WAY Academies Superintendent: "We are successful in supporting our students based on their unique needs"

The WAY Academies Superintendent, Madeline Black, was invited to speak during the Charter Day online event for carter schools in Michigan on May 13, 2020.

Madeline Black talked about the challenges faced by charter schools last year and now in 2020. "We need to celebrate each other today and begin to tell our stories even louder to all students in Michigan". she said. "Covid-19 has placed a need on all schools to begin to think of how to model their schools in unique ways this fall."

She mentioned the unique way our schools have been able to deal with these challenges since the beginning: "When the school buildings closed, it was not a problem for our schools to just move online. Learning never stopped. We are blended academies. Our students work from home and study in a unifying platform."

Watch the speech on video or read it below.

Madeline Black's full speech

I just wanted to say how happy and proud I am to be here today again and I just want to say we have so much to be proud and thankful for. Most importantly, each other. Over the last year, our charter family has banded together to create one voice, a strong voice. You will hear me refer to this one voice today, and by one voice I mean our collective voice: parents, students, staff, School Board authorizers, educational service providers, and the community.

Vera Nazarian, a choir director, wrote the following: "A choir is made up of many, many voices, including yours and mine. If one by one they go silent, all that we will have left is a soloist." We know it's hard, if not next to impossible, for one person to enact change alone. Last year, we faced challenges as charters, and I don't use the word challenge lightly. We were faced with a $240 cut per-pupil, which amounted to over 35 million dollars, primarily affecting students in Detroit and Flint. Students in already economically disadvantaged situations.

Do we stay silent? No. We band together. 

We assembled our choir, made up of those I mentioned earlier: parents, students, staff, school boards, authorizers, the community, and educational service providers, and we held strong and really quick. I just want to give a shout out to LSSU and CMU. Those are my authorizers and I can't tell you the amount of love and care and support we've received, and I'm sure all the authorizers are doing the same. 

And I just want to say I'm so proud to be a voice in our choir. We would not be silenced and through the leadership of MAPSA, we were heard. We were able to make sure the funding was restored. 

And now it's time to get even louder. We need to celebrate each other today and begin to tell our stories even louder to all students in Michigan. Covid-19 has placed a need on all schools to begin to think of how to model their schools in unique ways this fall. And I have breaking news for anyone who might not know this: charter schools practice unique learning models and flexibility around things such as time and school already. That's what we do. We are successful in supporting our students based on their unique needs. 

And not to brag, but I'm gonna take my own advice here for a minute. I want to briefly talk about my schools, WAY Academies. When the school buildings closed, it was not a problem for our schools to just move online. Learning never stopped. We are blended academies. Our students work from home and study in a unifying platform. We have been teaching our students daily to work in a 21st-century manner. Even before COVID, working independently, working with teachers as partners in learning. And now, I think our students and families see the rest of education is in need of such models. 

And then WAY, Widening Advancements for Youth, we're here to help, and we also seek to be helped. Charter schools have a strong community and we should be proud of it. We have answers that can help students in educational institutions across Michigan. 

Finally, we must roll up our sleeves and clear our throats, because I have a feeling we're going to need our collective voices. We're going to need our choir to fight more than ever. We are gearing up for possible historic cuts in educational funding from the state of
Michigan. 

This fight, more than likely, will call for us to walk arm in arm with our public school counterparts to create an even louder choir and one voice for those in our government to hear, and they need to understand something: we will not sit in silence as our most vulnerable population and our youth are sacrificed due to the decisions and actions of those in positions of
protection. 

Please, if you remember nothing else, remember silence can be deadly. I end with the quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: "A man dies when he refuses to stand up for what is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand for justice. A man dies what he refuses to take a stand for what is true."

And what is true is that charter schools work, that our students matter. Stay safe everyone and carry on!