A special plenary panel on charter school closures in St. Louis brought quality center stage at the 2012 National Alliance of Charter School Authorizers annual conference in Memphis, TN.
Earlier this year, Missouri’s State Board of Education made the difficult but necessary decision to close six chronically low performing charter schools in St. Louis–one of the largest charter school closures in history.
This bold action, backed by strong leadership from the Missouri Charter Public School Association, the Missouri Commissioner of Education and St. Louis Mayor Slay, marked a critical step to improving education options for the city’s students.
It was a courageous call to action–demonstrating that failing charter schools can and should be closed to make way for better schools that can provide students the education they need and deserve.
Panel participants were:
Douglas Thaman, Executive Director of the Missouri Charter Public School Association
Deborah Carr, Director of the University of Missouri’s Charter School Operations
Robbyn Wahby, St. Louis Mayor’s Education Liaison
Gwen Westbrooks, Charter Transition Coordinator for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Following this panel, the group continued the discussion with a smaller breakout session to delve deeper into how they managed the details of this difficult but necessary action, exploring the careful planning and implementation that transformed this bold decision into action on behalf of nearly 4,000 students in St. Louis. The panel also discussed more about the state’s transition plan for students and shared valuable lessons to assist others in addressing challenges within their own portfolio of schools.
In addition to these two panels, Thaman participated in a breakout panel discusison titled Tackling Authorizer Accountability in State Policy and MCPSA Director of Advocacy and Communications Earl Simms participated in a breakout session panel titled, A Guide to Communicating Charter School Closure. Effectively communicating the decision, details, and process of school closure to the media, parents, and public is one of the most critical tasks after the decision has been made to close a charter school. The session offered tools, techniques, and strategies for communicating closure to key stakeholders and assisted communications professionals and other authorizing staff in developing the skills necessary to successfully manage through one of the most challenging aspects of the closure process.
Other panelists included Gary Larson, Larson Communications and Gary Naeyaert, Gov. John Engler Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University.