA) in January 2013, and it has offered me the opportunity to positively impact the lives of students through teaching math. Before coming to DSA, I taught briefly at a school where excuses were given for poor student performance instead of practical solutions implemented for their improvement. Teaching at DSA has been like a breath of fresh air. The administrators are open to suggestions designed to improve students’ performance and understanding.

The flexibility in the system is one of its strongest traits because decisions are made quickly without bureaucratic hindrances. The focus is always on student education, not politics or self-gain. Teaching at DSA is more than a means of livelihood; it is a fulfillment of my calling to help educate kids so that they can become responsible citizens who, in turn, will impact the lives of others.

Some think that public charter schools are biased, discriminatory and unable to provide a good education for students, but charter schools are community-oriented, offering parents involvement in the education of their children. A high percentage of charter students go to college and become well-qualified professionals.

Communities should support public charter schools because they foster close partnerships between parents, teachers and students, thereby contributing to community growth and welfare. A meaningful moment I had was during a parent-teacher conference when a parent expressed gratitude for all the work and effort the teachers and administrators put into teaching the students. 

Michell Eike Explains It All: Why She Chose To Teach At A Public Charter School

 

Michell Eike, TEACHER AT DOVE SCIENCE ACADEMY OKC

I teach 10th through 12th graders Algebra II, AP Calculus and Yearbook. I decided to become a teacher because I like to explain things. I grew up as the kid in school who everyone asked for help in math class and I always enjoyed explaining how and why it works.

I like working at a charter school because I receive great support from administration and parents. I love where I teach! We have some of the best students in the state. I feel that the students care because they know that their teachers care.

I also like how public charter schools support the idea that a student should not have to attend a school based on their address and that parents have a choice in their child’s education.

I previously taught in a non-charter public school. The number one difference I have noticed is the parental support.

We have kids who have parents who value education, which I feel makes the greatest impact on a child’s success in school. In turn, the students seem to take school more seriously. We are really just a normal school with a focus on preparing students for college. This means that we have some higher requirements that help our kids prepare to transition to college. I like that we have high expectations.  

Alivia Rawls: Sweet Sixteen and Graduating 

Alivia Rawls, EPIC CHARTER HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR 

For as long as I can remember, I had a goal: to graduate high school with a full ride to the university of my choice. Epic allowed me to work at my own pace, take the exact amount of challenging courses I wanted to take and let me have the flexible schedule to volunteer and do extracurriculars as much as I pleased.

I have faced a lot in my young life. I have attended over a dozen schools because of my mother's job. Not only does that mean I was the new kid over a dozen times, but I also dealt with intense bullying from my peers because I was overweight as a child and because my intellectual maturity made them socially alienate me. 

My mother and I found Epic Charter Schools and with it, a learning environment that suited my curriculum needs. Now, graduating at sixteen and thriving as a concurrent student at a local community college, I have never been more grateful this option has been a part of my life.

 

CURTIS BURGA:  MY TWO SONS 

 

 

Curtis Burga, PARENT OF FORMER HARDING CHARTER PREP STUDENTS

My wife and I believe education is the key to achieving the “American Dream.” We believe that when a child is equipped with a quality education there is nothing he can’t do. Despite dismal statistics surrounding the quality of our states public education system we still believed our children could access the key to the American Dream right here in Oklahoma. That dream became a reality when we enrolled them in an Oklahoma public charter school.

The difference Harding Charter Prepatory High School has made in all of our lives is incredible. As parents, my wife and I were considered a welcome part of the school team. We felt appreciated and even needed. It became clear very quickly that we were valuable assets in our children’s educational experiences. I was impressed with the smaller student population at Harding. I saw how each student is challenged daily and is expected to meet those challenges. The hard work ethic, positive encouragement and enhanced education combined prepared our boys for college.

I am proud to say that Sean is working towards completing his degree at an esteemed four-year-university and Jake is earning his degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also known as MIT, and often cited as one of the top universities in the world. They are on their way to achieving their dreams and it all began at Harding.

Dione Oballa: Changing The World

DIONE OBALLA

Dione Oballa, FORMER STUDENT AT DOVE SCIENCE ACADEMY OKC

Sending me to a public charter school was one of the best choices my mother made. Having access to a public charter school gave me the opportunity to gain a private school education without the financial burden.

My mother was looking for an academic establishment that would provide me with the opportunity to advance. My parents were concerned that the education I was receiving from the public school I attended wasn’t challenging me academically. They understood that a public charter school had the potential to help me build a strong personality and character that would benefit me long after I graduated.

The education I received gave me the skills to become a productive, innovative and intellectual individual. Public charter schools encourage their students to not only challenge themselves academically but also evaluate their roles and contributions to their current communities.

The teachers at my public charter school believed in me - even when my vision to start a nonprofit organization in Africa was just a dream.

After graduating from college, my path led me to cofound the Hope Fountain Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides food and education to orphaned and impoverished children in Kenya. I’m bringing the lessons I learned from my public charter school education to classrooms in Kenya.

As a result of the education, support and love I received from my public charter school, I have grown into a young woman my mother is proud of.