Annually in late February/early March, charter school staff, leadership, board members, and supporters come together to network, learn, and grow together at the Colorado League of Charter Schools’ Conference.

The Colorado League of Charter Schools (CLCS) is a statewide membership organization dedicated to supporting charter schools through both professional development and political advocacy. This year’s conference will be virtual, offering synchronous and asynchronous opportunities to access sessions.

CSI is always excited to participate and engage in this annual event. Part of CSI’s charge to be a model authorizer is sharing our expertise with and learning from others in the charter sector.

This year, we are proud to have CSI staff members presenting four sessions at the CLCS annual conference, as well as four sessions led by CSI school leaders.

These sessions have some common themes that arose from experiences unique to 2020, including the COVID-19 pandemic and a continued focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion.


CSI Staff Share Expertise

CSI staff will be leading four sessions at the 2021 CLCS Conference. These sessions include lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, recruiting diverse students, and more.

  • Lessons Learned from Supporting Charter Schools Through The COVID-19 Pandemic: One Authorizer’s Experience
    Strand: Hot Topic
    Wednesday, March 3, 2021 | 3:00 PM – 4:15 PM The rapid spread of COVID-19 in early 2020 thrust charter schools and their authorizers into unprecedented scenarios that required collaborative efforts to ensure continued authorizer oversight, school operations, and student learning to continue.  The Colorado Charter School Institute authorizes a diverse portfolio of over 40 schools across the state and quickly formed a support team of CSI staff from various departments to identify the supports schools needed to continue their missions. This session will provide a review of how CSI’s support to schools evolved throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, discuss lessons learned in light of crisis response frameworks, and provide an opportunity for attendees to engage their peers in a discussion about their own lessons learned in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Presenter(s): Michael McManus, Career Pathways and School Programs Coordinator, Colorado Charter School Institute; Jessica Welch, Assessment and Improvement Planning Specialist, Colorado Charter School Institute

  • All Are Welcomed: Recruiting and Enrolling Diverse Students and Families
    Strand: Marketing
    Thursday, March 4, 2021 | 3:00 PM – 4:15 PM This session will focus on marketing schools to recruit and enroll diverse students and supporting them and their families after the enrollment process. This interactive presentation will start a conversation about diversity, equity, and inclusion and how schools can change the game for all learners.

Presenter(s): Justo Yanez, School Improvement and Equity Specialist, Colorado Charter School Institute

  • Leading Through Change: Historical Implications for Today
    Strand: Instructional Leadership
    Wednesday, March 3, 2021 | 3:00 PM – 4:15 PM Throughout the history of public education, change has been the single most reliable constant impacting leadership. From the early days of states coming to terms with the need to offer and fund compulsory education to the evolution of state standards and required testing, school leaders have had to learn to manage and lead the process. School systems have experienced significant change over the course of the past twenty-five years with increased expectations from parents, academics, and legislators to improve the quality of student performance. The introduction of charter schools in the 1990’s was quite possibly one of the most important factors driving the need for change in public schools and has resulted in significant improvements and introduced new opportunities. Locally, school leaders and boards are constantly facing decisions to reconsider how things have historically been done and to embrace new directions and processes. Changes in leadership and board membership, staff turnover and student enrollment constantly challenge charter school leaders to re-evaluate their direction. And in 2020, we are living through the greatest challenge to humanity with the Covid-19 pandemic. There is no doubt that the need to change will once again become a reality and necessity. This session will examine the historical and current reality of change in schools and how school leaders have responded to societal expectations to improve student learning.

Presenter(s): John Brendza, Executive Leadership Consultant, Education & Nonprofit Leadership Consultants & The Charter School Institute

  • What I’ve Learned: The History of Charter Schools and the Impact on Education in America
    Strand: Board Governance
    Friday, March 5, 2021 | 8:30 AM – 9:30 AM Join Executive Leadership Consultant John Brendza for an in-depth exploration of his journey, what he’s learned over the past 37 years, and how he now sees charter schools as the single most consistent evidence of effective education reform in our country. “As a career educator who has been actively involved in education reform initiatives since the 1980’s, I’ve always been passionate about changing the system to improve the quality of learning available to students. This wasn’t always a popular perspective to have within a system that hadn’t experienced significant change since its introduction in the early 1900’s. The education system in America has been slow to change and that reality was alive and well in Colorado. Charter schools arrived on the public-school scene in our state in the mid 1990’s and immediately became a flash point of criticism amongst teachers, school leaders and legislative activist. In the early days of this movement, I found myself as a militant opponent of charter schools, who attempted to disrupt their place in our public-school institution. As my thirty-seven-year career progressed and charter schools continued to grow, I began to recognize that these independent schools were here to stay. When I was asked to lead a charter school in 2009, although skeptical at first, within five months of the experience I found myself going through an entire metamorphosis of my core educational values. Today, I’m one of the leading advocates of charter schools in Colorado and work extensively to assist them in improving their leadership, board governance and the quality of education that they offer.

Presenter(s): John Brendza, Executive Leadership Consultant, Education & Nonprofit Leadership Consultants & The Charter School Institute


CSI School Leaders Share Their Knowledge

CSI school leaders will also be sharing their expertise at the conference this year. With session topics ranging from equity to MTSS, school leaders are the best source of knowledge from the “front lines”. School leaders have faced an extraordinarily tough year but have come through it armed with new skills and perspectives that will continue to guide their work.

  • Partnering and Passing a Bond and Mill Levy
    Strand: Finance
    Wednesday, March 3, 2021 | 3:00 PM – 4:15 PM In this session, participants will hear how a geographic district partnered with schools authorized by the Charter School Institute to successfully pass a mill levy and a bond initiative. Dan Snowberger, Erin Patla and Shane Voss will present on the joint bond/mill levy initiatives they collaborated on together. They will discuss how this all came about, the nuances they had to sort out from the perspective of having multiple authorizers involved, and the overall positive end result for all.

Presenter(s): Dan Snowberger, Durango 9-R Superintendent; Erin Patla, Board President, Mountain Middle School; and Shane Voss, Head of School, Mountain Middle School

  • Be the Change: Lead an Equity Driven School
    Strand: DEI
    Thursday, March 4, 2021 | 1:15 PM – 2:30 PM As educators, our mission is to ensure that all children have access to high quality education. Until race, class, and ethnicity are eliminated as predictors of a child’s future success, we must create schools that see the barriers, interrupt the status quo, and actively work to guarantee strong outcomes for every child. This session will address issues of equity. Why is equity an important lens to inform our work in schools? What do we mean by equity? How can schools use the work of prominent equity leaders like Margaret Wheatley, Zaretta Hammond, and Jennifer Eberhardt to bring issues of race, diversity, and inclusion into school’s practices, beliefs, and culture?

Presenter(s): Keri Melmed, Executive Director/Principal, High Point Academy

  • Real World Learning that Matters
    Strand: Innovative Approaches
    Thursday, March 4, 2021 | 1:15 PM – 2:30 PM Are you thinking of starting or improving an Internship Program at your school? During this session, participants will explore the fundamentals of effective Internship Programs: why do internships matter? How do we build up students to take an active stance in their own learning and career preparedness?

Presenter(s): Sara Kahn, Principal, New Legacy Charter School

  • MTSS: Developing a Unique Approach for Your Unique Schools
    Strand: Creating Access
    Friday, March 5, 2021 | 8:30 AM – 9:30 AM Ever feel like the MTSS processes defined by CDE are too specific and yet not specific enough? By reviewing what is expected of us with a different lens, we can find successful ways to tailor these processes to fit our specific school models. Learn strategies to engage staff differently, involve families effectively, and hear success stories from other schools. Leave with tools to reach more children.

Presenter(s): Erin Beaudette, Director of Student Services, Ross Montessori School

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