This school year will mark the 18th Anniversary of our founding. It also will mark the 10th year of my tenure as Chief Executive Officer for the school. For me personally and for the school, the journey has been both challenging and rewarding as we have succeeded in cultivating school leaders, attracting and retaining talented teachers, and preparing our students to excel in their choice of high schools. 53% of the Class of 2012 was accepted into Philadelphia’s special admission high schools; and that is powerful evidence that we’re moving in the right direction. Our success has been shaped by our unwillingness to relinquish our vision of excellence, and our persistence in working to make that vision a reality.
Back in 1997, with the passage of Act 22, Pennsylvania became the 27th state to enact a charter school law. A small group of dedicated community advocates shared a vision of bringing quality public school choice to the West Oak Lane community; and worked quickly to obtain a charter to operate the West Oak Lane Charter School with an enrollment of up to 1200 students. At that time, some considered the charter school movement an experiment doomed to fail. And there is no question that here in Philadelphia, many believed that WOLCS, a charter school occupying a former supermarket, would have a short shelf life.
Thankfully, those dedicated advocates did not allow the naysayers to deter their dream.
Today, almost 18 years later, WOLCS is proud and honored to be one of Northwest Philadelphia’s most cherished charter school success stories. I came to WOLCS after more than twenty years in the health care sector. I welcomed the change because I believed then, as I do even more today, that educating the next generation is just about the most significant contribution we can make to our society and the larger, global community.
When the Board of Trustees WOLCS appointed me as CEO in 2006, I was given a unique opportunity to establish my own team and the flexibility to implement proven business practices that had helped advance my professional career in healthcare. Our hard work has really paid off! With focused energy and uncompromising determination, we have transformed the West Oak Lane Charter School into a well-run business and educational organization. We have achieved significant positive changes related to governance, management and operations, staff quality and retention, staff and parent satisfaction, and most importantly student performance.
- We have a positive, respectful and productive relationship with our teachers’union.
- In staff satisfaction surveys administered during the 2014-2015 school year, 97% of teachers say that the school sets high standards for student learning; more than 90% of teachers feel challenged to do their best.
- 94% of teachers say that the qualities of the administrators make WOLCS an attractive place to work.
- 100% of teachers say that the availability of instructional technologies make WOLCS an attractive place to work.
- In family satisfaction surveys administered during the 2011-2012 school year, 99% of responding parents reported overall satisfaction with WOLCS – including 67% who were “very satisfied.”
Key aspects of our successful approach have included realigning the school’s administrative structure, facing the brutal realities, and dealing with them, getting the best people into the right positions, creating a culture of intimacy where staff members regard WOLCS as a second home, developing leadership from within, and drilling down on data in order to identify and address barriers to student learning and achievement.
I know also that the quality of our program has been supported by the people who are actually doing the work our teachers, our students and our families. Our teachers are learners themselves. They continue to deepen their knowledge of their subject and to seek new means of inviting students into the learning process. Our alumni speak enthusiastically about their teachers who inspired, challenged, and guided them. Likewise, our students themselves are key to the educational enterprise. I delight in their energy, ambition, creativity and humor. And our parents and families have been our full partners in the process:
Teachers + Parents + Students = Success, It All Adds Up!
Our school is a celebration of our founders’ vision, and of strength in collaboration, loyalty to our community and a commitment to excellence in education. Most of all, it is a celebration of our students, to whom the future belongs. As we celebrate our 15th Year Anniversary, it is with great pride and excitement that I share my expressions of hope and promise for our continued success. I'm delighted to welcome you into our community and invite you to join us in creating our future, where together we ensure that our students and graduates are provided with a galaxy of possibilities that will prepare them to meet the challenges of the 21st century and ultimately contribute to making our world a better place.