Did you know we have two public charter schools in our neighborhood? During a recent student government meeting for the Community Public Charter School in Albemarle County an eighth grader passionately announced, “People don’t realize that this school changed my life.”
We are a small middle school, dedicated to our mission of helping students who have not experienced success in their previous schools. For the past eight years we have created an environment of high expectations, trust and care for each other.
We are fortunate to have a productive relationship with our school system that honors our mission of serving students who need a small school setting with a balanced program of tutorials and hands-on learning. A parent recently wrote to CPCS, “Thank you for helping my son grow academically and socially. Most of all our family life is so much better. He loves school now for the first time in his life.”
In the Virginia General Assembly there is currently a proposed constitutional amendment giving the potential to the State Board of Education to authorize more charter schools like ours. Committees in the Senate and House of Delegates have approved the measure and furthered along its progress.
I support the charter amendment because there are many school districts in Virginia that do not understand the charter process and deny their communities the right to serve their students and families with alternatives to help students succeed. And most do not have the experience or expertise with charter school oversight to do this crucial work well.
Large school systems cannot always meet the needs of every student. Charter schools can tailor their programs to make sure every child can learn if the environment and program are right. All charter schools help raise money to meet their needs. In eight years we have brought in over $1.5 million dollars to Albemarle County Schools. We are not a drain on the system but rather add to its offerings by providing an intervention for middle school students. We do not cost the system more than other middle schools. Charter schools are held accountable for strict performance metrics. If they do not meet them they are closed down.
The Charter School amendment will open the possibility for ordinary people like our parents to have their children thrive by creating their own charter school. For now the only choice for unsuccessful students is to homeschool or to fail. This is not about vouchers or support for religious or private schools. We are a public school built on good relationships with our district and our community. We cannot let our fear that big corporate, moneymaking institutions will come in and take over our state affect our thinking about what is good for kids. An effective process for chartering schools will not let that happen. Charter schools can build strong relationships with the district school systems and instead of being in competition they can add to the vibrancy of what is offered to the community.
We have so many students in Virginia who need us to provide a better education for them. The streets are all too willing to provide it if we don’t. That is much scarier than letting the state help local communities become really involved in an education that matters. Let’s support the local choice by supporting the charter amendment. To make this happen the people will vote in a referendum about what they think is best for their kids and best for our state. Let’s hear their voices.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bobbi Snow volunteers at the Community Public Charter School in Albemarle County, a school she co-founded with Sandy Richardson in 2008.