Monday, October 11, 2010

The Greatest Generation Speaks with Charter School Students

Today sixteen World War II veterans spoke with charter school middle school students from different charter schools, at The Pinnacle Event Center. The event was hosted by The Greatest Generation Foundation and Woodrow Wilson Academy. As the veterans entered the event center, the approximately 650 students gave them a standing ovation and applauded until all the veterans had entered and were seated.

The program began with the documentary, "Iwo Jima: A Final Tour," produced by KMGH Channel 7. Last spring many of the veterans at today's event traveled to Iwo Jima to mark the 65th anniversary of the battle. TGGF founder and president, Tim Davis, received a check for $1275 from the charter schools and supportive sponsors.

After a veteran spoke about his experiences in the European theater and another spoke about the Pacific theater, students from the different charter schools posed questions of all the veterans. Many of the veterans had incredible stories of surviving the battle for Iwo Jima, Pearl Harbor and other battles. One man bailed out of his plane 15 seconds before it exploded over Germany. He spent the next three weeks walking to the border where he could meet up with Americans. During that three week period he went from 185 pounds to 95 pounds, eating only bugs, grass and even a live chicken he came across.

After the program, veterans met with students in an area with numerous artifacts and memorabilia on display. Many of the students collected signatures of the veterans on the back of the photo card distributed by TGGF. The foundation also had two Army jeeps outside for students to climb in and experience.

I spoke with one veteran after most of the students had left and said, "How does it feel to be a celebrity today?" His response was, "I'm just a survivor." One of the veterans declined the Purple Heart after Iwo Jima stating, "...too many others had died for it."

The six charter schools participating in the event today were: Woodrow Wilson Academy, The Academy, Lincoln Academy, Excel Academy, Jefferson Academy and Crown Pointe Academy.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Charter School Board Presidents

Friday there will be a first-ever meeting of charter school board presidents. Charter school boards are where the buck stops and board presidents are the leaders of that group of visionaries who lead the charter school.

The board president has many responsibilities including leading meetings, being the primary communication hub between the administration and board, setting the meeting agenda, authorizing contracts, enforcing bylaws, and ensuring the rest of the board is adequately prepared. Until now, many board presidents have been without a resource in which to rely when those odd scenarios arise.

What should the board do about an administrator who is insubordinate? Does a group of employees all need to be invited into a board executive session if they will be discussed? What can be done about a board member who doesn't prepare for meetings? Who speaks with two board members who continue to cross the line in airing their differences during board meetings? The board wants to interview a prospective principal candidate, can they do that in executive session?

These and many more questions are answered in the newly written "Board President's Handbook" that will be released this Friday at the first Board President's Council meeting held at Vanguard Classical School in Aurora. The meeting will go from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

In addition to getting some higher level information for governing boards, attendees will be able to problem-solve sample scenarios with others who lead their charter school boards. This "second level" of charter school board governance focuses on all of the unique situations charter schools have faced. It allows charter school leaders the opportunity to think through how to handle a scenario before they're involved in it.

Many people don't know how to effectively handle a situation without the experience of living through it and either learning from mistakes made or else, hopefully, the situation working itself out correctly. The President's Council will offer the shared wisdom and experience of others who have already been faced with many of the dilemmas that crop up in charter schools.

The charter school board president often carries the weight of the school on his or her shoulders. This person inherently knows the vision for the school and is searching for others who can help implement that vision. It's often a lonely responsibility along with the school's administrator. Now these board presidents will have the support of others in their same role.

Friday, October 1, 2010

HB 1412 Committee Meets for First Time

On Wednesday, the HB 1412 Committee met in a hearing room in the basement of the state Capitol. Speaker of the House, Terrance Carroll convened the advisory committe meeting that resulted from a bill that he carried this past legislative session. The purpose of the committee is to make recommendation on charter school standards and charter school authorizer standards.

Committee members and their designated position to the committe include:
*Rod Schmidt, St. Vrain Valley Schl District board of education, BOCES board member
*Bill Kurtz, Denver School of Science & Technology, charter school founder
*Carol Meininger, The Pinnacle Charter School, charter school business manager
*Stephanie Garcia, Pueblo 60 board of education, local board member with exclusive chartering authority
*April Wilkins, Peak to Peak, charter school teacher
*Alex Medler, Natl Assn of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), NACSA rep
*Francine Thompson, Douglas County Schl Dist, parent of a public school student who is also on the school advisory council
*Mike Nelson, Northstar & Skyview, parent of a district or CSI charter school student
* Al Loma, Colo Springs 11 board of education, local board member that shares chartering authority with CSI
* Kevin Stalker, Harrison 2 CFO, district administrator with financial expertise authorizing charters
* Mark Hyatt, Exec Dir-CSI, CSI representative
* Don Haddad, Supt. St. Vrain Valley Schl Dist, district administrator with expertise authorizing charters
* Denise Mund, CDE Schools of Choice Unit, CDE staff member

Over the next year and a half, the committee will make recommendation on charter school standards and charter school authorizer standards in addition to any possible recommendations for legislative changes or rule changes.

Initially, the committee decided to meet monthly, on the first Wednesday of each month, at various locations. Meeting agendas will be posted on the CDE website. The first meeting will be Nov. 3rd at the CO Assn of School Boards (pending confirmation of location). Each meeting will have a time for Public Comment.