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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Charter Founder: Jack McCarthy, AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School

                                                                        

“I've learned to understand that what we're doing is never finished--it can and must continuously improve because so many lives are at stake.”  -Jack McCarthy, AppleTree Early Learning PCS

As I recall, we used every bit of the time available to us to submit our application. We even went to the office about an hour before the deadline just to make sure we were on time. I'm sure everyone worries about a mistake, or an omission - we were no different.

Once submitted, however, our founding group felt a great sense of accomplishment - we had taken an idea that we had developed and tested, and documented it into a full implementation plan.  PCSB’s process was rigorous and hard, but we expected that. We were tired and cautiously optimistic. It seemed like the review process took a long time. The public hearing caused the greatest apprehension (because one never entirely knows what to expect). Fortunately, everything went smoothly.

The moment our school was approved we were elated. Charters provide citizens with both a unique policy space and operational opportunity to start the world over again in some aspect of public education. They are innovative, autonomous entities, accountable for results, and it is always exhilarating when the rubber meets the road in school reform!

Designing a charter school, implementing a business growth plan and measuring the positive impact of your innovation on children's learning is extraordinarily satisfying. But every day one learns something important about education and about oneself. What is really interesting is that you learn from everyone: parents, teachers, staff, funders, policymakers, and even casual observers. I feel an incredible sense of urgency about our mission at the same time that I recognize what a long-term commitment school reform is.

As Emily Lawson wrote in her founders series post, over time we've become "idealists without illusions." The biggest change is "seasoning" and patience. You own it and it owns you. I've learned to understand that what we're doing is never finished--it can and must continuously improve because so many lives are at stake.

AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School started with 36 children in a church basement. Today, the school serves 640 children at seven sites throughout the District of Columbia. To further strengthen their priorities of academic achievement and performance, AppleTree recently requested to amend their school’s charter to adopt PCSB’s early childhood PMF as their official academic goals. Learn more about AppleTree PCS. 


Posted by: PCSB at 4:35 p.m.
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Friday, April 11, 2014

Charter Founder: Jennifer C. Niles, E.L. Haynes Public Charter School

                                     

"I'm not surprised being here ten years later, but I certainly didn't appreciate then the richness of what the school would become." 
Jennifer C. Niles, E.L. Haynes Public Charter School 

I turned in the application on time, right at deadline.  I am sure I walked it to the office myself.  It was an exciting moment -- it felt like a big accomplishment just to have completed the proposal.  

This was 12 years ago!  I don't really remember the interview process.
But I do remember the hearing.  Because I had been working at Capital City, a number of students and parents from there came to speak, which was really nice.  One of the 2nd graders who spoke made an analogy: "Ms. Niles is like a Japanese Tea Ceremony."  I was wondering where this was going...  She said, "Ms. Niles is very calm and serene with everything exactly in its place."  What a lovely image, though one I didn't think was quite so representative of me at that time, but I was pleased that's the impression I gave.  The other people who spoke were some of the 40 people who contributed to our application.  It was great to have so many people there in support.

I thought that our application would be approved, but I didn't know if it would be approved conditionally.  I thought it would be approved because it had drawn so much from effective practice and we were very thorough.  And I had read so many other charter applications in DC and around the country.

I'm not surprised being here ten years later, but I certainly didn't appreciate then the richness of what the school would become.  While you can imagine having a high school, you can't imagine what it really looks like to have incredible teachers think about rigorous curriculum, students shine in writing essays about "Persepolis," students impress scientists who come to visit, and students earn scholarships to prestigious summer programs.

Jennifer C. Niles is the founder and Head of School at E. L. Haynes Public Charter School. The school opened in 2004, and currently serves more than 950 students in grades PK to 12th grade.  

Posted by: PCSB at 3:40 p.m.
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