|Tiyah Poteat had an "AH-HA" moment when she learned that kaizen is Japanese for "change for the better".|
Have you ever been sitting at your desk or at home, and just felt disgusted and tired of the unspoken politics going on around you? At the time, in Mrs. Poteat's district, only 9 of 63 schools met the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) criteria for No Child Left Behind according to the Department of Education. Less than 30% scored at proficiency in communication arts and math; many of her 7th and 9th graders did not know how to identify a noun. After some contemplation about what she could do to change these circumstances, she came to the conclusion that she should start her very own charter school. Mrs. Poteat couldn't stand her current circumstances any longer. By definition, a charter school provides primary and secondary education and receives public and private funds, but is not subject to many of the rules and regulations of a public school. In Mrs. Poteat's eyes, a charter school meant...freedom!
I do not mean to make light of Mrs. Poteat's exploration of beginning a brand new charter school, because she and her team has put in hundreds of hours of work. However, you have to admit that it takes a lot of passion and dedication to see a problem, pursue a solution, and not back down no matter the roadblocks you face.
When Mrs. Poteat served as a long-term substitute teacher, she was able to see the administrative side of education and reconnect with the student side as well, and she was dismayed by what she saw. There were out of control classrooms, teachers who did not care, a superintendent that did not promote teacher morale, and students who lacked the basic necessities, like a place to call home. Yes, that's right, a few of Mrs. Poteat's students were...homeless. She could not (neither can I) imagine how homelessness could interfere with an adolescent's psyche, and these are just the types of issues she plans to address at her charter school, Kaizen Urban Academy.
Although she does not have a teaching background, working as a long-term substitute middle and high school teacher helped Mrs. Poteat to see how well she was able to relate to her students. She went through many of the same challenges that they went through, as she grew up in the inner city as well. Working in the school setting helped her to see how much adults miss out on the backdrop of what may be going on in a child's life away from school that overshadows their ability to perform and pick up on new information.
When Kaizen Urban Academy opens its doors in Fall 2012, they will offer programs, such as, a clothing closet, food pantry, and a full-time social worker on staff. Mrs. Poteat believes that having a full-time social worker is more valuable than a counselor, because a social worker can get to the bottom of family/home issues and provide suitable solutions. Although the focus will be on arts and leadership, the staff at Kaizen will also teach students how to turn those same techniques into employable skills.
In a recent study of the 2008-2009 school year the Illinois Facility Fund, a non-profit lending and consultant organization did a study in regards to zip codes in relation to high-performing schools. The study revealed that 85% of students in Mrs. Poteat's district did not meet the state of Missouri's standards for academic performance. Better yet, a great portion (5,000) of those students reside within only five zip codes. These are the zip codes that the Kaizen leadership team will target for enrollment.
The leadership team has worked long and hard to make sure all their bases are covered and they have a smooth operation for a Fall 2012 opening. They've done their research, as they plan to follow the Massachusetts charter school model, because it has received the best results. They've drawn up budget plans using a very conservative pupil number, checked the legislation to make sure they are in alignment, gotten community buy-in for the school, and they've taken a close look at who their target students are and what type of curriculum would best serve the students and what they're trying to accomplish. There's still much more to do, but as, Mrs. Poteat said, "I know this is not just me, this is God's work and my board members and family have helped to make my vision part of their own."
This charter school is definitely being built on the rock, and when it concerns our children, the "wise" way is the only way to go.
Tiyah Poteat has begun the application process for a PhD program in Interdisciplinary Studies in Urban Leadership and Public Administration at the University of Missouri- Kansas City. She currently holds a B.A. in English from the University of Missouri- Columbia, a M.S.O.D. in Organizational Psychology and a M.B.A. with a concentration in Marketing from Avila University. Tiyah is also a wife and mother of two beautiful young children.