As the Executive Director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network (DCSN), my job is to advocate for the 11,078 children in Delaware’s twenty-one charter schools. Since I’ve been in this role I have seen how a change in school environment can transform a child’s life. It’s remarkable to witness and a pleasure to be a part of. And while none of us can see what our futures hold, I can say with certainty that this is and will remain the most important work of my career.
Our charter schools are making a difference for Delaware’s families. Parents should be able to find the school that best meets the needs of their children and charter schools are meeting that demand. By contributing to choice in our state’s public education system, our charter schools are strengthening the system as a whole. I hear about this every day when I talk to students or parents who tell me how their charter school has made a difference.
Earlier this month I attended the National Charter Schools Conference, organized by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), and attended by 4,800 charter supporters, school leaders, board members, teachers, parents, and advocates like myself. The conference’s theme—“The Numbers Add Up.”
The nationwide charter school movement is thriving. In the U.S., there are more than 6,400 charters in 42 states and D.C. working for and educating over 2.5 million kids AND the number of students on charter school waiting lists across the country reached 1 million this school year. There is much to celebrate, but we also must remember that there is still much to do.
First and foremost, we must work to stop the continual fighting going on in education in general. Education in our country seems to be a constant battle. We’re fighting amongst each other—traditional schools versus charter schools, charter schools versus private schools, and so on. We need to elevate the conversation and accept that there is a need for options for all children and that having options is not only ok, it’s a good thing.
To do it, we need to get the message out. We need our community to tell their stories. Education is personal and telling personal stories is what will help us focus on why effective education for all is important. “Telling your story” is a priority on the national level and was a large part of the discussions at the conference. The Alliance is encouraging charter school stakeholders in the United States to participate in the conversation as advocates, for themselves and for the charter movement as a whole.
Second, we need to focus on educational options in rural communities. On the final day of the conference, Michael Hayes, a charter school leader in Colorado, spoke about how we need to “not forget the rural schools.” That resonated with me and I believe it deserves attention in Delaware. Our rural families deserve effective educational choices too. Finding those gaps in Kent and Sussex counties and working with groups to fill those gaps is part of our strategic plan.
Our vision at the Delaware Charter Schools Network is for every child in Delaware to have an opportunity for an excellent public education, for urban, suburban and rural communities alike. We are making strides here in Delaware – Our Numbers Add Up. Enrollment in charter schools has increased by more than 76% since the 2004-05 school year and we have 5,000 children on charter school waiting lists for the 2014-15 school year.
I’m very proud of our schools, our community and our children. On Oct. 9, the Delaware Charter Schools Network will hold our third annual Innovation, Dedication, Education, & Admiration (IDEA) Awards, which honor and recognize the exemplary dedication and hard work of all of the members of Delaware’s charter school community. We know that there is great work happening in our schools and we want to celebrate it. If you know someone who is making a difference in a Delaware charter school, visit the network’s website at www.DECharterNetwork.org and nominate them by September 15.
In closing, I ask you to consider a number: Six thousand. This is how many children drop out of high school in our country every day. America’s children deserve better educational options—our future depends on it. In Delaware, it is our state’s responsibility to provide the best possible education we can for our children. I believe our charter schools, working as members of our public school community, are helping to do just that. When we work together as a village, there is no limit to what we can achieve.
Kendall Massett is the Executive Director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network (DCSN), a non-profit organization supporting 21 charter schools statewide that provide independent, tuition-free public education to 11,078 students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Kendall holds a B.S in Business Management from North Carolina State University and a M.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies in Management from the University of Maryland University College. She resides in Greenville with husband Kelly and two sons.