The Education Action Network

Taking Back America By Taking Back Our Schools

School Lottery an Issue in Arizona Too

Patience and passion: Parents pursue charter school spots for kids

3-30-11 Michelle Reese – East Valley Tribune



Last year, I thought about putting my kids in a charter school.

There was a question about whether full-day kindergarten would be offered in our district school. My daughter was completing her last year of full-time preschool and I felt she should continue with full-day kindergarten to keep the momentum going.

But after attending orientation and putting our names in a lottery, I got the e-mail: Sorry, your children were not chosen.

As it ended up, our district did offer full-day kindergarten and we stayed put in our neighborhood school.

But this spring, thousands of other parents across Arizona received similar emails or phone calls.

Though as many as 12 percent of Arizona’s public school students attend charter school, many more families are holding their breath for a spot to open.

Charter schools in Arizona operate independently of school districts, but receive public funding.

The charter school movement in the country continues to grow. The education film “Waiting for Superman” shows images of parents and children sitting in large rooms waiting for their names to be drawn for spots in New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles charter schools.

Arizona lawmakers were invited to a screening of the film this week.

While those public lotteries aren’t widespread in Arizona, the passion of some parents to get their kids into East Valley charter schools like Edu-Prize, Great Hearts Academies, ASU Preparatory Academy and Mesa Arts Academy is no less emotional.

Chandler’s Lisa Russo is one of them.

With two children with very different learning styles, she sought a common ground. Russo believes she’s found it in Chandler’s Archway Classical Academy, a member of the Great Hearts Academies.

About six weeks ago, Russo learned her 9-year-old twins have spots at the school for next year’s fourth-grade class.

But it took more than a year to get to this point, Russo explains.

Russo entered the lottery for the academy last year and the kids’ names came up. But she turned the school down, thinking a friend who was also trying to get into the school had also changed her mind.

“After I told them I wasn’t going to accept, she took it. I couldn’t get back in so I had to start all over in the waiting list,” Russo said.

When the call came again in February, Russo said yes.

“One of the big reasons I chose this school is I’m a planner. They’re going to go into fourth grade. I have to start thinking ahead. I’m thinking about junior high already,” Russo said.

Children in Archway Classical Academies can seamlessly move into Great Hearts’ preparatory academies.

More than 8,000 applications have been turned in since November for Great Hearts Academies’ existing and soon-to-be-open campuses, CEO Dan Scoggin said.

“That doesn’t count the rollover applications from grade to grade,” Scoggin said. “There is incredible demand for high-performing charter schools here,” he said.

And while there isn’t a public lottery for spots, Scoggin said, “I hear people crying at home. It’s the same type of earnestness.”

At Gilbert’s Edu-Prize, parents reapply each year to get into the lottery, superintendent Lynn Robershotte said. For next year, the waiting list is about 1,000.

“We have parents clamoring to get in. We have districts, states and others clamoring to have us do our stuff in their cities,” Robershotte says.

Three-year-old ASU Preparatory Academy Polytechnic is expanding its Mesa offerings next year and opening a high school.

Because of building changes, the school added 110 spots for kindergarten through eighth grade, said principal Donna Bullock. But even that’s not enough: The elementary school is full for next year, with 200 people on the waiting list.

In a downtown facility partnered with a Boys & Girls Club, Mesa Arts Academy quietly draws students from its surrounding neighborhood – and miles and miles away.

“We are finding that we are never operating without a waiting list,” said principal Sue Douglas.

The school has no funding for advertising.

“Even without that we are finding our numbers are growing in terms of population. We could easily expand except that we’re land locked and can’t,” Douglas said.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6549 or

Views: 790

Comment by Cindy Mays on March 31, 2011 at 12:17pm

Unfortunately there is not a charter school in the Northeast Phoenix area producing well above district schools. I worked at a charter school. The principal was not effective. She lacked leadership skills which resulted in mediocre teaching. The sad part about it is there are many excellent teachers but they are not motivated or held accountable by the principal so they become comfortable with mediocracy.

I watched "Waiting For Superman" last night. The funny thing is that it was stated that a school needs a great leader and great teachers. That is not really rocket science. I have witnessed both great teachers, mediocre teachers and terrible teachers in action yet they all continue to teach. All charter schools should have a waiting list. One weakness that I see in charter schools is the lack of good leadership. Again I refer to the school I worked for. The governing board is self appointed. They are not elected and there is no vote. Not one of the board members are educators. I wonder if that is the case with Great Hearts, Edu-Prize and these other schools.  I felt both as an employee and a parent I had no say whatsoever.  I so wanted to expose this school but it would have been very costly to many people. One person in particular is very high profile. This school contridicts what a charter school is supposed to represent and accomplish yet they continue on as do many charter schools. I personally think the higher performing schools should receive more funding than the mediocre and under performing schools do. Again i go back to the governing boards.  If they are there just for the status of being someone and they have no passion for education then they should not be there.

I know I'm rambling on but I could write a book on my experiences in education.

Comment by Harry Mathews on March 31, 2011 at 3:26pm


     Good feedback. Yes, just because it has "Charter School" in the title doesn't guarantee it's a good school and by the same token, just because it's a public school it doesn't make it bad. The main thing is that parents have a choice so that they can comparison shop the way they do for everything else. Competition tends to drive up quality.

Comment by Harry Mathews on March 31, 2011 at 3:26pm
Oh, yes, please write the book!
Comment by Cindy Mays on March 31, 2011 at 4:40pm



I will write that book some day. I have been keeping a journal.

I'm all for school choice, but there are some real drawbacks that I have seen and experienced. School hopping is a problem. I've worked with students in 4th and 5th grade who have attended many schools. Sometimes a different school each year. This is really problematic for any school. I worked with a 5th grade student who was reading at a 1st grade level when he came to us. This boy really struggled with reading, but he worked hard, as did his LA. teacher I spent 5-7 hours per week with him one on one teaching him to read and comprehend. The last time he was tested he was reading at a 3.7 grade level. He would come to me during his recess and read to me. We were really looking forward to the next year as our goal was to have him reading at grade level by mid-year. Unfortunately his mother took issue with the uniform guide lines and withdrew him from the school. My fear is that he will again fall behind. It's a shame because I honestly believe he has the ability to be an honor student. He reached or exceeded every goal I set for him. I never told him we were going to try to reach the goal, I told him it was expected. He never complained or cried about the hard work. Sometimes he was less than enthusiastic but he made tremendous progress.I only hope that someone will continue to challenge him and he is able to take with him the knowledge that we gave him and continue to set and meet his goals.


Comment by Harry Mathews on March 31, 2011 at 5:33pm
Sounds to me like, perhaps, the parents aren't on the ball here. With that said, i still think we need to put the raising of the child on the parents shoulders. Otherwise we all end up on welfare with the government making all of our decisions for us. I think we have to start, as a society, promoting the idea that it is a good and noble thing to have character and take responsibility for ones self and ones own. That wasn't such a wild notion 60 years ago before "Progressives" took over. Thank you for your dedication. We need good teachers like you!
Comment by Angi Stamm on May 19, 2011 at 10:33am
I just happened to find this post and wanted to reply.  Not all charter schools are equal and the parent needs to do their homework when looking for any school.  Most parents just stick their kid in the closest school to their house and expect it to be good.  I am not one of those parents, I have spent many hours doing my own research.  Speaking from experience, my daughter goes to Great Hearts Chandler Prep and it is an excellent school, and we have been to private, public and charter.  There is no perfect school, but having a choice empowers the parent and child to find philosophy that line up with theirs.  I want my daughter to learn, but I want her also to be a critical thinker and to challenge things that do not make sense to her.  By the way, she is an excellent student and has been at every school she has been to.  School choice is great and I would agree with Harry, if a child isn't doing well that has moved schools it is probably the parents issue.  Cindy, I would challenge you instead of making blanket statements about charter schools, name the school you worked for and do not make comparisons to Great Hearts or Eduprize if you know nothing about these schools.


You need to be a member of The Education Action Network to add comments!

Join The Education Action Network


Harry Mathews created this Ning Network.

© 2022   Created by Harry Mathews.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service