Advocacy: MAKING THE

How do we counter the myths and misinformation? How do we make our case to progressives? How do we promote the indie charter model without “splitting the sector?” How the hell did we get here?

monday, november 18
monday, november 18

Title: Educators as Charter School Advocates

School/Organization: Association of American Educators

Time: 9:05-10:05am

Presenter(s): Rena Youngblood  

Description: While we hear from parents, students, and education reform organizations when advocating for charters, the educator voice is often missing from the conversation. In this presentation, we will examine ways to empower your staff and raise the profile of educator voices uniquely positioned to support the cause. Attendees will receive a toolkit specifically designed to assist in their efforts. Ultimately, attendees will learn how to use their unique skill sets to advocate for themselves and their schools.

Rena Youngblood is Senior Director of Charter School Services for the Association of American Educators. Prior to her work with AAE, Rena served as the Director of Membership and Member Business Services for the Georgia Charter Schools Association.

Title: Advocacy and the Art of Quadratic Equations

School/Organization: Bronx Charter School for Better Learning 

Time: 10:10-11:40am

Presenter(s): Theodore Swartz 

Description: At the Bronx Charter Schools for Better Learning, progressive education means practicing an instructional approach that leverages academics as the vehicle – not obstacle – to keep students in touch with their innate brilliance. Our approach eschews test/outcome oriented instruction by engaging our children – nearly all people of color from low-income households – in activities that tap their creativity. We do satisfy our authorizers with high test scores; more importantly, the children remain in touch with their natural love of learning. Participants in this session can experience our approach first-hand and gain insight into a process that frees learners from unnecessary worries. No prior mathematics acumen needed!


Theodore (Ted) Swartz, Ph.D., is Director of Professional Development at the Bronx Charter School for Better Learning, which he founded in 2003. A progressive institution with two elementary campuses, BBL has received multiple state and federal awards and exceeds NY State’s wealthiest district’s aggregate results in both ELA and mathematics.

Title: What's wrong - and right - with charter schools

Time: 10:40-11:40am

Presenter(s): Greg Richmond 

Description: Greg Richmond shares his perspectives from more than 20 years in authorizing and hosts an open dialogue about where we should go next. 


Greg Richmond has worked with passionate people across the country to improve quality educational opportunities for children by strengthening charter school authorizing. He first started authorizing charter schools in 1996 when he worked for the Chicago Public Schools where he was inspired by the educators who were proposing new schools. In 2000, he founded the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, served as its first board chair until 2005, and then as its full-time CEO. While he has testified repeatedly before Congress, met with Secretaries of Education, been interviewed by countless reporters from coast to coast, and partnered with major foundations, nothing brings him more happiness or inspiration than visiting with educators and students in their schools.


Greg holds a B.S. in geography from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Minnesota. Greg is married to his high school sweetheart, Janelle. They met when they were each cast in the leading roles in the school musical, South Pacific.

Title: Understanding Who Speaks for You: You are Your Best Advocate

Time: 11:45am-12:00pm

Presenter(s): Andrew Lewis 

Description: Statewide charter support organizations, education reform organizations and their lobbyists are often conflicted between what they believe is best for the sector, including CMO and EMO operators, what is best for their organizations, and the political impact of taking a stance on certain issues. Their work is important, but it is critical that those most invested in a charter’s mission and vision are able to rely on themselves as advocates. In this short presentation, attendees will learn how different stakeholders can mobilize to affect change. 


Andrew Lewis currently works with various charter schools and charter support organizations across the nation as an independent consultant. He worked for the Georgia Charter Schools Association for over 12 years as EVP over advocacy and policy.

Title: Leveraging the Authorizer Relationship

School/Organization: Buckeye Community Hope Foundation; Stonebrook Montessori; Education Law Association 

Time: 2:30-3:30pm

Presenter(s): Tom Hutton; Jacqueline Miller; Amber Oxley; Jason Moore 

Description: Passion and expertise in a particular education model drives the creation of independent charter schools.  But while these qualities help a school open, they won’t save a school from getting non-renewed if academic success isn’t clear to the authorizer.  Due to their unique missions and models, independent charters often find themselves having to explain themselves to authorizers in ways that managed schools do not. The set-up presents challenges, but also provides opportunities.


This session will bring together presenters from independent charter schools and authorizers to discuss what can be gained for schools and the charter movement if we expand the lens of the school/authorizer relationship from transactional to relational.


Tom Hutton is a Honolulu-based independent consultant and the interim executive director of the Education Law Association. He is the former executive director of the Hawaii State Public Charter School Commission, a former school board attorney, a co-founder of an independent charter school in the District of Columbia, and a governing board member of a Hawaii independent charter school.


Jacqueline Miller is the current and founding principal at Stonebrook Montessori, Ohio’s only public charter Montessori. Jacqui has over 25 years as a teacher/leader in the Montessori community and is a sought-after presenter across the global Montessori community on adolescent development.

Amber Oxley leverages her nonprofit management background to support independent charter school leadership. She is part of the senior leadership team at Stonebrook Montessori, where she leads operations. She is also a board member of another Ohio independent charter school.

Jason Moore works for Buckeye Community Hope Foundation as Finance and Compliance Director. In 15 years of experience working with Community Schools across Ohio, Jason has served as both licensed Treasurer and School Director. As a member of the founding team for five independent schools in Ohio, Jason brings experience in all aspects of operating a school.

Title: Immigration, Education, & Resilience

Time: 3:35-4:35pm

Presenter(s): Norma Garces 

Description: Almost nine in ten school leaders report that incivility and contentiousness in the broader political environment has considerably affected their school community.  While many students from immigrant families experience mounting uncertainty and fear as their future remains unclear, El Colegio is one of the few high schools in the country that has the capacity to support the community with both a compassionate approach and tangible resources to address academic needs as well as navigating and healing from trauma.  Learn about El Colegio High School’s resilience-based model in the face of a turbulent political climate.


Norma Garces has been executive director of El Colegio High School since 2011. Prior to becoming Executive Director, she previously served as a senior planning analyst at Hennepin County in Minnesota, where she led the county’s 2010 Census efforts and ensured one of the highest Latinx participation rates of any county in the country. She has also worked in the Minneapolis Public School district in multiple capacities, and is the former Executive Director of La Escuelita.

#icss19 #indiecharters