Selected readings on US charter schools
The new K-5 school — Global Tech Academy — will admit 250 students this August.
The building at 1715 E. Forest Ave. is right across the street from Ypsilanti Community Middle School-Willow Run Campus. The charter school is not affiliated with YCS.
The building last saw a class of students in spring of 2012, when Global Educational Excellence was operating the building as Victory Academy: a K-5 school that offered Arabic and Spanish.
Victory Academy’s charter through Bay Mills Community College was not renewed because of “financial condition and academic performance,” which caused the school to close in summer of 2012 about six years after it opened.
“We had a relationship with the community when we closed,” said Karey Reed, education director for Global Educational Excellence. “We wanted to continue and get back into the community and continue the partnerships we started.”
Global Educational Excellence is an Ann Arbor-based educational service provider that was founded in 1998.
Director and co-founder Mohamad Issa applied for a charter for Global Tech from Eastern Michigan University in January 2013, about a year after he found out Victory Academy’s charter would not be renewed in December 2011.
Reed said administrators carefully planned for Global Tech throughout the past two years to make sure it’s a “viable option and a viable part of the community.”
Global Tech will offer classes year-round and offer before and after-school care, which Victory Academy did not. Administrators are still deciding whether to offer Spanish or Arabic at Global Tech, Issa said.
The biggest change at the building will be in the new digital curriculum: each student at Global Tech will be assigned a tablet for use in class and at home.
The Android-based tablets will be programmed and provided by Amplify, a company that provides devices programmed with classroom-ready curriculum. The Amplify system allows teachers to limit what the students can access on their devices to keep them on task.
Global Tech’s charter agreement with EMU states the school will be a partner with EMU’s Office of Urban Education Educational Equity so that Global Tech will become a professional development school for the preparation of urban teachers.
Reed said Global Educational Excellence conducted market research to determine what Ypsilanti did not offer—and found that there was a “need” for year-round class offerings and a school that offers a one-to-one computing experience.
Issa said offering students tablets is a better way to engage them by working with what children want rather than against what they want. Global Tech will also offer parents a place to access the internet and ways to learn along with their children.
Scott Menzel, superintendent of Ypsilanti Community Schools, said having a charter school across the street from the middle school is “not optimal.”
“On the opening day (of YCS) of August of last year when I was addressing our staff, I not only pointed out that a charter school was opening but that our job as a district was to make our district so good that (the charter school) would have to get their students from another district,” Menzel said.
Issa said opening up a charter school requires the support of community leaders.
“I can’t consider any public or charter school as competition,” Issa said. “And public schools can’t look at charter schools as the enemy. It’s a marketplace for students.”
The “marketplace” demands traditional public schools evaluate how they can better serve students and families and thereby elevates the quality of education in all schools, Issa said.
Menzel said that argument is only a part of the story for public schools.
“Competition can require districts to pay attention to everything that matters and respond to market demand,” Menzel said. “But the unlimited nature of competition doesn’t guarantee quality.”
Competition also means that when students leave a school district for another option—either a charter school or another public school district through School of Choice—the home district loses money, Menzel said.
It’s financially tough for the first couple of years when a charter school opens, Issa said. He declined to provide a start-up cost or annual operating budget for Global Tech.
Reed said Global Tech will be using a federal startup grant to pay for initial curriculum and instruction costs. The school will be hiring about 10 teachers and will likely have a staff of 15 to 20 people.
Though former Victory Academy Principal Kevin Whelan still works for Global Educational Excellence, he isn’t one of nine finalists Issa is considering for the position of principal at Global Tech. Some former Victory Academy teachers may be returning to the building, Reed said.
Global Educational Excellence runs 10 charter schools, most of which are in metro Detroit. Its central offices are adjacent to its Ann Arbor charter school, Central Academy.
Source: Michigan Live – by Amy Biolchini