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Hillsdale Curriculum Used in New Florida Charter School

1-7-14 By Bill Korach

Kelly Lichter, President and Founder Mason Classical Academy

Kelly Lichter, President and Founder Mason Classical Academy


Kelly Lichter, founder and President of the Board of Directors of Mason Classical Academy (MCA) in Naples, told The Report Card that The Collier County School Board has approved their charter application and MCA is ready to open this fall. The MCA curriculum uses the Hillsdale College charter curriculum developed to encourage the growth of classical charter schools across America. Mrs. Lichter, a former public school social studies teacher at Palmetto Ridge High School says this about MCA:


“A classical education is a balanced education that attends to advancing the intellect while instructing the moral character. It delivers the best content of the Western traditional canon through pedagogy that acknowledges current understanding of child development and learning. MCA students will be prepared to think for themselves. They will have at their command a large body of factual knowledge, a logical frame of mind that allows them to organize and analyze facts, and the ability to put forward reasoned and persuasive arguments in what they say and write. Undergirding their learning is a keen attention to ethics and the habitual practice of applying wisdom and virtue as a way of life.

MCA’s philosophy is that all students benefit from the highest standards of academic integrity and a rigorous, content-rich, educational program that develops their intellectual capacity, personal character, and leadership skills.”

Mrs. Lichter says:

“I left my Palmetto Ridge High School teaching position when I was pregnant. My husband and I decided to consider opening a charter school because I was deeply concerned about the kind of education my kids would get in the public schools. I was concerned about the growth of anti-Americanism in textbooks, and the rush to cover as much information as possible. It was as though the school administrators preferred quantity to quality in history and social studies. I also taught economics, and was pushed to give passing marks ‘just to get them through.’ The school seemed to always want to lower the bar. In addition, there seemed to be a race to embrace every new and unproved trend in education.”

What new unproven trends did she find?

“The latest trend in Collier County is Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). Students from K-12 are encouraged to bring their own smart phones, tablets, whatever to class and the teacher is supposed to make sense of it. The educators think it teaches technology, but I think it is a formula for chaos.

I felt the model offered by a classical education, specifically a Hillsdale College’s Barney Charter School, was the best approach. ”

Mrs. Lichter says that she knew about Hillsdale College because her father was a great admirer of Hillsdale College and their values.

“My father Don Mason was a patriot, a Viet Nam veteran, and a real believer in the American dream. My grandfather came from a poor family and was able to build a business, and a future for our family. My father continued in the business and became a subscriber to Imprimus the Hillsdale College newsletter. I guess I inherited his enthusiasm for the American dream and Hillsdale’s belief in American Exceptionalism. So when I learned about Hillsdale’s Barney Charters, I applied. And when the application was approved in 2012, we named the school after my father’s family name. We believe, and Barney believes that education should not be about who you are, but what you can accomplish”

How was the application process?

“The application was 267 pages, and Barney Charter Schools Phillip Kilgore was a great help. But first Barney vetted us pretty thoroughly to ensure that we shared their values. The initial feedback from the Collier County charter school committee was strange (note: in Florida, charters are approved at the county level by a school board vote). The committee said that MCA did not seem to recognize the ‘demographics’ of the county in our curriculum. In other words they though a classic curriculum would be too difficult for non-whites. But I called their attention to where our application discussed Marva Collins, a black woman in Chicago who opened Westside Academy for black children and the results were wonderful. She kept the bar high, and the students thrived.”

How many students and what grades will the school serve?

“In August MCA will serve 416 students in K-6. In year 2 we will add 7-10 and in year 3 we will add 11 & 12. Altogether we will serve 840 by year 3.”

Any doubt about attracting students?

“We are already swamped with letters of intent including quite a few from teachers in the public school system who don’t want their children in the schools where they teach. Although most high schools in Collier are rated an ‘A’ by the state, only 50% of the students are proficient in math and reading. How does that rate an ‘A?’ I am sure that we will need to have a lottery because we will be oversubscribed.”

(Note: because charters are public schools, students apply but cannot be selected by ability, so a lottery system is widely used to select from the pool of applicants).

For more information about MCA, click on the link to their website

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