I am so proud to call Las Vegas my second home and thrilled that the national charter school movement will be there for the 2019 National Charter Schools Conference this summer to see what Nevada is accomplishing for public education.
Las Vegans care deeply about their kids’ education and the growth of charter schools that provide their communities with options for a great public education—something I saw firsthand when I moved to Nevada at the onset of some of the state’s most exciting changes in public education.
The state of Nevada had just launched two important entities to help further high-quality public education options: the Achievement School District, a state-run organization with the ability to authorize charter schools in the state, and Opportunity 180, an organization partly funded by the state of Nevada to help increase the number of high-quality public school seats in Clark County as well as the rest of the state. After visiting Las Vegas and having lengthy conversations with Allison Serafin, founder of Opportunity 180, about the incredible need for great public school options in Nevada, I knew that was where I needed to be. In the summer of 2016, I packed my bags and drove cross country to take on a new role with Opportunity 180, based in Las Vegas.
As director of growth strategy at Opportunity 180, I was charged with equipping local educators with the tools and resources to lead public schools in Las Vegas, recruiting the best charter schools in the country to consider launching schools in Nevada, and working with community members and organizations to support efforts to create better public school options. I spent my first months getting to know the best educators in the region, understanding the needs of the community, and meeting different stakeholders who cared deeply about increasing the number of quality public school options for kids.
I learned very quickly that Nevada had some of the most compassionate and dedicated educators that I would ever work with who are eager to do better by kids and families.
We created an environment like no other—partnering with the best school leadership development programs in the country and bringing their services to Nevada to train and prepare cohorts of leaders in Las Vegas to lead and open public charter schools. With the support of Building Excellent Schools, TNTP, Accelerate Institute, and many others, Nevada educators were equipped to lead charter schools that would provide opportunities to Nevada students previously only available in certain parts of the county.
While I have since moved back to D.C. to support the charter school movement at the national level, I am still in awe of the progress and incredible leadership in Nevada. Since the inception of the Achievement School District, we have seen the opening of charter schools in communities previously lacked high quality options—Democracy Prep at the Agassi Campus, Futuro Academy, Nevada Prep, and Nevada Rise—with a number of new schools on the horizon set to open in the fall all run by local educators who wanted to be a part of the solution.
I couldn’t be happier that I will be returning to Las Vegas this month with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Nevada has seen so much progress in the last few years and I am proud that they will be put on the national stage to show firsthand how public charter schools provide options for families in areas with limited or no quality public school options.
Clark County is one of the biggest school districts in the country, but sadly also one of the lowest performing. With our help, local educators have turned to public charter schools to help change this, and I am so proud of the work they have done and will continue to do.
Jake Custer is the senior director of HR and operations at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and is on the planning committee for the 2019 National Charter Schools Conference.
Register today for the 2019 National Charter Schools Conference in Las Vegas, June 30-July 3!