Charter schools: In the beginning

Charter schools were relatively new when I first learned about them and visited one in Akron, Ohio. It was during the time I was in Leadership Akron, and education was the month’s focus. I went on a tour of a charter school that was just west of downtown, operated by White Hat Management.

By way of background, my husband spent his K-12 years in a Catholic school in Memphis. I attended public schools in California and in Memphis. Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 11.46.25 AM

I feel strongly about public education. Always have. I believe we have a responsibility to teach the next generation and the ones that follow. We decided early on that our child would attend whatever was the best option available.

Our son attended public schools in Stow, Ohio, and in Akron. He graduated with a strong resume, a National Merit Scholarship and an International Baccalaureate diploma.

Of the three of us, our son made the most of his K-12 education.

I noticed pretty quickly, many of the most successful students had supportive parents who stayed in touch with the teachers and principal. So we did.

I remember people grousing about inner-city public schools. The teachers were bad. The kids were bad. The buildings were bad. So it was easy to deny funding via tax levy. And, boy, did Northeast Ohio know how to deny funding public education. Wowza!

But then these “charter” schools starting popping up. They were supposed to be the saving grace for those poor, sad inner-city kids. People bought into it without even asking for details. I didn’t know much about the concept until my tour, which happened during the 1998-99 school year.

The building was old. Really old. I think it had probably been built initially for apartments or offices, 50 or so years prior. The inside of the building was a jumble of small rooms, smaller hallways and steep staircases.

I wondered to myself why the school wasn’t ADA compliant. Surely they couldn’t get tax money to run a school that couldn’t accommodate someone with a physical disability.

Because it’s a public school, right? The staff from White Hat loved talking about the good they were doing. I asked a few questions – and left with more. Like, how can something be for-profit and nonprofit? I had two different White Hat staff people tell me contradictory information.

As much as I dislike the whole charter school scam today, I truly didn’t know much about it when I took that first tour. My gut was telling me something wasn’t right.

When my gut tells me something isn’t right, I should listen.

Next post: Too good to be true?



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