Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Inside education: A look at Charter Day School

Second-grade teacher Bob Windgett leads reading class at Charter Day School.

LELAND—Expectations are high for students, teachers and even superintendent and interim headmaster Mark Cramer at Charter Day School.

For Cramer, a retired U.S. Marine major, the success of every student at Charter Day School—all 926 of them—is his responsibility. If a kindergarten student doesn’t learn to read by the Christmas break, a benchmark for all kindergarteners at the school, Cramer is accountable.

Cramer said it’s his responsibility to ensure each teacher has the tools needed to teach each child to the school’s expectations.

“We believe for every child to learn it’s our responsibility to teach them. We make no excuses for that. If a child is not learning, the responsibility is mine as superintendent,” Cramer said.

Teachers utilize direct instruction methods, and kindergarten students are taught to read with a phonics-based curriculum, Cramer said.

All instruction methods are research-based, Cramer stressed.

Teachers use data and research to monitor students’ progress during each of the four nine-week periods at the year-round school, and make classroom or individual adjustments as needed.

Everything at the school is a preparation. Kindergarten is a preparation for first grade, which is a preparation for second grade, and so on, until graduating eighthgraders can go on to their choice of challenging high school programs.

From there teachers and administrators at Charter Day School hope students will go on to college, and then enter the workforce as responsible adults.

The theme of responsibility echoes throughout the entire campus; even in the school’s pledge.

Students are required to commit to a healthy mind, body and spirit, be truthful in words, virtuous in deeds and obedient and loyal to those in authority, according to the school’s pledge.

In keeping the school’s pledge, discipline is important, Cramer said.

“We deal with problems head-on. We try to be as honest and open as we can be. Classroom management is very important to us. Our focus is education,” Cramer said.

Parental expectations are also high at the school. There’s no transportation funding provided to charter schools from the state, and therefore, there are no school buses.

Parents are required to drive their children to and from school, or arrange for other private transportation.

Located in the northwest portion of Brunswick County, Charter Day School draws students from six counties, including as far away as Pender County.

“I think that just goes to show what people will do for the education of their children,” Cramer said.

Charter schools in North Carolina don’t receive capital funding, meaning there’s no public funding for building facilities such as a gymnasium or cafeteria. That means parents are also packing lunches for their children.

Charter Day School has a robust, albeit slightly non-traditional selection of extra-curricular activities for students, including a worldchampion archery team. They also have a football team and a national-champion cheerleading squad. In addition to the archery team, archery is offered as an elective for middle school students.

There are no tryouts for the school’s sports teams as long as the students are making the grades to stay on the squads.

Founded in 2000 by Baker Mitchell, Charter Day School is under the umbrella of The Charter Day School Board of Trustees. The nine-member board holds the charters for Charter Day School, Columbus Charter School in Whiteville and the recently approved Douglass Academy, slated to open in downtown Wilmington in 2013. Board members are appointed from the community, and parents have a strong representation on the board, which Brad Barth, marketing director for the school, said is critical to the success of the school.

The Roger Bacon Academy is contracted to run the schools.

In North Carolina, charter schools are funded from various sources. They are public schools, Mitchell reiterated, but don’t receive capital or transportation funding sources.

Charter schools receive federal funds for low-income and disabled children and the state funds based on the county’s allotment.

Essentially in North Carolina, when it comes to the allocated per-pupil funding amount, the money follows the students.

Admission is open to all students. If student demand exceeds class sizes, a lottery is held pursuant to North Carolina law.


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