Charter Adventure in Dover

This post originally appeared on the blog “Kendall’s Charter Adventures” and was written by Delaware Charter Schools Network Executive Director Kendall Massett.

During the week of May 6 – 12, over 5,600 charter schools in the United States celebrated National Charter Schools Week. I had the fortune  to experience  TWO great charter adventures during that week. The first was in D.C., advocating for all charter schools, which I discussed in an earlier post on my blog 

The 2nd adventure took place  on Thursday, May 10, in Dover, DE, rallying with over 2,000 students, parents, staff, school leaders, and other education stakeholders celebrating our 22 charter schools in Delaware. AMAZING!

We had our Delaware Military Academy (DMA) students in dress uniform. We had the Presentation of the Colors and a moving performance by the DMA chorus of the National Anthem. I had two members of the DMA exhibition team flanking me at the podium and at one point they even demonstrated their rifle spinning skills! We had fabulous speakers including State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray , Senator Dave Sokola, and Representative Deborah Hudson (who led the students in a wave and sending love to Governor Markell.) We had chants. We had enthusiasm. We had FUN!

We also had great posters throughout the crowd. Most created by students – showing their pride in their schools and in all charter schools. One theme prevailed throughout, articulated by some via social media:

Pls RT “Charter Schools R Public Schools 2” #DECharters #NetDE #NCSW

Maybe it is the lack of public in our name. Maybe it is because we only represent 8% of public school students in DE. Maybe 17 years in existence is still new to some. Maybe we just don’t talk about ourselves enough. Whatever the cause, some still do not realize that we are Public Schools Too. That’s okay though, because we are here to make sure that all know that we are an integral part of the public school system throughout Delaware and the United States. We are also telling the world about the incredible work that we are doing for our students in our charter schools. We are proud of that work and want to inform the whole system of the possibilities. Thursday was just the beginning!

This rally was not just about celebrating our schools. It was also about celebrating the home of our legislature, the process by which we enact our laws, and those who enact them. Legislative Hall is where Delaware’s elected officials do great work that affects us all. While all of us can name the President and Vice President of the United States, and many of us could name the U.S. Secretary of Education, few of us are aware of the work that is done at the state level by our legislators.  It simply is not as prevalent in our day-to-day lives. Therefore, I feel it’s  important for all of our students to understand how the legislative process affects them and who is responsible for it. And on May 10th, our students did just that. They were on the lawn in front of the building where it all  happens – Legislative Hall. Understanding Legislative Hall, knowing where it is, and knowing that those inside are ultimately responsible to ‘we the people’ are all critical for students to experience as they realize their emerging role as citizens.

I am so proud of our students, staff, leaders, and parents that were present and able to celebrate with us that day. I am so proud to celebrate all of our schools every day.

Introducing Kendall Massett, Delaware Charter Schools Network Executive Director

When I began my fellowship with the Leadership Delaware program in 2010, I was looking for a way that I could make a difference in the state. Two years later in my new role as Executive Director for the Delaware Charter Schools Network, I think I’ve found the perfect place to do just that.  It’s an exciting time for education in Delaware and I’m proud to be a part of it. But it is also a time of great challenge, and I am eager to get started.

My main priority out of the gate is simple: to be there for my schools. I want to help them plan and problem solve and I want to give them resources when they need them. Whether it is providing resources for advice on financial and legal issues or ordering textbooks and uniforms, I want to be there when they call on me. I want to talk to and get to know my schools and everyone in them—the students, the parents, the school leaders. I need to do this, because my most important role is being the voice for my schools, advocating for them when I’m working with state education officials, members of the General Assembly, and the general public.

The trajectory of my career has not taken a straight line toward education, by any means. The majority of it has been spent in the hospitality industry—yes, the hospitality industry. Yet this experience gave me skills that I rely on today: time management, how to work with people, and how to create the best experience possible for my “guest.” The schools in our network, the children who attend them, the teachers who make it all possible, and the parents who place their trust in us—all of them are my guests now.

Over the last six years I have been involved with the Brady Kohn Foundation, a grassroots organization working to educate the public on the potential of stem cells from umbilical cord blood to save lives and fund non-embryonic stem cell research. Through this experience, I learned what it meant to work for something that represents life itself, quite literally. I feel the same way about our schools. After all, what else is worth fighting for more than our children?

When I accepted this position in January, I set a goal for myself to visit all of the network’s 22 schools. I’m in the midst of trying to fulfill that goal right now. The scheduling is tough but I need to get into every school, quickly, so I can meet every member of this family who has chosen me as their leader. When I meet the children, it reminds me why I’m standing there and of the enormous responsibility I have to them, and it makes me want to do better. I hope you will join me.