Camelot Excel Academy of South Shore Executive Director named ‘Game Changer of the Year’ in Chicago’s Options Schools Network
Camelot Education’s Anthony Haley has been named ‘Game Changer of the Year’ for Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) Options Schools network. The executive director of Excel Academy of South Shore won the honor after enhancing the school’s vocational education curriculum by launching special career path programming in each of the past two school years, one leading students to a forklift certification and another that leads to an Illinois state license in barbering.
This marks the first time a member of a CPS Options School (which includes 41 contract and charter schools) has been recognized in this way. Haley was taken by surprise when he got the call informing him of the special recognition, saying an award was the last thing on his mind. What occupies his mind is the success of his students, which comes from keeping in tune with his students’ needs and understanding what motivates them.
“It’s important that our students not only graduate but that they get into the fields they are interested in, which is going to motivate them to not only be good people but to also be highly successful in whatever route they take,” Haley said.
Last year, the beginning of the forklift training program brought together CPS and Camelot Education with Olive-Harvey College. In the program, students have the opportunity to attend high school at Excel Academy while being dual-enrolled in college at Olive-Harvey where students earn a nationally endorsed forklifting license. Excel Academy of South Shore is the first school in the entire district to create such a career-path partnership with employment opportunities. Camelot Education and Olive-Harvey College partnered with Pepsi to refer trainees to work at their bottling plant in Chicago. The success generated from this partnership led Excel Academy of South Shore to expand their trade-based program offerings, and this year, they became the first Options School to offer its own career training education program in barbering.
Excel Academy’s barbering program fills an educational component while also providing an option for entrepreneurship. For the school year 2018-19, roughly 20 students enrolled in the program. They will continue the one-and-a-half-year course in the school year 2019-20 in an advanced class. Next June, those students will simultaneously graduate with a high school diploma and an Illinois state barbering license, and this September, a new cohort of 20 students will begin the program. That means a total of 40 students will participate in the barbering curriculum this year.
“CPS leadership looks upon Mr. Haley as someone who has ideas and takes action on them,” said Camelot Education’s deputy superintendent, Pedro Segarra. “They, and we, see him as someone who gets things done within the community and within his school. He’s very hands-on. He’s about the work. This recognition as a ‘game-changer’ is right on the mark.”
Excel Academy of South Shore places its focus on not only helping students graduate, but on being successful in their post-secondary journeys, whether that be college, the military, or employment. And Haley said it’s very important to offer these career options.
“Some of our students don’t want to go to college right away,” he noted. “Some of them have children. They need an immediate, attainable means of income. One thing my team and I constantly think about is how to build partnerships that provide options for our students, so they can earn these credentials and walk out of our high school with, not just a diploma, but a certification that can help them enter avenues of entrepreneurship or employment immediately.”
Excel Academy of South Shore, like Camelot Education’s other campuses, has a structured and family-oriented environment that allows students and staff to thrive on interpersonal relationships of empowerment. These relationships are intended to help the students flourish with necessary skills taught in the classroom and in everyday life. Haley said he invests the time necessary to ensure he recruits staff members who understand the unique needs of Camelot’s students.
“We want to make sure we’re hiring the right people that motivate students and lead by example,” he said. “That’s kind of my secret sauce in developing a team of people who motivate each other.”
Haley gives special praise to Chicago Public Schools’ CEO, Dr. Janice Jackson. Haley sees how her visions align with Camelot’s mission.
“She understands the needs of the students we serve, so I believe CPS, under Dr. Jackson, is going to move more heavily into the training and career education avenues that we are already in,” Haley said. “That’s going to be a major development for, not just our campus, but for other Options Schools as we present opportunities that better fit our students. The forklift and barbering programs already in place are just the beginning for us.”
Haley was presented the game-changer award at an annual summit of principals and assistant principals, hosted by Chicago Public Schools.