Hundreds of school leaders, teachers and advocates were in attendance for the 2019 Georgia Charter Schools Conference in Savannah. This year’s conference took place during the week of Valentine’s Day and was appropriately titled “For the Love of Charters.”
Those taking part in the conference attended more than 30 educational-breakout sessions that covered topics related to board governance, crisis communications, advocacy, culturally relevant pedagogy, employment, cyber security and a number of other areas.
On Thursday, Feb. 14, Tony Roberts, President and CEO of the Georgia Charter Schools Association, highlighted how GCSA has benefited charter schools and students throughout Georgia through major advocacy wins such as Georgia House Bill 787, which increased funding for charter schools authorized by the State Charter Schools Commission and forward funding for all charter schools. He also mentioned the passage of the 2012 charter school amendment and the law which allows district charter schools to locate in unused facilities.
Roberts spoke about the evolution of the association and how it has worked to create a solid foundation through providing direct support and beneficial services to its members. He told attendees that through GCSA’s partnerships with schools, advocates, teachers and the community, the Georgia Charter Schools Association has grown and evolved into a modern and more comprehensive service organization. As a result, Georgia Charter Schools Association has changed our branding to reflect who we are today: an organization that strives to serve Georgia’s public schools. We exist to elevate public schools for a brighter future.
“Georgia Charter Schools Association is you, it is our schools, it is our supporters, it is everyone who believes children should have a choice in public education,” said Roberts during Thursday’s General Session. What we want to do today is to renew our commitment as an organization to partner with you, and those who are not here, but who believe that kids deserve good opportunities for a good public education,” said Roberts during Thursday’s General Session.
Roberts said he wants GCSA and its members to continue to move toward excellence to ensure more Georgia students can receive a high-quality public education. He said the rebranding is not just for GCSA, but he wants schools to rebrand with Georgia Charter Schools Association.
Other General session highlights included a musical performance by students at Tybee Island Maritime Academy and inspirational words from state Sen. Lester Jackson who represents Savannah. Sen. Jackson welcomed attendees to Savannah and thanked them the work GCSA and their member schools do for children. The state senator says he’s a public school advocate who believes public education is not a “cookie cutter entity.”
“Every child does not need just one method of being education. Our children are all diverse, and our education system should be diverse,” said Sen. Jackson (D-Savannah).
The General Session concluded with a speech from keynote speaker Chevonne Hall, CEO of the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women. Hall told attendees about the hard work it takes to move students who come in on average of three years behind in school toward academic success.
“Our work is rooted in our belief that our girls can and will transform Baltimore,” said Hall. “We’re not magicians, we’re not superheroes, we don’t wear capes, nor do we carry magic wands. We do the work required to cultivate the leader in every girl that we serve.”
The Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women has achieved a 100 percent college acceptance rate for four consecutive years. Students have also consistently surpassed academic achievement measures of the Baltimore City Public School District. The school also works to ensure its alumnae succeed in college. The Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women was also recently featured in the documentary film “STEP.” Hall is a graduate of Spelman College in Atlanta.
On Friday, conference attendees heard from Sydney Chaffee, the 2017 National Teacher of the Year.
“Every student deserves to feel like hero,” said Chaffee.
Chaffee urged educators at the conference to do everything they can to ensure that a student’s journey through education is transformative and equitable. She spoke about the importance of building relationships, listening to students and becoming more culturally responsive.
“We don’t have to be perfect, but we have to be brave enough to try,” said Chaffee.
Conference attendees also had the opportunity to meet with more than 50 solution providers and network with colleagues during two receptions sponsored by LS3P Associates, LTD. and the Georgia College JHL Lounsbury College of Education.