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November 24, 2010 The California Charter Schools Association's overarching strategy is to leverage the collective advocacy power of the growing charter school movement to achieve four primary objectives: growing new charter schools, strengthening existing charter schools, ensuring accountability, and sustaining the Association. CCSA has staff in the Northeastern California, Bay Area, Central Valley, Los Angeles, Inland Empire, and San Diego regions, which allows the Association to respond to members across the state, but presents some challenges when attempting to facilitate the type of in-person work necessary to advance CCSA's work on behalf of the movement. Our geographically-dispersed staff meet twice a year for all-staff retreats, focusing on strategic planning and action, identifying opportunities for cross-team collaboration, and building a common understanding on important issues facing the movement. In short, the retreats help CCSA identify how to maximize successes, respond to challenges facing charters and to accomplish the Association's strategic goals. This year's fall retreat also helped staff get in touch with the reason we exist--our member schools--in a very personal way.

"In response to a survey, our staff indicated they wanted new opportunities for team building and socializing during our all staff retreats," explained CCSA Chief of Staff Kerry Flanagan. "We decided it was time to institute a new tradition to accomplish that as well as provide an opportunity for us to give back to the charter school community."

That is why last week, CCSA staff took a break from strategic planning and engaged in service projects at several campuses in San Diego.

"We were fortunate to find a number of schools with some specific needs within a 15-minute drive of our location," continued Flanagan. "Each school provided us with a 30-minute overview of the school and a tour prior to our service projects."

Volunteers at Pacific American Academy Charter School assembled furniture and set up three classrooms, while 15 CCSA staff members went to KIPP Adelante Preparatory Academy and read with students. San Diego Global Vision Academy hosted staff members who assembled storage shelves. At Integrity Charter School, volunteers got down and dirty, cleaning the school's air ducts. And at Promise Charter, CCSA staff members cleaned out a bungalow on the school's campus (granted to the school through the Prop. 39 process) and laid the groundwork for the room to become a parent welcome center full of computers and books.

Promise Charter Principal Jose Orozco described "relief" at the site of CCSA volunteers working diligently to transform the room and noted the project's impact on the school.

"We've been trying to set up a parent resource room for the last year and we just haven't had the time," he noted. "This was perfect. Parents are going to be able to come in, use the computers and have PTO meetings. They can take parenting classes, English classes, computer classes, and sign up for email addresses. It's a good place for parents to feel more welcome at the school and be more involved."

CCSA staff felt very welcome at the schools they visited. "We are thankful for all our member schools and wanted to express that by providing a group of volunteers to complete any projects the school had on its list of things to do," said Flanagan. "It was a very rewarding opportunity for all of us at CCSA."

CCSA's staff looks forward to participating in more service projects at future retreats. To see pictures from this year's projects, visit CCSA's Facebook page.

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