Thursday, October 29, 2009


Hello readers and particularly anyone interested in Charter Schools!

I'm inviting you to an event next Thursday, November 5th at the Civic Center in Peoria. WRITE THAT DOWN!!! Now, you can already tell this is long, but read the whole thing. I MEAN IT!

Now that it's on your calendar, let me explain what it is. For those of you who don't know, I work at Peoria Housing Authority. I recently took a bus trip with my boss to Chicago to learn more about the Peoria Charter School Initiative. It was a life changing experience, I cried the whole day, and was then asked to join their communication board. I could go on and on about what an eye opening experience it was. The Charter School Initiative is a grassroots effort started by local community members. Some are former principals, business leaders, parents and grandparents. They all have the goal of bringing a charter school to Peoria. Here are a few things you should know:

Charter Schools are public schools, so they are free.
You do not have to be "gifted." It is open to absolutely anyone, just as any other public school.
So what's the difference? Charter Schools offer a different approach to learning. 75% of the teachers are qualified... the rest of the time your students are being taught by experts in their field. For example, maybe a surgeon from a local hospital comes in to teach a class that is medical related. It's very hands-on learning. And school is never over! Parents come later and help students with labs, people hang out in the computer labs and do their homework with each other before going home. It's an entire different environment where they actually want to be at school. That has a lot to do with a big emphasis on culture... which is complicated. But trust me.
Parents are required to participate. Teachers call every parent or visit in person once a month and not just when something bad happens. They point out progress too.
There is a HUGE emphasis on college. College is not optional after charter schools. They start teaching you from 5th grade that you should think about what you want to be and where you want to go to school. In fact, in high school there are entire year-round mandatory classes dedicated to college, how to pick one, how to qualify, ACT prep, and how to apply for financial aid.

I was shocked with the students I met in Chicago. They were mature, well spoken and had such passion about learning and going to college. The schools had 100% graduation rate, 100% college placement! With numbers like that, we can't afford NOT to bring a charter school to Peoria.

Charter schools have a proven track record of success and we are robbing our students if we don't give them the option. District 150 has to approve the charter. The vote is November 23rd.


Thursday, November 5th at 5:30 PM, 20 students from a charter school just like the one we want in Peoria will be at the civic center so parents, teachers and the community can ask them anything they want to. Don't take my word for it. Go see for yourself and then come let your opinion be heard November 23rd. The students we met were inspiring. They were our tour guides, and mine actually said his old school was a joke. He didn't have to try to pass, he just had to show up. He said his charter school creates a different culture where learning is expected and high expectations are consistent. He wanted to try so he could keep up. He's been accepted to more than a dozen colleges and he admits he may not have even graduated if he had stayed at his old public school. The school walls were lined with "The Wall of Fame".... all the seniors' pictures and underneath... where they are going to college. I could go on and on but this is a novel already.

It doesn't matter if you have children or not, if you have children in District 150 or not, this is a positive change for the future for this entire area because we will be sculpting skilled and educated employees for the future. They will be future business owners and contributors to central Illinois. It is our job to make sure they have opportunities for excellence that they may not be finding in their current school system. I am not suggesting we don't have great schools already in place, but everyone learns differently and this is just an additional option for parents and students who don't feel what they have now is working. Please come hear what this is about. The students will tell the stories so it won't be some boring podium speech. We expect the panel to last about an hour. Then you make up your own mind. If you can come, let me know with a simple rsvp email. We'll try to get a head count. Thanks for reading!!!!

- Meghan