Insight Online

 June 2015
In This Issue
Ohio Alliance for Public
Charter Schools
33 N Third St. Ste. 600
Columbus, Ohio 43215
Phone: (614) 744-2266
Fax: (614) 744-2255 
A Message from Dr. Darlene Chambers, President & CEO 


With this June newsletter, we officially bid farewell to the 2014 school year. We are very grateful to the charter school community for being able to share in the extraordinary accomplishments of our students and schools during the last nine months. Summer is a well-deserved time of rest and renewal, when it's possible to explore new interests and reflect on all that has been learned in the past year. We continue to plan and look forward to a dynamic Charter School Law Summit September 25th, and the much anticipated 9th Annual Charter School Conference November 12 and 13th in Columbus.

In this issue of Insight Online, you will find profiles of the outstanding national leaders who will be presenting keynote addresses at the fall conference: Nina S. Rees, Greg Richmond and Kenneth Campbell on Thursday and Ember Reichgott Junge on Friday. Their stories and their messages will offer insight and inspiration to all stakeholders in the charter community.

On the legislative front, the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter School's legislative team has been fully engaged in the June committee deliberations of the budget bill (HB 64) and the charter reform bills. We are encouraged that in the final budget bill, online schools were allocated $25 per-pupil for testing centers and brick and mortar charter schools' per-pupil facilities funding was increased from $100 to $150. The $25M fund for a Community School Classroom Facilities Grant program created in HB 64 is also a significant provision for high performing schools to access expansion and renovation funding.

On June 29th, the House of Representatives voted to delay a concurrence vote on House Bill 2, the charter school reform legislation. Although this postpones moving the bill toward passage, we are hopeful the continued discussions and efforts of so many stakeholders will have a positive outcome in the coming weeks.

In year-end transitions, we wish the best to two legendary charter school leaders in their retirements: Margie Hirschfeld of Citizens Academy in Cleveland and Marty Porter of the Toledo School for the Arts. In Columbus, we welcomed Tracie F. Craft to the OAPCS Board of Directors.  As a passionate advocate for choice and a specialist in expanding parental involvement in schools, she will bring a vital perspective to our organization. We look forward to working with her in this new role and in strengthening our partnership with the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), where she serves as Deputy Director of Advocacy.

To stay updated this summer on all of our activities and plans, follow us on Facebook and Twitter and share important charter school news with your social media network. With this issue of the newsletter, we will be transitioning to a quarterly Insight Online, with the next edition published in September.
Trint Hatt's June Legislative Update: The Passage of The Biennial Budget Bill

After six months of debate and legislative review, Gov. Kasich signed the two-year operating budget, Am. Sub. House Bill 64, this evening. What began as a 2,783 page bill with 84,747 lines of text concluded as a 4,245 page bill with 129,883 lines of law. These numbers illustrate that the members of the Ohio General Assembly, along with the governor, worked tirelessly to fulfill the June 30th state mandate for an approved biennial budget bill. We applaud the hard work and long nights that were required to meet this deadline. In this budget, community schools fared better than they have in past budgets and we thank our membership for their input and efforts to achieve this outcome.

Throughout the budget process and the many variations of language within the bill, it was an OAPCS priority to listen to our members and advocate for policy changes that would give our schools the ability to focus on teaching students versus managing bureaucracy. We are pleased to share these legislative provisions, because OAPCS delivered on its promise to our members.

In the final version of the bill, which you can access here, you will see most of the original provisions addressing community schools that dealt with sponsors, operators and governing authority members were transferred to a separate bill. The following are highlights of Am. Sub. House Bill 64:

  • Facilities funding for brick and mortar community schools increased to $150 per-pupil
    • This represents an increase of $50 over current law
  • First time funding for facilities for E-schools of $25 per-pupil
    • This is to help with testing sites and counseling
  • Community School Classroom Facilities Grant program with a $25M fund
    • This can be accessed by "high-performing" schools
  • Performance bonus payments for community schools and STEM schools linked to four-year graduation rates and performance bonus payments for community schools reaching targets for third grade reading proficiency scores

Overall, the OAPCS legislative team is pleased with the budget provisions for community schools. Through countless hours at the Statehouse and numerous meetings, we focused on outcomes that reflected our members' voices. A more thorough description of the budget will be sent to members next week that will explain all of the provisions affecting community schools and their operations.  


In other legislative action, House Bill 2, the charter reform package, was not given a concurrence vote by the House of Representatives. Until last Friday, there was momentum to get this bill passed prior to the General Assembly summer recess. Unfortunately, this momentum was stalled. It is our hope that we can continue the dialogue and see passage of the bill when legislators return to session this fall. In the meantime, I encourage all of our members to write or call your legislators and thank them for their hard work and dedication to the bill. Please encourage them to resume work on the bill throughout the summer so it can be voted out in September. A link to their contact information can be found here.
Charter School Conference Keynotes to Feature National Leader Panel and Charter School Pioneer Ember Reichgott Junge
Greg Richmond
A roster of national charter school leaders and pioneers will bring their expertise and insights to two keynote sessions at the 9 th  Annual Ohio Charter Schools Conference scheduled November 12 and 13, 2015, at the Ohio Union on the Ohio State University campus.

Highlighting a "Fireside Chat" panel Thursday will be Greg Richmond, president and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA); Kenneth Campbell, a founding board member of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO); and Nina Rees, president and CEO of  the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS). The panel will be moderated by Dr. Darlene Chambers, president and CEO of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools (OAPCS).  


Kenneth Campbell

The "Fireside Chat" format for the panel is designed to be an informal presentation that will connect the audience to national thought leaders involved in shaping the changing face of charter schools, according to Dr. Chambers. "This will allow panelists the opportunity to discuss Ohio's policy and their opinions of the state's legislative landscape," she said. "These individuals have extensive experience at the national level and their perspective about Ohio's opportunities and challenges will be truly valuable
to the conference participants," she added.

"Panelists Rees, Richmond and Campbell have all contributed significantly to advancing the charter school movement throughout the United States," noted Dr. Chambers.

Nina Rees
As president and chief executive officer of NAPCS, Rees has over 20 years of experience in Washington, D.C., most recently as Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives for Knowledge Universe (KU), a leading global education company. As president of NACSA, Richmond has emphasized advancing excellence and accountability among charter schools.  Under his leadership, NACSA played a significant role  transforming the public education system in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Campbell served as BAEO's president from 2010 to 2015. Under his leadership, BAEO played an instrumental role in advancing bold education policy reforms in key states. His work resulted in changing the narrative about education reform and parental choice in the Black community nationwide. For full speaker biographies, click here.


Ember Reichgott Junge
The Friday keynote will be presented by former Minnesota State Senator Ember Reichgott Junge, author of Minnesota's 1991 first-in-nation charter school law. Reichgott Junge, a legislator for 18 years who is now an author, trainer and policy leader, will speak about the national challenges and successes of the charter movement. Her presentation is titled "Chartering: From Pioneering Origins to Coming of Age."


She is the author of Zero Chance of Passage: The Pioneering Charter School Story, a memoir of her work in creating the first charter school law in the nation. For additional details about Reichgott Junge and her conference presentation, click here.  

9th Annual Charter Schools Conference Updates

We hope your fall plans include attending the 9th annual Ohio Charter Schools Conference at the Ohio Union on The Ohio State University campus on November 12-13, 2015.


Our conference is your opportunity to:

  • Discuss research, quality initiatives and policy with charter school stakeholders;
  • Investigate resources and educational programs to implement in classrooms; and,
  • Discover new and exciting ideas to foster professional development for all stakeholders.

Conference programming will focus on the following topic areas:


The Leadership track is designed to address the many challenges facing leaders who work within the charter movement as a school leader, oversight partner, or service provider. Topics will include replication, succession planning, school culture, team-building, hiring and supervising staff, dealing with parents and more.

Teaching/Student Achievement

The Teaching/Student Achievement track provides content in instructional strategies, technology, classroom management, curriculum, teacher training, intervention and other classroom-specific topics.

Legislative & Advocacy/Communications

Since the political landscape impacts charter schools immensely, we have created a Legislative & Advocacy/Communications track specifically for stakeholders who want to be kept abreast of the latest developments in district, state and federal legislation.

Charter Accountability/Finance

From compliance to fiscal sustainability, performance accountability to facilities funding, the Charter Accountability/Finance track will provide financial officers, authorizers, management companies and school leaders with the necessary tools and resources to achieve long-term viability.

School leaders, teachers, school board members, authorizers, business officers and Educational Service Providers should plan to attend the Ohio Charter Schools Conference.

Register Now to bring a team to get the most out of your conference experience.

Hotel Reservations
Special conference rates are available at the Hyatt Place and Hyatt Regency Hotels. Shuttles will be provided between the hotels and the Ohio Union.

Click to view rates and to make your hotel reservations.

General Conference Questions
E-mail the conference team or call Conference Coordinator Bretta Beveridge at 206-235-8249.
Straight A Data Matters Consortium Summit Event Energizes Teachers and School Leaders

More than 100 teachers and school leaders participating in the Straight A grant and Data Matters Consortium met for a two-day workshop June 11 and 12 to compare notes, exchange ideas and share best practices. The Summit Event, held at Quest Business Center in Columbus, was designed for staff from 17 schools to jointly participate in professional development and training.

The Summit Event is a key component of the Straight A grant awarded in 2014 to expand the Data Matters Consortium. The Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools and its Center for Charter School Quality (CCSQ) team oversees the implementation of the grant in the partner schools. The Arts and College Preparatory Academy (ACPA) is the lead grant recipient in the consortium. Currently, there are 17 schools, 237 teachers, 50 administrators and 4,351 students involved in using the consortium's data and assessment system.

Last August, OAPCS began the grant implementation in the schools to foster a permanent change in school culture and train teachers to use data to drive decisions about instruction and program effectiveness. Each teacher in the program receives a new computer, access to an online system known as Illuminate Data and Assessment, an item bank, and Ashland University credit for hours dedicated to training. CCSQ team members work with assigned schools and teachers for intensive training and implementation of the technology tools and resources. Schools set up collaborative data teams in which teachers meet regularly to share successes, refine their assessments and improve the application of the data-driven resources in the classroom.

According to Tony Gatto, principal of ACPA, the program helps teachers become more fluent in assessments and increases collaboration among staff. "We have seen it as beneficial to adopt
a data culture in our school," he said. "The goal is to have more students involved from the start, because the more students own
their data, the more successful the program is."


The Illuminate system serves as a data warehouse to track student scores on standardized tests, benchmark assessments and classroom specific assignments. It enables both teachers and students to receive immediate feedback to adjust lesson plans and address deficits.

For high school social studies teacher Johnny Ginter, from the Graham School, the program has revolutionized his entire approach in the classroom. "Using Illuminate has changed the way I teach," he said. "I am able to be more responsive to student concerns and it lets students vocalize what they don't understand," he said. "When they have a visual of their learning that they can respond to, they will talk about it more and be more open about what concepts they don't understand."

View from the Classroom: Illuminate is a Game-changer

For Columbus teachers Tina Bennett of Zenith Academy East and Lindsay Maltz of Renaissance Academy, becoming team leaders in implementing the Straight A Data Matters program in their schools has been a game-changer. They have seen, first hand, how teachers and students have benefited from the immediate feedback and customization of lessons that data-driven tools provide.

Tina Bennett

Bennett, a second grade teacher in her fourth year at Zenith Academy East, has also participated in the Ashland credit portion of the consortium. She has taught in charter schools for ten years and began working with the Straight A grant last summer. The majority of her students are not native English speakers, which has required her to adapt the Illuminate tools to meet the unique needs of her classroom. The program, she notes, lets teacher know where to go and helps develop instruction for all levels of students.

"Illuminate gives us a good starting point to help make our students successful," she said. "We can do data analysis with a pretest and can strengthen weak points and differentiate.  We have to adapt it to our students, because state tests are only in English and we can create rigorous testing that challenges them," she said.

As her school's team leader, she coordinates monthly meetings with the teachers to share successes and struggles. This collaboration helps the staff work together more than they would otherwise, she noted.

"This program sheds light on the wide variety of student learning styles and helps to tailor teaching to those styles," she said. "It helped me create reading and math groups with more input and I had deeper data to group the students more effectively," she added. "Being encouraged to use data more has really made me reflect more on my teaching practices and fine tune them to be more effective in the classroom."

Lindsay Maltz
At Renaissance Academy, Maltz has pioneered the Data Matters tools in her special education classroom and assisted the teaching staff in applying innovative methods throughout the K-8 classes.


Maltz used various software programs when she taught special education in a public school in New York City, but in her view the Illuminate system is far superior. "It has changed the way we test our students," she noted, "and we have been able to link star to Illuminate, which is the best of both worlds."

"I love how easy Illuminate is, how it is aligned to the common core and is so easy to make assessments," she said. "The data drives our instruction and we can be more efficient and focus on concepts the students need to work on," she added.

The tools are also very accommodating to students with an Individual Education Plan (IEP) and assessments and plans can be tailored through Illuminate so all students benefit, Maltz said.

"The first year I used Illuminate was the most amazing thing in the world," Maltz said. "Its strengths include creating higher order thinking questions, measuring more than one standard within the Common Core strands and tracking student growth," she added. Teachers are also able to quickly build reports for administrators to show live data and plot a student's progress.

To keep families connected, Maltz and her team create parent accounts so they can track how their child is doing. Most importantly, she noted, the data-driven program enables teachers to meet the needs of individual learners and direct students in creating their own goals based on the feedback from assessments.

Both Bennett and Maltz agree that their school data teams have helped them be better leaders and better teachers. Sharing successes and challenges has built trust among the teachers and raised accountability in the classroom, they noted. Ultimately, it all translates to better outcomes for students. 
Spotlight on OAPCS Membership: The Charter Marketplace  

Recognizing there is strength in numbers, the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools will soon debut a new program to help members connect with services and providers at a discounted rate.  The Charter Marketplace, a special benefit available to members of OAPCS, will offer participation in a network of companies that conduct business with charter schools. Businesses linked to apparel, food services, insurance, training, technology services, supplies and many related areas are joining the marketplace and discounting costs for OAPCS members.


According to Tisha Reynolds, OAPCS director
of development and membership, the Charter Marketplace is a unique benefit created in response to feedback from members. "OAPCS strives to generate new models of service for our members to capitalize on discounts and help members reduce school operating and business costs," she said. For more information on OAPCS membership benefits and resources, including the marketplace, contact Reynolds at or call 614-744-2266 ext. 215.

Charter School Law Summit Scheduled for September 25, 2015

Save the date for the Charter School Law Summit to be held September 25 at the OCLC Conference Center in Dublin, Ohio. This day-long legal workshop, sponsored by the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools, was designed in partnership with OAPCS members Tim Clements, Amy Goodson, Jamie Callender, Amy Borman and Maria Makakis. The summit will highlight presentations by these experienced charter school attorneys and include a networking lunch with focused round table discussions. Key areas addressed throughout the day will include legislative updates on the charter school reform bill, collective bargaining, financial audits, special education and crisis management.


Registration opens July 17, 2015, and workshop details will be posted on the OAPCS website, To view a list of all upcoming workshops sponsored by OAPCS, click here.
New Board Member Joins OAPCS
Tracie F. Craft

The Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools welcomed Tracie F. Craft as a new member of the OAPCS Board of Directors in June. She currently serves as Deputy Director of Advocacy for the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and supports the national team in leading outreach efforts across BAEO states. She served BAEO as State Director for Ohio from 2006 to 2012, leading advocacy efforts centered on education reform and parental choice options within the state.

"I am so honored to be serving as a board member for an organization that is committed to ensuring that charter schools remain a strong and viable option for Ohio families," she said. Craft, a resident of Dayton and mother of two daughters, has also served on the OAPCS Advisory Board.

In 2004, she received the "Unsung Hero" award from BAEO for her extensive volunteer commitment and active involvement in schools, from tutoring students to training low-income parents in basic computer courses. A specialist in expanding parental involvement in schools and school choice, she has testified in support of legislation protecting parental choice options for Ohio families. Her advocacy for children and parental choice was instrumental in bringing BAEO to Ohio.

According to Craft, her mission is to serve others while helping individuals maximize their full potential through persistence, patience and perseverance. OAPCS looks forward to working with Craft in her new role to support quality and choice and Ohio.
Buckeye Community Hope Foundation Rated Exemplary

The Buckeye Community Hope Foundation (BCHF) received an "Exemplary" designation in the most recent ratings of charter school sponsors released by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). Evaluators from ODE noted that the rating reflected Buckeye Hope's "clear mission for charter authorizing, its commitment to self-evaluation and improvement, and the significant staff expertise and the professional development it provided for all of its charter authorizing staff."

BCHF, which sponsors 51 schools in Ohio, received the highest rating in five of six categories included in the Sponsor Performance Review.

BCHF joins the Ohio Council of Community Schools and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation in receiving an "Exemplary" rating in the ODE sponsor evaluations. As of January 1, 2015, Ohio law requires ODE to conduct evaluations of community school sponsors through the Sponsor Performance Review. The review is based on the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) principles and standards for quality charter school authorizing. Sponsors must be approved by and are accountable to ODE. Currently, each sponsor evaluated receives one of three ratings specified in the current law: Exemplary, Effective and Ineffective.

"Quality authorizers play critical roles in the growth and sustainability of quality charter schools. When authorizers do their jobs well, as these authorizers do, they become a powerful force in growing effective education opportunities for the boys and girls of Ohio," said state Superintendent Richard Ross in a prepared statement.

OAPCS congratulates Buckeye Community Hope Foundation for this achievement and continued commitment to quality authorizing in Ohio.

Charter School  Roundup: Transitions and Graduations

Legendary Leaders of Two Charter Schools Announce Retirements
Marty Porter

Charter schools in Toledo and Cleveland extended gratitude and farewell messages to two legendary leaders and teachers last month. Margie Hirschfeld, credited with leading the most successful academic turnaround of any public school in Ohio, has retired from Citizens Academy in Cleveland. Marty Porter, the founding director and school leader of the Toledo School for the Arts (TSA), is turning leadership over to Doug Mead, a former Owens Community College dean.

Hirschfeld joined Citizens Academy in 2001 as a literacy coordinator and later served as director of academics. Through her focus on instructional innovation, she was instrumental in taking the school from an academic emergency status to a federally designated U.S. Department of Education 2011 Blue Ribbon School. Prior to joining Citizens, she was the middle school director of the Agnon School in Beachwood, Ohio.

At Citizens Academy, she created a model of high expectations with a focus on citizenship defined through seven virtues. According to Lyman Millard, spokesman for Breakthrough Schools, "she developed innovative ways for understanding and meeting students' individual academic needs."

"She developed a process for teachers to meet each week and collaboratively analyze student data to make continuous improvements to instruction," Millard added. "Under her leadership, Citizens Academy developed a national reputation for excellence."

In 2011, Hirschfeld oversaw the opening of Citizens Academy East and she laid the groundwork for opening Citizens Academy Southeast. Since 2009, Citizens Academy has ranked as one of the highest performing public charter schools in Ohio.

As the founding director of the Toledo School for the Arts, which opened in 1999 with 12 staff members and 27 students, Porter had a creative vision to infuse art into a learning environment that was open and innovative. Today, 700 students and 90 staff members are part of a dynamic school with an operating budget of more than $6 million. Awards and plaques from the U.S. Department of Education, Center for Education Reform and U.S. News and World Report cover the walls with recognition of the school as one of the top visual and performing arts high schools in the Midwest.

Porter led TSA through its growth and current ownership of its school building. He also created active community partnerships with arts and cultural organizations in Toledo and nurtured an academic philosophy that sends graduates to top colleges and universities. Colleagues and staff refer to the art and student focused environment as the "TSA way." Porter's continued vision has been that at TSA, infusing the arts around a core curriculum enhances math, English, and science for all the students.

As the incoming director of TSA, Mead acknowledges the rich legacy created by Porter. "I am honored and thrilled to become a part of such a highly respected institution," he said.

"OAPCS sends heart-felt appreciation and deep gratitude for the contributions of these two charter school pioneers whose legacy to the movement will continue long after their departure," said Dr. Darlene Chambers, CEO and president of OAPCS. "We wish them much joy and fulfillment with their retirements."
OAPCS Congratulates the Class of 2015

In auditoriums, arenas and theaters across Ohio in May and June, thousands of Ohio charter school students received their high school degrees. OAPCS congratulates these hard working students, their supportive families and their dynamic teachers and school leaders in reaching this milestone.

A few graduation highlights from around the state:

Townsend Community School honored its largest graduation class June 10th as 190 students received high school diplomas at the Sandusky State Theater. Founded in 2011, the northern Ohio year-round charter school has grown to 700 students.

More than 700 students graduated from Ohio Virtual Academy this year. Their Class of 2015 has earned a combined total of $2 million in college scholarships.

Ohio Connections Academy matriculated over 320 seniors and this impressive class earned over $2 million in college and university scholarships.  

State Representative Andrew Brenner gave the commencement speech for Horizon Science Academy Columbus graduates this year.

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) celebrated its 15th annual graduation ceremony June 6th at the Ohio State University Schottenstein Center. More than 2,000 students received their diplomas and heard keynote speakers State Auditor Dave Yost  and Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott.


Performance Academies Honors Scholars at Award Ceremony

Performance Academies Scholars
Performance Academies 8th   grade scholars were recognized at an award ceremony May 26, 2015,
for their academic achievements and scholarships to Columbus area high schools Cristo Rey, St. Francis DeSales, The Charles School, Columbus Academy
and The Arts and Preparatory Academy (ACPA).

OAPCS' Dr. Darlene Chambers, Ohio Council of Community Schools' Lenny Schafer, Peggy Young of the  Buckeye Community Hope Foundation, and State Representatives David Leland and Michael Stinziano attended the ceremony and addressed the graduates. Chanel Barnett, from Northland Preparatory Academy, gave the student address. Also recognized at the luncheon were Ireyana Williams, Miles Strickland, Aleysha Martinez, Caitlyn Canter, Cheyenne Armstrong, and Gregory Sheton.
Breakthrough Leader Receives Cleveland Foundation Honor

Friends of Breakthrough Schools President John Zitzner was awarded the prestigious 2015 Homer C. Wadsworth Award by The Cleveland Foundation. The honor is given annually to local leaders who demonstrate high-levels of creativity, ingenuity, risk-taking and, of course, good humor. The award was presented by Key Bank on June 3, 2015 at the Cleveland Foundation annual meeting. OAPCS extends congratulations for this well-deserved award. 

See You in September!
OAPCS will be publishing Insight Online as a quarterly newsletter starting in September. Please stay in touch by following our Facebook  and  Twitter posts and look for some exciting changes on our website this summer.



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