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Tag Archive | "CTA"

CTA celebrates 20th anniversary


L to R:  Dan George, CTA School Leader/Superintendent; Ron Rizzo, Director, Ferris State University Charter Schools Office; Lexie Coxon, former Superintendent; Dr. Richard Halik, Consultant for Board Policy, National Charter Schools Institute; and Dan Quisenberry, President of Michigan Association of Public School Academies. Courtesy photo.
This ceiling in the auditorium at CTA (which was formerly Jordan Chapel) is made up of planks from area barns. Post photo by J. Reed.

By Judy Reed

This ceiling in the auditorium at CTA (which was formerly Jordan Chapel) is made up of planks from area barns. Post photo by J. Reed.

When Lexie Coxon was told in May of 1998 that Ferris State University was going to issue a charter to Creative Technologies Academy to become a school for grades 7-12, she wasn’t sure how they were going to get the 120 students they needed to open. But they did it by the skin of their teeth—and opened with 122 that September.

“It was a tremendous challenge,” she said.

Coxon and others spoke about the school’s journey during CTA’s 20th anniversary celebration on Friday, May 11.

The property at 350 Pine Street, in Cedar Springs, was originally the home of Jordan College, founded by Lexie and her husband DeWayne. In 1966, they bought the property, and in 1967 they built their first building. Coxon explained how back then, they got building materials from area farmers who were tearing down their barns. A good example is in the planking in the chapel roof—it all came from area farmers.

In those early days of charter schools, Lexie and DeWayne’s son, Rob Coxon, told them to get a charter, they would need to have something unique. So they decided to go into being a computer based program. “We were one of the first schools to have computers for all students,” said Lexie.

She also noted that while most charter schools were for-profit, they wanted to remain a non-profit. And needing to have 120 students was tough—they had no money and no resources. But they made it work.

As time went on, they added in grades K-6. This year the school had 319 students K-12.

Lexie was also proud of the fact they have had 100 percent compliance with all of the paperwork that is needed. Ron Rizzo, with FSU, backed her up on that. “I don’t think there is any other academy that has had 100 percent compliance for 17 years,” he said. “It’s amazing. That means every document turned in on time.”

Rizzo said CTA was one of their original class of nine academies. “I’ve been here for 16 of those 20 years. It’s very welcoming. You truly are here for kids, doing what’s best for the trajectory of their lives. You should very proud of what you have accomplished here,” he said.

Dan Quisenberry, President of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies noted that CTA feels like family. “Charters were intended to be that—partnerships. Think of the kids’ lives you’ve impacted here. You are doing something important.” He also noted that charter schools are the “R&D” (research and development) of education. “Dan (George, current school superintendent) doesn’t view CTA as a competitor, but as a partner,” he said.

He noted that CTA teacher Kayla Campbell, who was recently named one of the top 5 charter school teachers in the state by MAPSA, represented CTA well. “We did a Facebook live announcement and I think you had every student in here. When we announced it, I thought this place was going to fall down,” he said.

Former teacher and coach Gary Bailey shared both some funny stories and some more serious thoughts. “Most coaches know that our success is measured by #s (winds and losses) after our name. But we know success is more than that.” He went on to share how a former student had sent him a video at 1:40 a.m. that morning, thanking him for being a mentor.

Kurt Mabie, a former educator who retired five  years ago from public education, said he’s been involved with CTA for 15 years. And he has been happy to work with Dan George and CTA via the Community Building Development Team. “Through collaboration, great things can happen,” he said. “Nothing happens on its own.”

One of those things is the recent donation of 10 acres to CTA by Fred and Carolee Gunnell. The property will be the future home of a new gymnasium for the school with a soccer field, and a couple of classrooms. And when it is not being used by the school, it will be open to the community, which fulfills one of the goals of the CBDT—to have a recreation center. 

George said that the planning, fundraising, and construction of that facility would be a major undertaking and their biggest project over the next five years.

The Post asked George what he is most proud of accomplishing at CTA. “I can answer that in two ways, institutionally and personally. First, we are proud to be able to give the families of the communities we serve a quality choice for the education of their children while partnering, not competing, with our neighboring traditional public schools. That produces a shared focus on doing what is best for kids. Personally, I’m proud of the staff that has become my team over the last 8+ years. Their dedication, love of kids, professionalism, and pursuit of learning is unsurpassed,” he said.

For more on CTA, visit www.ctachargers.org.

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Building a Charter Community


Charter Day At The Capitol: The Charger Voices choir as they prepared to perform on the Capitol steps.

A bus full of enthusiastic CTA students headed to Lansing on May 8 for the Annual Charter Day At the Capitol. The event brought together more than 800 charter school parents, board members, school leaders and advocates from across Michigan for a day of celebration of the charter school community. It kicked off with school performances on Lansing’s Capitol steps – including CTAs Charger Voices who performed the National Anthem and “Africa”. Throughout the day there were meetings with lawmakers and other government officials.

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The Fred Factor in Action


 

The past couple of weeks the high school Leadership and Followership students have been learning about “The Fred Factor.” They read and analyzed the book, “The Fred Factor” by Mark Sanborn which defined a “Fred” as someone who goes above and beyond. They have not only been identifying “Freds” in their lives, but are now working on being “Freds” by giving of their time and talents to help CTA!

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CTA Teacher named Michigan Top 5 teacher of the year


Mrs. Kayla Campbell was recognized as one of the top 5 teachers of the year by MAPSA. Photo by Becky Carlton of MAPSA.

Kayla Campbell, third grade teacher at Creative Technologies Academy (CTA) in Cedar Springs, has been named one of the finalists for the Michigan Association of Public School Academies (MAPSA) Teacher of the Year award. 

In her classroom, Mrs. Campbell develops strong relationships and reaches her students in innovative ways by turning learning into an adventure. This year, for example, she turned her classroom into a spy lab and turned all of her students into spies—complete with secret-agent badges and mustaches—and had them use their language, math and other skills to solve a series of mysteries. When it was done, she had a classroom full of engaged learners who couldn’t wait to start reading mystery novels. That’s what true innovation looks like.

“I’ve wanted to be a teacher since preschool and I grew up playing school,” shared Campbell. “I had really good examples of great teachers throughout my education and now I’m teaching students and growing good people.”

“She makes things more interesting so it’s fun and not boring,” shared one of her current students, Jayden Danks.

And Campbell gets results. Each year her students regularly reach their annual learning goals in just a few months.

“Because of her work ethic and her love of kids, she’s become a master teacher,” praised Dan George, CTA Superintendent. “Her love of learning, her love of teaching, and her love of kids motivates students.”

At the end of April, Campbell was celebrated in Lansing along with the other four finalists, where she met with MAPSA, district legislators, and was presented with a joint proclamation from State Senator Peter MacGregor and State Representative Rob VerHeulen.

The others honored in the ceremony were:

  • Kristina Price, a third-grade teacher at Trillium Academy in Taylor, who was named this week as the 2018 Michigan Charter School Teacher of the Year; 
  • Joe Griffith, middle-school social studies teacher at Honey Creek Community School in Ann Arbor;
  • Dave Sarkipato, math teacher at Wellspring Preparatory High School in Grand Rapids;
  • Jennifer Villwock, third-grade teacher at Woodland Park Academy in Grand Blanc.

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Students Showcase Their Talents


The CTA Cheer Team performed a routine with fantastic stunts!

Junior Jillian Evink performed a piano solo.

This years CTA talent show featured the cheerleading team and 11 students ranging from 2nd to 12th grade who took to the stage to share their talents. Student performances included writing and singing of an original song about being optimistic, playing the piano, beatboxing, guitar solo, several students showcasing their vocal talents and the Voices of Lightning all-ladies acapella group. The entire show was performed twice in order to allow the entire student body and families to attend. It was a great day to be a Charger as we celebrated and showcased our students!

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CTA Students are Olympics Learners – Read for the GOLD!


Elementary students bear their class flags at the Opening Ceremonies to kick of March is
Reading Month.

This year, to celebrate March is Reading Month, our CTA Elementary students exercised their minds as they worked to reach a building-wide goal of filling their olympic “torches.”

For every book read at home or in school, each student filled out an olympic flame and placed it on his or her grade level olympic torch. When they finish filling their olympic torches at the end of March, students will celebrate at their closing ceremonies. CTA has hosted several guest readers throughout this month in an effort to foster an enthusiastic love of books and motivate our CTA CHARGERS to be lifelong readers! CTA is on a mission to CHANGE THE WORLD as Olympic Readers!

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Enchanted Snow Ball Transports Guests To Another World


The PA teacher liaison Kayla Campbell gathered with some of her students at the dance.

The CTA auditorium was transformed into a magical ice castle with lights, snowflakes, glitter bows, balloon columns, and white linen tables for the Annual Daddy Daughter Dance in February. The young ladies were dressed elegantly as they stood with their Prince Charming and waited for the doors to open. The doors opened to invite them in, and their eyes were filled with wonder! The smiles showed amazement at the transformation of the venue. Kings and their princesses danced and feasted on wonderful hors d’oeuvres and punch. Each girl was given a snowflake necklace to commemorate the evening. It was a beautiful event that was possible only with the help of the many volunteers who helped plan, decorate, set up, tear down, and serve onsite during the event. Thank you to all who volunteered and for all those who attended!

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Local charter school plans to expand


Couple gifts 10 acres to school to make dream a reality

By Judy Reed

When Dan George was 14 years old, he made the JV basketball team as a freshman in high school. He was excited about the chance to play, and told his mom he needed a new pair of shoes—like the classic Chuck Taylors by Converse. His mom told him they couldn’t afford them, but she would pray with him that God would make it possible. So they prayed about it, and George went off to school, not thinking much more about it. He was surprised when his mom picked him up at school at noon, and drove straight to the shoe store. She told him that she had received a gift certificate from someone in the mail that morning that made it possible to buy the shoes. It was a lesson in faith that George never forgot.

“If you think about it, that means someone sent that gift certificate before I even made the team,” he said. God had prepared the way.

Now, as Superintendent and School Leader at Creative Technologies Academy, a local charter school on Pine Street, George still dreams big, and holds on to the faith lessons he learned as a teenager. “In all the years I have been here at CTA, I’ve always wanted to be able to expand,” he said. “I’ve had my eye on two pieces of property. To the south is 5 or 6 acres, and 10 to the west (which belongs to Fred and Carolee Gunnell). But I didn’t know how we could afford it. Then I got convicted remembering my lesson in faith.”

George said that originally he was working with the Community Building Development Team to possibly build a recreation center to the south that both CTA and the community could use. But it turned out that the water table was too high. So Sue Wolfe suggested he speak with Fred Gunnell about buying the property to the west of CTA. “We had a meeting, and I asked him what he thought a fair price would be for the 10 acres,” explained George. “He said he would have his realtor, Leon Stout, get back with me.”

George was surprised by what Stout told him when he called him. The Gunnells wanted to donate the 10 acres to the school. George was overjoyed. “It’s gratifying that Fred and Carolee want to do this for us,” he said.

Fred Gunnell told the Post that CTA had been good neighbors for 28 years, and that he and Carolee enjoyed seeing the kids there. “We are both educators, and think they do a good job. We heard they needed space, so we gave it to them,” he explained.

Fred and Carolee both taught at Sparta, he as a high school teacher and counselor, and she as an elementary teacher. Fred also was also an administrator at Michigan Tech.

CTA has 315 students enrolled in Kindergarten through 12th grade, and sits on 7 acres. The additional 10 acres will more than double their size and help them realize the dream to have their own student activity center. “It will be more than a gym; it will have extra offices. It will give us our own place to have graduation. It will meet our needs but also do some things for the community,” said George. 

“This is an awesome thing for us and the community,” said Autumn Mattson, the K-5 principal. “It wouldn’t be a big deal for a bigger school, but for us it’s a game changer.”

George noted that even though they are a public school, as a charter they only survive on donations. So what is it going to cost to build? He was given an estimate by Duane McIntyre of about $6 million. But that doesn’t faze George.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a $15 pair of basketball shoes or a $250,000 piece of property. God has all the money in the world,” he said.

The closing date on the property has been set for March 1 at 4 p.m. in the CTA auditorium.

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Helping People And Changing Lives


Third grade students show their Compliment Collage’s they made to instill confidence through compliments.

Staff and students with one of the fleece tie blankets they made during the day of service projects.

This year CTA students have been able to work with an AmeriCorp Vista representative through the Heart of West Michigan United Way. Our high school students crafted tie blankets for Degage Ministries plus tie hats that they gifted to others. Some of the organizations that received the hats were Degage Ministries, North Kent Connect, and The Bridge. Elementary students read books with our high school students, and talked about the power of compliments.

Elementary students also decorated lunch bags for Kids Food Basket. We all enjoyed being able to give back to our community to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

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Leading On and Off the Court


Dan George poses with Allen Durham who was one of his former basketball players with the Grace Bible College Tigers Men’s Basketball team.

Earlier this month, CTA was excited to welcome Allen Durham of the Philippine’s Meralco Bolts professional basketball team to their campus. Allen was named MVP of the PBL (Phillipines Professional Basketball League) in 2016 and 2017. Allen spoke with the high school students about his career and how self-discipline, respect, and humility helped lead him to success.

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