Dear Families and Supporters,
I rarely talk about the fact that our schools are charter schools and what that means. I’d like to use this blog as an opportunity to talk about our beliefs and how we bring them into action is our schools. I’d like to talk about the amazing work our teachers and students do on a daily basis. The fact that we are a charter school is often superfluous to that work. The charter school designation is a legal definition, just as “common schools” is the legal designation for the neighborhood schools many of us attended.
One of the criteria that makes a charter school different from a common school is that fact that there is a contract that governs the existence of the charter school. The contracts for each of our three schools, IDEAS Academy, The Mosaic School, and ESAA, will be up for renewal with the Board of Education on Tuesday, February 9th at 7:00pm. I share this information with you for a few reasons. First of all, I always appreciate your support at the meeting. Secondly, this is always a time for us to reflect on our progress, share our performance, and look at where we are headed. Over the course of the next week, Over the course of the next week, I will introduce the information in our contract leading up to the meeting on February 9th. Today, I want to share with you what it means to be a charter school and how our contract is structured.
First and foremost, being a charter school means that we are a public school and a part of the Sheboygan Area School District. I start with this, because there is much discussion about charter schools in the United States. Arguments made against charter schools are that they take away from public education and deplete school districts of needed resources. In Wisconsin, we are fortunate to have charter school laws that allow school districts to use charter schools to create educational options within their districts. This allows parents to remain part of the public system and still have choices; it also allows options to be available to all families. We have used our charter schools to provide students with an educational option grounded in creativity, the arts, engineering, a culture of decency and trust, and fostering critical thinking in all of our students.
It is also important to point out that we are designated as an instrumentality of the Sheboygan Area School District, which means all of the people employed by our schools are employees of the Sheboygan Area School District. Not all schools within the SASD are designated as instrumentalities. Sheboygan Leadership Academy and Lake Country Academy are considered non-instrumentality charter schools, which means that their employees are not governed by the same employee agreements that SASD teachers are. These schools pay their teachers different rates and can have different benefit structures. The Étude Group has always taken pride in having our schools be fully part of the Sheboygan Area School District. It is important that our teachers are provided with the benefits and protections of being SASD employees and that our schools remain part of the public schooling system.
What makes a charter school unique is the fact that it is governed by a contract between the Governing Board for The Étude Group of schools and the Board of Education for the SASD. At the heart of this contract is an agreement that states the charter school can operate a unique educational program in exchange for specific performance goals. Within our contract we outline our educational program looking at our core beliefs and core philosophy (more on this later). We also identify performance goals for each school related to attendance, student performance on mandated tests, student performance in our educational program, student engagement, and parent engagement. I will cover these topics in more depth over the course of the week.
I hope you feel compelled to join me at the Board of Education meeting on February 9th at 7:00 pm. The meeting will be held in the Board of Education room at 830 Virginia Ave. The Board of Education room is on the second floor. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions.