April 21, 2011 By Lisa Berlanga, Regional Director for CCSA's Greater San Diego Region
Every year as the first week in May approaches, we encourage charter schools to take advantage of National Charter Schools Week by using it as a spring board for getting the word out about their charter school. We encourage charters to invite legislators, board members, parents and community members to visit their school and see firsthand what charters are about. It can be a difficult sell for schools, as National Charter Schools Week always falls during the California State Testing Window. Last year, Edward B. Cole Academy didn't let that get in their way and ran with the idea of creating an annual event, C.O.L.E. Day - Celebration of Literacy in Education.
I was invited to the first annual C.O.L.E. Day and was greeted at the front gate by student ambassador, Michel, who took me to visit several classrooms, library and computer lab. Along the way he told me all about their charter school and how proud he was to be a student there. Michel was on the student council and had lots of stories about all the different events that he had participated in. Then, at my scheduled time, I entered a third grade classroom where I was invited to read to the students. The students were currently studying a unit on penguins so I read a couple chapters from their shared reading book. The students were so engaged and excited to have a guest reader; they were a wonderful group. While I was reading, I noticed staff taking pictures, but was very surprised to find a framed picture of myself reading to the class waiting for me before I left.
The morning concluded with coffee and snacks in the lunch arbor where I was able to chat with other visitors who included Santa Ana and Edward B. Cole board members, the name sake of the charter school's daughters, and Cecilia Iglesias, who was running for congress. Many parents were also there to greet us and talk about how much they loved sending their students to Edward B. Cole Academy. The arbor was decorated with posters that the student council had designed chronicling in photographs the various events throughout the year. My ambassador was excited to point himself and his friends out in the pictures and tell me all about the events that the student council had participated in. The event concluded with Kitty Fortner, the school's director, talking to us about the progress Edward B. Cole has made over the last few years and answering our questions. Highlights included student achievement, parent satisfaction, plans for expansion and a good relationship with their district.
Edward B. Cole really took advantage of National Charter Schools Week by making the visits part of the educational process by focusing the event on literacy. Students also had the opportunity to hone their leadership skills by being the student ambassadors for visitors. They managed to sneak in lots of information to each visitor, as each guest not only received a beautifully framed photograph, but a folder of information on the charter school as well as the charter movement. It was a wonderful event and the second annual C.O.L.E. Day is scheduled for Friday, May 7, making this a school tradition.
If you are interested in learning how to commemorate National Charter Schools Week, view our toolkit. CCSA has also created a fact sheet about National Charter Schools Week and the charter school movement in California and the nation.