BES Waiting to Invest in Ohio

Chris Clemons and Andrew Boy

Ohio’s children need more high quality educational options. We at Building Excellent Schools (BES) want the opportunity to work in Ohio, training leaders to found strong charter schools. This would seem a match made in heaven, right? Yet if Ohio Governor Ted Strickland had his way, the number of new Building Excellent Schools Fellow-founded schools, or other effective charter models for that matter, opening in Ohio in 2007 will be zero. In 2008, it will be zero. In fact, under the governor’s plan, a new charter school could not open until July 2009--regardless of its quality.

Fortunately, the Ohio House of Representatives has offered a reprieve from such drastic action with its version of the state budget bill. In place of a moratorium, it would increase penalties for low-performing schools (whether academically or fiscally) while still allowing high-performing models to open and/or replicate in the state. At Building Excellent Schools we wholeheartedly encourage any efforts to bring quality and accountability to charter schools and public education in general. One example of the former is Columbus Collegiate Academy, a Building Excellent Schools Fellow-Founded school seeking to open in 2008.

In August 2006, Andrew Boy (already an accomplished educator in Ohio) began a Building Excellent Schools Fellowship with a vision for opening Columbus Collegiate Academy, an urban middle school seeking to prepare students academically for the collegiate level and produce citizens of integrity. Mr. Boy came to the Fellowship as one of only 12 Fellows carefully selected from over 300 applicants. By joining the Fellowship, he signed on to participate in a rigorous training program which would thoroughly train him to design, found, and operate an urban charter school of uncompromising excellence.

A BES Fellowship year entails approximately 100 training days in Boston, an extended residency in a high performing urban charter school, and ongoing coaching and support for board and charter application development. The culmination of the Fellowship year is the submission of a well-written, thoroughly researched charter application that reflects the best practices in urban school design. Schools founded by Building Excellent Schools Fellows are each free-standing, locally controlled, and independent of any management organization.

During the 2006-2007 Fellowship year, Mr. Boy toured the top 30 performing urban charter schools in the northeast United States to evaluate/experience the process of researched best practices in action. He, with other Fellows, visited renowned high performing charter schools such as Academy of the Pacific Rim (MA), Amistad Academy (CT), Boston Collegiate (MA), KIPP Bronx (NY), North Star Academy (NJ), and Roxbury Prep (MA). 

Mr. Boy completed his residency at Excel Academy (MA), a BES Fellow-founded urban charter middle school that serves an “at-risk” population (80+ percent Hispanic, 75+ percent Free and Reduced Price Lunch); features a strong school culture; encourages each of its students to thrive; and has 100 percent of its students passing state-mandated tests. The residency included substantial access to school leadership and hands-on experience managing the day-to-day operations of the school.

Since then, Andrew has worked diligently to secure accomplished board members for Columbus Collegiate Academy, research a suitable site for the school, and complete a rigorous application for school sponsorship by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. He is also in the process of raising over $250,000 in philanthropic dollars to plan and open Columbus Collegiate in the fall of 2008. Yet if the governor’s policy becomes law, this could be for naught--at least in Ohio. (Other states across the nation are clamoring for top-notch schools and school leaders.)

The legislative process is far from over, and we realize that compromises are sure to be brokered. Yet we hope policymakers will allow Columbus Collegiate and Mr. Boy the opportunity to educate some of the Capital City’s neediest youngsters for bright futures in top-notch high schools and universities. Building Excellent Schools, like several other effective charter school support organizations, is eager to bring strong public schools to Ohio students. As the debate over Ohio’s charters continues, we hope the governor and legislators will see the difference between political concession and good policy. In the meantime, at Building Excellent Schools we wait anxiously on the outside looking in, along with thousands of Ohio’s parents and families who desperately need high quality public school options.

by Chris Clemons and Andrew Boy

Chris Clemons is Deputy Executive Director of Building Excellent Schools. Andrew Boy is a BES Fellow and Lead Founder of Columbus Collegiate Academy.

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