The New York Twenty: Real Charter Champions profiles the everyday people who are the champions to their children: parents and grandparents who make the critical choice to send their kids to charter schools. Over the next several weeks we will be sharing the real stories of charter parents around New York State. Today hear from Niagara mom Danalle Sears.
I am a proud parent single parent, raising my 8-year-old son Isaac, who attends Niagara Charter School. Isaac has attended Niagara since Kindergarten and is now in the 2nd grade. I chose this school because they have a fun, exciting, and non-traditional way of teaching - and it is a decision that has changed both of our lives for the better.
Isaac is advanced academically; he has a 4th grade reading level and has math problems completed before the teacher even has a chance to get the entire problem written on the whiteboard! Though academics come easy to him, Isaac needed help with his leadership and social skills.
Niagara Charter has helped him grow and the teachers have instilled so much confidence in him. Now my son is a great leader and role model for other children – and each of his teachers continue to challenge him to grow more every day.
This type of growth can happen at Niagara because as a charter, it doesn’t follow a traditional model. This is what I love the most about the school. The teachers do not teach “right out of books,”; they teach with creativity and imagination—using all tools available. For example, a teacher once used a chocolate chip cookie and a spoon to teach about archaeological digs!
The teachers don’t see education as a “one size fits all” process. They alter their plans to each student’s needs – and I see firsthand how much children benefit from that.
But as much as my son and I love this school, right now I am concerned that my son will have to change schools in a few years. Currently, Niagara serves K-6. I hope it can expand to serve K-12 so I have some comfort in knowing Isaac can attend a great middle and high school. Unfortunately, the state’s unequal funding of charters is preventing Niagara from expanding.
Parents like me worry about where we can send our children as they get older. When we find a great school for our children, we should feel some comfort knowing it’ll last. Right now that’s not the case. Charters deserve fair funding so they can serve all the families who want to choose them.
That is why I have been going to Albany for the last two years to advocate for charter schools. The Albany trips have become a yearly tradition for me and I will continue to go each year until charter schools are treated equally. Currently, charter students receive 2/3 of the funding district kids get. That means Niagara Charter School is successfully educating my child on just a fraction of funding. Imagine what this school could achieve with full funding – the possibilities are endless!
When I chose Niagara Charter for Isaac, I had only his education on my mind. But I realize that Niagara hasn’t just educated my son – it has helped me to grow too. Niagara’s staff has made me an advocate for charter schools and an active volunteer in my free time. My participation level within the school has grown, and I am a Parent Trustee on the school’s board and assist in the many events the school holds.
Niagara’s staff has also helped me find my voice, and they have done so much for my son. I thank each and every one of them for all they do. They are simply amazing, and with equal funding, I truly believe that they can be even better than they are now!