As noted in our intro blog to this week’s series on National Charter Schools Week, no two charter schools are alike. An excellent case in point is the two charter schools that Fordham sponsors in the Southern Ohio town of Sciotoville. In 2008, the existing schools in Sciotoville were traditional district schools in an area of the state hit hard by economic decline, but officials at the district took the bold step to convert their entire district into charter schools, severing some historic ties for families but maintaining many others. Sciotoville Elementary Academy is unique in a number of respects and is perhaps most indicative of administrators’ hopes for the future.

Sciotoville Elementary Academy (SEA) was the second-highest-performing school by performance index (a state measure of student proficiency) in Fordham’s portfolio in 2012–13. Led by Principal Foresta Shope and Superintendent Rick Bowman, the school serves grades K–4; over 80 percent of the students are economically disadvantaged, similar to many of the historical Ohio River communities. In addition to delivering great academic outcomes for students, this school also offers a wealth of activities for students and parents. These include Junior Madrigals, Spelling Bee, community-service opportunities, an after-school enrichment program, and parent-engagement opportunities.

You can see that while SEA is a charter school in structure and function, the staff has taken great effort to make their school look and feel very much like it did when it was part of a traditional district. The structures in place prior to becoming a charter school were kept in place. That includes the school’s board. It is, to our knowledge, the only elected charter-school board in the state (a function of the organization’s bylaws, tradition, and respect for the community).

Faculty and staff of SEA work closely with their colleagues in Sciotoville Community School (offering grades 5–12), located just a few blocks away in a century-old school building with great association to the community’s past. Families of the elementary school often also participate in the activities offered at SCS, including supporting a full complement of athletics (basketball, cheerleading, volleyball, football, baseball, softball, and tennis), attending art events, and supporting SCS’s musical offerings (band and Madrigals).

Most students transition from Sciotoville Elementary Academy to Sciotoville Community School. Indeed, even though the two schools are in separate facilities, the strong school culture that permeates both makes them feel like a single school. And it’s not unusual for alums to come back and take teaching positions. This deep sense of community and belonging makes SEA a unique charter school in Ohio.

We captured some of what’s special about these schools in a video (available here) a few years ago, and we’re glad to be able to highlight the good work of the board, leadership, and staff of this exceptional school during National Charter Schools Week.

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