WOW! That is what I was thinking last Tuesday when I walked into the Minnesota Convention Center in Minneapolis. You only get one first for everything and this year my first National Charter Schools Conference marked the 20th anniversary of the very first charter school ever.
From the Tuesday night Welcome Reception at Target Field
to Friday’s last session on the next 20 years, I was surrounded by my peers from across the country that are all focused on the same outcome – an excellent education for all children. Mind you, I think that almost every person had a different perspective on how that will be accomplished, but that is what is great about the charter school world. It is okay to have different ideas. It is okay to have different styles. It is okay to disagree. Because at the end of the day, knowing that our focus is on the same goal – excellence for all children – is what makes our community awesome!
During the conference I had the opportunity to discuss best practices with other Charter School Organization leaders, State Education Agency leaders, United States Education Department leaders, national organizations, policy experts, and many individual charter school leaders. I came back to Delaware renewed with great energy and tons of ideas.
Most importantly though, this conference reinforced what I already know:
the most important group in education is children.
And the stakeholders that know them the best are parents and teachers. These two groups spend the most time with our children and they know how best they learn. Which brings us back to 20 years ago – it was parents and teachers that started this journey. They knew that we could not continue to believe that all children learn the same and that the only way was the traditional way. They knew that we must innovate and constantly change to meet the needs of the individual learning styles of our children.
Ursula Wright, Interim President and CEO of the National Alliance, began our Thursday general session reminding us that we are ’20 years young’. We have only just begun and we have great opportunities ahead of us. It reminded me that here in Delaware, we are 17 years young. When you think of it this way, you realize that we are just in our growing stages. We are still learning and striving to be the best we can be. And I am confident that over the next 17 – 20 years we will continue to find new and innovative ways to help our children both here in DE and across the nation be the best that they can be. We are all searching for the gold at the end of the rainbow: excellence in education for all of our children. After meeting and collaborating with my peers from around the country - I know we will get there!