When Lauren Tucker read about start-up problems at a nearby charter school, she says she was especially thankful for her network.
Tucker is director of Aristotle Preparatory School, a charter that opened in August on the outskirts of uptown Charlotte. It's one of 14 schools that make up TeamCFA, a network created by the Colorado-based Challenge Foundation.
TeamCFA has schools in Phoenix, Indianapolis and western North Carolina (Aristotle Prep is the easternmost school in that group) and is working to expand. Tucker was a math teacher at Piedmont Community Charter School, a network school in Gastonia, and the network trained her to launch a new school.
Tucker says the network has provided support with everything from governance to getting the building ready to creating a web site. The Challenge Foundation also provides $100,000 grants for the first three years to help with starting expenses. The network has some requirements for all schools: Students wear uniforms, and all schools teach the Core Knowledge curriculum and use MAP testing to size up student progress.
Aristotle currently has almost 100 K-3 students in converted Sunday school classrooms at Christ Presbyterian Church. "Support in the network is vital," says Tucker.
Individual schools have different specialties. Piedmont has a fine-arts focus, while Brevard Academy is breaking out grammar and Latin classes to improve writing, says Tony Helton, southeastern regional director for TeamCFA.
I don't claim to fully understand what chains and networks will mean for charter education in our area. The liberal-leaning N.C. Policy Watch, for instance, has raised questions about the conservative political affiliations of Challenge Foundation founder John Bryan. But as new schools continue to open, affiliations such as Aristotle's with TeamCFA will help provide families some guidance in what to expect -- and examples to check out nearby.