Camelot Education’s Buehrle and Phoenix Academies join School District of Lancaster Professional Learning Workshop on Equity
There was a time when public education in America was concentrated around teaching core curriculum subjects, but in the 21st century, life has become a lot more complicated, and educating children is no longer just a matter of core curriculum or academics. School districts across the country are recognizing that their students are more multi-dimensional than ever. Students come from myriad economic, social, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, and educators must be aware of the differences each child brings with them into the classroom and how those differences impact the climate and culture of classrooms and schools. Yet teachers’ goals remain the same: to graduate educated, well-rounded individuals who are able to eventually move into productive and satisfying careers.
Teachers, staff, and administrators from Camelot Education’s Buehrle Academy and Phoenix Academy, recently joined their School District of Lancaster (PA) partners in a district-wide equity initiative. The 12-hour professional development workshop focused on social justice and coaching educators on tools and techniques to help them recognize the deeper issues students bring to school with them and how to effectively educate students from diverse backgrounds.
“Phoenix and Buehrle Academies are part of the School District of Lancaster (SDOL),” said executive director of Phoenix Academy, Megan Misnik, who has been with Camelot for 11 years. “Because of our partnership, we are expected to achieve or surpass the goals established by the district for all their schools. We do this partly by working with them as a cohesive unit, such as attending the recent SDOL equity training initiative. The idea behind equity training is to look at all aspects of education – from the different home lives of our students to how they receive or perceive different subjects – and establish how we can optimally support each other to provide the best academic and life outcomes for our students.”
Phoenix Academy is an accelerated program that pairs extended school days with longer classes to enable students to catch up to their grade-level peers and ultimately graduate. Students at Phoenix Academy earn credits approximately twice as fast as they would at a traditional school, and those who enroll with zero credits can earn their diploma in 2.5 years or less.
Buerhle Academy is a transitional school for students who have experienced disciplinary violations and were referred to the school by their home campus. Buerhle Academy uses behavioral and therapeutic supports to shift students’ perspectives toward a growth mindset while helping remove trauma from their academic equation. Students then transition back to their home school with the ability to tackle challenges positively and be academically successful.
“Participating in district trainings supplements our resources and aligns our execution with the district’s mission,” said Misnik. “We build relationships with each other and align with SDOL’s approach to education, and at the same time, maintain the integrity of the Camelot school design model.”
She went on to explain that the overall benefit to teachers, and thus to students, is to have all district educators on the same page, speaking the same professional language. The equity training sessions provide an overall picture of what’s expected in terms of goals for the children they are tasked with educating.
“To ensure everyone is working from the same framework, the equity training session was district-wide and included staff members and administrators,” said Matt Wiltrout, executive director of Buehrle Academy. “The training was very valuable and insightful. It helped everyone gain a better understanding of how students, many of whom have experienced some sort of trauma in their lives, are affected by the world around them, and how this, in turn, impacts their education.”
Regardless of their prior school experiences, when a student walks through the doors at a Camelot school, they start with a clean slate, and this is a crucial first step to changing their trajectory. This clean slate gives them the chance to move beyond the challenges they carry with them and focus on the hard work of learning in a nurturing, welcoming environment surrounded by people that want the best for them.
“We’re looking at all of our students. Some come from disadvantaged backgrounds, others from families who may be more affluent. But we want our students at Phoenix and Buehrle Academies to know and feel like they’re part of a family with Camelot and the School District of Lancaster, because they are. Social justice is built into our everyday practices at Camelot Education, so the concepts reviewed at the district training were complementary to what we implement in our schools every day. Our mission is the success of our students, and we share that mission with the district.”