Why I Chose Charter
By Teresa Sale

The buzz around charter schools is growing. Instead of being the cure-all replacement for the existing public school system, charter schools have proven to be a valuable and much needed compliment to public education throughout the state. As the population grows and the state budget struggles to keep up, the need for alternatives has arisen for parents and students like never before. I have seen first-hand over the last 15 years how charter schools fill the gap in needs that otherwise would go unmet, particularly in historically under-served communities.

Behind the students at each school, are great teachers, HR folks, principals, administrators and many others whose commitment is to provide ALL students with a quality educational experience. They are able to do so with the assurance of knowing their family will be taken care of. Good pay and benefits are something that should not be sacrificed when choosing to work at a charter school. It is my job to help schools balance the lesser funding available with the need to provide charter school teams with high quality benefit programs.

When people ask me what my professional passion is, my usual response is “Working with charter schools!”. When asked why, I reply that it is the kids, empowered parents, and dedicated schools that inspire me to continue my work.

Students at the forefront
We can never forget that the focus of any school is, first and foremost, the kids! They are why we do what we do. From the spark of interest that is lit in a class by a new area of discovery, to the ideas brought home to their families after school, a student’s classroom experience has impacts far beyond the school grounds. Every student deserves the equal right to a quality education. What that looks like for kids should be determined by the parent(s) and accessible through the public school system.

Power in the parents
If anyone knows kids’ educational needs best, it is their parents. Parents should be empowered to send their child to the public school of their choice, based on their child’s educational needs and in consideration of varying factors related to zip code, location, language and other factors. No parent should have to watch their child fail in school because their learning style is entirely different than the educational style of the public school they attend. Given the broad diversity of California’s student population, it is no wonder that cookie-cutter solutions fall short in providing quality education.

Determined to educate
Dedicated, innovative schools who see a need and make it their mission to create unique and challenging programs for learning are to be recognized and valued. There are many different areas served by charter schools that often go overlooked. To name one type with the greatest impact would be impossible. Charter schools afford teachers the opportunity to hone-in on specialized areas: math, science, performing arts, language immersion, project-based learning, Montessori, Waldorf-style, environmental science, social justice, place-based, and various others offer students the opportunity to pursue and excel in their unique academic interests. Erasing the achievement gap between students with diverse backgrounds and experiences is a main focus of many charter schools. Priority is given to teaching positive self-awareness with a focus on serving others in their community.

There are schools specifically focused on serving students in need of second chances. They focus on credit catch up, high school graduation and college or trade programs. Others provide adult students above a certain age who’ve not graduated high school a chance to do so. Then there are those specially focused on aiding special needs students to excel in a setting where they are able to focus, free of the social stigma and potential bullying found in mainstream public school classrooms. These kids are so often put into classrooms labeled “special education,” and not much is expected of them as students. Not to mention those in the inner cities who provide students with no hope to succeed in a system that is failing them the confidence to excel and believe they can go on to make a true difference through education. Specialized charter schools are changing the game for those who matter most – KIDS!

The buzz around charter schools is not likely to stop anytime soon as public schools continue to be impacted across the country. Through all the hype and debate, educating the students, empowering the parents and having dedicated schools will shine the way towards a better future for California’s educational system. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” It is my mission to be there to serve amazing, innovative teachers, principals, HR professionals and administrators, in their mission to improve the lives of students throughout California!