FEBRUARY 20, 2016
I am pleased to share news of a historic moment for our school and celebrate with you what this means for our students, our staff, and our community. On February 18, 2016, the SVA Board of Directors voted to support our school's transition from a single charter school to a "Charter Management Organization," or CMO. A CMO is a nonprofit that manages two or more charter schools. The board's decision means that SVA will take the first steps toward starting and establishing a second charter school over the next several years. The Board's choice will directly translate to many more children having access to an SVA education in our community, and it will also make it possible for our organization to grow and restructure with greater supports for classroom teachers and more sustainable roles as administrators.
The admissions window is always an emotional time for me as the Principal/Superintendent of this school because I am reminded of those who wish for, but cannot access, what we offer. Before I begin that lottery, I tell the audience, "My heart is with you. All of us here on the stage are both staff members and parents of children attending this school. If we weren't here on the stage, we'd be sitting where you are." When I empathize with the position the attending parents are in, seeing what is possible in public education and knowing how crucial a quality education is in nurturing our children to grow into their best selves and give them a shot at the American Dream, but being held at the door because we don't have enough seats to offer, I am compelled to respond. The families who have tried for multiple years to gain access to SVA and remain on a wait list, and the experience of families who get one child in and have to live the excruciating experience of sending one child here while the other attends elsewhere, keeps me up at night. That could be me. That could be you. My gratitude for what I have as an SVA parent motivates me as SVA's leader to want to find a way to make this opportunity possible for more families.
While our community's support and demand for our option has been one motivator, there are two other primary motivators behind the choice to replicate. Over the last year, SVA leadership has taken the time to deliberate and develop a Strategic Plan to help us achieve our mission/vision and continue our pursuit of excellence. In that process, the question of starting another K-8 school was raised as a strategy that could help us achieve two of our intentions.
The first was our intent to find ways to serve more diverse students. We started a charter school (instead of a private school) to affect social mobility in our community, to be a part of the solution. We are disturbed by the unequal access families have to a quality education, and frustrated by the restraints we currently work within to achieve demographic parity (the lottery, our location). We are also motivated to serve a more diverse population because we are true believers in our model. We are eager to demonstrate that progressive/constructivist pedagogy, and schools that meet the needs of their gifted, will outperform those that do not, even when they serve challenging populations. We want to incite improvement within our public education system by demonstrating that our philosophy and practices are good for all.
The second goal that growth will help us with is our desire (always) to increase the quality of what we offer the community. SVA is an institution that aims for excellence. Our leadership could only support growing our school if it resulted in increased quality. When we considered this question, we considered: whether replication can result in improved classroom instruction, bring greater sustainability to our staff, allow for leadership succession, and produce a better service to the community. After working out the financial model and identifying the tactics/initiatives we can enact in a growth scenario with greater organizational capacity, it is clear that replication will result in these benefits. Through growth, our team will be empowered to do their jobs with greater ease, support, and confidence. A larger staff will bring more minds to bear on the challenges we face in our complex roles as 21st century educators.
I've told many that if there was an icon of depth and complexity to summarize where we are at this point in time, it might best be typified by "unanswered questions." There are many vital details to work out as we chart our course, but a crucial question was answered last night: SVA will soon be available to more of our community, and SVA will be stronger and our community will be enriched because of that.
I will continue to update you as more questions become answered through News & Notes and Mission Vision emails, as well as our website. In the meantime, I'm always available through email or phone and I value all perspectives.
If you'd like to learn more about the benefits our leadership sees in the decision to start another K-8 school, you can view the PowerPoint presentation I presented to the Board linked at the top of this page.
You can also read our Strategic Plan, approved by the board in the January meeting, to see how growth is in service to our mission/vision and is an effective strategy to achieve multiple goals.
SVA parents, thank you for what you have built with our team here. Thank you for supporting us as we have grown through this school's launch and initial years. Thank you for holding a vision in your hearts of what is possible through this institution for your own children and for the broader community we live in. Thank you for expressing faith in our mission/vision and in our staff to be capable of realizing it. As we embark on the course to replicate, know that we keep you and your children top of mind. Our intent is to build from the strengths SVA already possesses and to offer that to more.
With gratitude, humility, optimism, passion, and joy,