Inside Charter Schools Part 2: Choosing a School
There are 11 charter schools in the northwest suburbs. As we learned yesterday each of them are different.
Beacon Academy in Crystal has been around since 2004. The charter school offers everyday Spanish and has a character-driven education.
“I think we really embody what the founding families really were looking for,” said Sean Koster, principal at Beacon Academy. “They were looking for a school that could take the moral fiber of what they were looking to instill in their kids at home and transcend that into classroom, hallway and lesson plans.”
Families Attracted to Smaller Class Sizes
With around 700 students in attendance, the K-8 school has smaller class sizes.
“I can understand it more if I have one-on-one time with a teacher more than her teaching the whole class,” says Quadier Dunn, an eighth-grade student at Beacon.
Beacon parent Erzsedet Miller has two children attend the school. She says Beacon is ideal for her family.
“Seven-hundred in one place versus a middle school with 1,500. That’s why we send out kids here,” said Miller. “It’s good for the siblings to have each other. They have so much more to talk about at home.”
“We like Beacon because of the culture,” said Norma Nistler, another Beacon Academy parent. “We really enjoy the culture and it’s a close community, and they welcome anyone.”
Operating with Less Resources
Administrators of charter schools say they regularly collaborate with school districts. That way, if students don’t want to stay at a charter school in high school they can transition to a large district easily.
“We have a lot of traditional districts that work with us,” said Beacon Academy Principal Sean Koster. “Right before you came here we had districts that were collecting high school information. We have districts that we welcome into our hallways to look at helping kids enroll in high school.”
Koster says he understand people’s concerns about charter schools reducing funding for public schools. But Koster adds that charter schools often work with less resources.
“We are an underfunded school,” said Koster. “When we look at how we put together an education for our students, we do it on a lot less money than a traditional district. Our teachers actually make about 80 percent of what the traditional districts make. Our administrators our support staff we are all at about the 80 percent level.”
Koster says anytime children are involved there are often knee-jerk reactions to change, especially about a charter school education and the difference with regular public schools.
“It’s an emotionally charged field,” said Koster about education. “Anything to do with our children we get emotional about because we protect and we want to make sure we have the best for them. So people are going to get emotionally charged about their children and then it becomes I am emotionally charged about this educational idea because of my children.”
Charter Schools Aren’t for Everyone
Charter schools work for some students and families. However, educators say they may not be for everyone.
“Understand your child understand what they need,” added Koster. “Some children are going to need an online education because a classroom isn’t a good fit. Some kids are going to need a project-based charter school because they really don’t fit in a traditional system.”