What We’re All About

What we do and why we do it.

It’s our hope that the information below will provide you with a compass to navigate the questions Choice is most frequently asked. Choice prides itself on transparency and trusting communication with our Academy boards, employees, and the communities we serve.

With that in mind, every question is a good question and one we look forward to answering. Please contact us so we can answer any other questions you may have. I look forward to partnering with you!

Sarah Wildey
Vice President of Choice
sarahwildey[at]choiceschools.com | 616-785-8440

 

Get to Know Choice

Do you only operate in Michigan? Would you consider going outside of Michigan?
Yes, our services are only available to Academies in Michigan. We’re extremely passionate about serving the children here and being an integral part of Michigan’s success story. We have no plans to go outside of Michigan as this is our home.

Interested in learning more about what we can do for your charter school? Reach out directly to our Vice President, Sarah Wildey at sarahwildey[at]choiceschools.com.

Management companies are often criticized for not being owned or operated by experienced educators. How is Choice different?
The founder and owner of Choice Schools Associates and MIChoice is Dr. Sidney L. Faucette.  Dr. Faucette, better known to all as Sid, served his career as teacher and coach, high school assistant principal and athletic director, assistant superintendent for instruction, and superintendent.  He was superintendent of two of the largest school districts in America, one with 73,000 students and the other with 88,000 students. Dr. Faucette retired from public education at the age of 51 and founded Choice Schools in 1998 at the age of 53. Choice Schools and MIChoice are owned by an experienced public school educator, who loves public education and discourages any negative criticism of public education. He is the first to tell you that public school districts have economies of scale that no charter school has. Dr. Faucette will also tell you about the sacrifices and unselfish qualities of our teachers being why our schools typically outperform their public school competitors. He believes that charter schools have made public schools better through the free enterprise system.  One thing that makes Choice different from other management companies is that the key leaders in the central office who work with school leaders and teachers in an instructional capacity have been school leaders themselves and hold a valid Michigan administrator’s certificate.  We are in the field of education, and our company is overflowing with educators and business professionals who believe in the power of choice in education.
Why is Choice a for-profit management company and not a non-profit?
Choice is a for-profit management company because the owner, who is a retired public school educator, believes in the entrepreneurial spirit of free enterprise and potential rewards for risk and hard work. We believe that working hard, exceeding expected outcomes, and taking a tremendous amount of risk off the shoulders of our Academy Boards should be rewarded. We believe in the spirit of America and the timeless principle that hard work leads to a better life.

Interested in learning more about what we can do for your charter school? Reach out directly to our Vice President, Sarah Wildey at sarahwildey[at]choiceschools.com.

 

What We Do

What does “full service” mean?
Choice provides all of the resources to our schools to ensure a successful, efficient and meaningful operation. From Marketing to Finance to Teacher Development and everything in between, our staff of highly skilled, talented and resourceful individuals are available to assist with any issues that our schools may face. The closest comparison is the traditional public schools superintendent’s office and all support services. We’re “all in” with the Board of Directors to ensure compliance with Federal, State, and Local laws and regulations, to provide comprehensive services for children, to fulfill the charter contract with each school’s Authorizer, and to continuously improve student achievement.

Interested in learning more about what we can do for your charter school? Reach out directly to our Vice President, Sarah Wildey at sarahwildey[at]choiceschools.com.

charter school management services

What services do you provide?
Our management agreement with each Board of Directors spells out the scope of our services. Significant is the fact that all employees are employed by us rather than the Board of Directors. Public school board members have governmental immunity, whereas we assume the same employee related risks of any private business. Choice takes the stress and risk of employment off of the Board of Directors allowing Boards to focus on what they love – keeping the school on track for achieving the Board’s goals and dreams.

Discover More About the Services We Provide
I’ve heard that some management companies offer limited services and provide just human resources or just financial support to charter schools. Do you offer a la carte services such as this? Why not?
Choice does not offer limited services for one simple reason: ownership of results.  We believe that student achievement is the sum of all components of a school and we must teach and serve the whole child in a seamless system.  The school budget should be an instructional spending plan, in which every dollar spent contributes to student achievement.  Employees should not be independent of financial or instructional accountability so they, too, can own the results of the school as a whole and not in segmented parts.  All choices must be for all children. The school is an entity, not pieces of a puzzle.
What kind of oversight do charter schools have? How are charter schools held accountable?
Our charter schools in Michigan receive their charters from public colleges, universities, and intermediate school districts, commonly referred to as Authorizers.  We also come under the oversight of Federal and State agencies, especially the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), intermediate school districts, and most importantly, the Authorizer appointed Board of Directors.  Charter schools have a performance based contract with the Authorizer to meet accountability measures for student achievement, enrollment, finances, compliance with federal and state laws and regulations, teacher credentials and stability, safety and security of students and employees, professional development, and parent involvement.  Each school develops a strategic plan and school improvement plan. Charter schools that don’t live up the Authorizer standards are closed if they don’t demonstrate significant improvement over a short period of time.  As a turnaround company, we specialize in establishing operating systems and educational programs to stabilize operations, build financial stability, and significantly improve student achievement.

Interested in learning more about what we can do for your charter school? Reach out directly to our Vice President, Sarah Wildey at sarahwildey[at]choiceschools.com.

How much do school districts pay for central office services compared to what a charter school pays for with Choice?
Single building public school districts are reported to spend 14.5% of total expenditures on administration. (Arsen and Ni, 2012)  A 1990s accounting report estimated that school districts spend approximately 16% on administration, while other national studies estimated 10-11% of expenditures toward administration.  The single building public school district is more similar to each charter school managed by us.  Each charter school, actually a public school academy under the law, is recognized as an independent school district.  Our management fee around 10% offers more comprehensive management services. (David Arsen and Yongmei Ni, Is Administration Leaner in Charter Schools? Resource Allocation in Charter and Traditional Public Schools, Education Policy Center at Michigan State University, March 2012)
How many charter schools do you manage?
Choice currently has 13 school partners throughout Michigan. Since our beginning in 1997, we’ve built our company through Board Member referrals and serve where we are most needed. As the only turn-around specialist in the State, our services are sought to make good schools great. We’re always open to meeting new Academy Board of Directors, hearing their school’s story and together determining if we’re the right fit to carry out their vision.

Interested in learning more about what we can do for your charter school? Reach out directly to our Vice President, Sarah Wildey at sarahwildey[at]choiceschools.com.

 

Inside the Choice Culture

Is Choice a family-centered company?

fam·i·ly  noun
A person or people related to one and so to be treated with a special loyalty or intimacy

Choice is a family owned, faith based company that is passionate about the power of families. Our families make us who we are and must be the center of our world and the top of our priorities. Without our family – however it may be defined –we are not complete. As a family owned company, we believe that every single employee is part of our Choice family and we are a part of the scaffolding that makes their lives more complete.  Choice family members enjoy: – a supportive and collaborative culture, – recognition for contributions and achievements with the attitude of “your win is our win,” – opportunities for personal and professional growth, – and most importantly, a genuine sense of care and concern for each member.

Interested in learning more about what we can do for your charter school? Reach out directly to our Vice President, Sarah Wildey at sarahwildey[at]choiceschools.com.

How does Choice give back to the communities it serves?
Choice believes the African proverb that “it takes a village to raise a child.” Raising a child in today’s day requires communities to wrap their arms around children like never before. Choice school leaders create strategic partnerships with community stakeholders who can truly become the infrastructure of support for students who don’t have one at home.

Interested in learning more about what we can do for your charter school? Reach out directly to our Vice President, Sarah Wildey at sarahwildey[at]choiceschools.com.

What is the culture like at the Choice central office?
As a faith based, family owned company, our central office behaves as a family of professionals.  While our office is filled with experts in the industry, our office celebrates the individuality of each person including their successes and challenges.  We are champions for one another as we achieve together. Most importantly, we are passionate about the work that we are trusted to perform and genuinely enjoy our time together as a team.

Interested in learning more about what we can do for your charter school? Reach out directly to our Vice President, Sarah Wildey at sarahwildey[at]choiceschools.com.

How does the Choice central office culture impact culture at our schools?
Our central office consists of experts who have mastered the fine balance of technical accuracy and communicating with care & compassion. Choice’s school leaders and their teams know and trust that they will be respected, assisted, and encouraged.

Our academy principals are an extension of our central office team and know that a positive, collaborative culture is the foundation for their success as a leader.  Our principals work hard to create an atmosphere where their teams want to come to work every day and stay engaged in the lives of their students. Without engagement, there is no ownership.  Our leaders own engagement making our schools high growth zones for both the students and the adults.

Interested in learning more about what we can do for your charter school? Reach out directly to our Vice President, Sarah Wildey at sarahwildey[at]choiceschools.com.

I’ve heard that Choice specializes in developing people. Can you tell me about that?
A quick read of our mission statement would tell you that Choice focuses on helping children achieve their American Dream. Reality is that every adult was once a child; a child with their own version of the American Dream. We know that every employee is filled with dreams for their own career and we see it as our job to help them achieve those dreams. Teachers aspiring to increase their skills in the area of instructional leadership are welcomed to a 10 month training program called the Instructional Leaders Academy. Instructional Leaders who desire to become Principals go through a rigorous selection process to join our yearlong Future Leaders Institute (FLI) where they receive extensive hands on training to prepare for a leadership role with Choice.  We are proud that a large majority of our FLI graduates have become school leaders within our network of schools or have moved on to traditional public schools as sought after Principals. Principals at our academies also attend monthly meetings and semi-annual retreats with their Choice colleagues where they receive intense training to become better school leaders to accelerate their schools into the future. Simply put, just as we believe firmly in the growth mindset for students, the growth mindset is alive and real for our Choice family as we achieve our dreams together.

Interested in learning more about what we can do for your charter school? Reach out directly to our Vice President, Sarah Wildey at sarahwildey[at]choiceschools.com.

 

Charter Schools and Management Companies

What is a charter school and how are they governed?
Charter schools are independent, public, and tuition-free schools that are given the freedom to be more innovative in offers and instructional style while being held accountable for advancing student achievement at an often higher level than their traditional public school peers. Charter schools extend the privilege of choice to all families and are open to all students, regardless of income, gender, race, or religion. Charter schools are governed by a local Board of Directors and are required to meet and often exceed the standards of its Authorizer and the State Board of Education. Today, nearly 3 million students attend more than 6,700 charter schools in the United States. With over 100,000 students attending the 232 charter schools in Michigan, 5,000 of those students attend one of our Choice Schools.

Interested in learning more about what we can do for your charter school? Reach out directly to our Vice President, Sarah Wildey at sarahwildey[at]choiceschools.com.

What is a charter school management company? And what’s the difference between a charter school management company and an education service provider?
Charter school management companies, often referred to as education service providers (ESP), are organizations that contract with new or existing public, charter, or private schools to carry out the Board of Director’s vision. While each management company structures their offerings differently, Choice is a full-service management company.

Interested in learning more about what we can do for your charter school? Reach out directly to our Vice President, Sarah Wildey at sarahwildey[at]choiceschools.com.

What makes you different from other educational service providers?
We are different because, unlike some other management companies, we work for the Board of Directors and at the pleasure of the Board. Our goal is to build trust and good faith with our Boards so that we work with them, always remembering we work for them. We are also different from other management companies because children and employees come first in our decision making. They are our internal primary customers. Our mission is the guiding force of our work.

Interested in learning more about what we can do for your charter school? Reach out directly to our Vice President, Sarah Wildey at sarahwildey[at]choiceschools.com.

 

Accountability = Success

Charter schools are often criticized for not being as transparent as public schools. Is this true? Do schools managed by Choice meet transparency requirements like their public school neighbors?
Choice Schools has always made everything related to the school’s operations open to the Board of Directors and the public. Nothing allowed by law is off limits.  We encourage our Boards to have virtual access to SDS, our financial management system, to the Authorizers Epicenter system for reporting, and to cloud based storage for documents, including the Policy Manual.

Charter Schools must follow all of the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) statutes, rules, and expectations because they are Public Schools regulated by the MDE.  We led the way by being the first management company (with the first charter schools) to use the “Munetrix” online software system that gathers and publicly posts all of this information and the emergency drill logs of each of our schools. Authorizer information is also available on Munetrix.  This information is available to the public and can be reached via the Michigan mitten in the upper right hand corner of our schools’ websites.

Public schools are not required to submit documents to another layer of accountability, the Authorizer. Authorizer compliance audits of services in addition to annual financial audits by independent auditors are a way of life for charter schools. Choice uses the document submission system, most often the online Epicenter tool, to provide information to the Authorizers on an ongoing almost daily schedule. We supply 100% of the information that is requested. In 2014-15, Choice had a 99% on time submission rate for over 900 authorizer compliance document items.

Interested in learning more about what we can do for your charter school? Reach out directly to our Vice President, Sarah Wildey at sarahwildey[at]choiceschools.com.

What is your success with clean financial audits?
We’re proud that all Choice managed schools have nine consecutive years of clean audits with no findings or material weaknesses. Clean audits confirm the strength of our financial management system and the work of our finance team at the school as well as the company.  Audits are an essential tool to assure that money is being managed within the financial accounting system and requirements for public schools. Clean audits and stable financial condition are important to facility financing, federal grants, state funding, state aid notes (bridge loans), and Authorizer compliance. Our financial system and reports are open to Board members and the public.

Interested in learning more about what we can do for your charter school? Reach out directly to our Vice President, Sarah Wildey at sarahwildey[at]choiceschools.com.

What is your success with clean personnel audits? (MiTap audits, authorizer audits, etc.)
Our Human Resources team is an expert in clean personnel audits. We have been recognized by Authorizers as leaders in establishing a solid system that takes the mystery and chaos out of audits while insuring that our employees and schools are compliant according to the most stringent definition.

Interested in learning more about what we can do for your charter school? Reach out directly to our Vice President, Sarah Wildey at sarahwildey[at]choiceschools.com.

What’s your success with helping schools increase their enrollment?
Choice has a long time history of supporting charter school academies in not only reaching their budgeted enrollment goal, but in surpassing it. Increasing student enrollment is an integral part of our overall success in developing great schools. Choice empowers and supports our School Leaders to be excellent relationship builders, thus creating a culture where everyone involved buys into the recruitment plan for consistent growth. The Choice marketing department stays abreast of industry trends, especially in social media, and works to implement the latest and greatest as needed throughout all Choice academies. You can take a look at any Choice school partner’s website or Facebook page and see the Choice difference. We’re proactive, responsive and focus on what’s most important – building long lasting relationships with each of the communities we serve.

Interested in learning more about what we can do for your charter school? Reach out directly to our Vice President, Sarah Wildey at sarahwildey[at]choiceschools.com.

What’s your track record of successfully turning around schools?
Our track record has taught us that once a turnaround school, always a turnaround school.  The one constant to success is the support and will of the Board of Directors to work with Choice to make bold decisions to create a new learning centered school culture. When the Board is fully committed to children and we fulfill our role and responsibilities with excellence, turnaround occurs quickly yet methodically. We are always reminded that all parents want a high quality education for their children, regardless of parents education level, finances, or status in the community.

Interested in learning more about what we can do for your charter school? Reach out directly to our Vice President, Sarah Wildey at sarahwildey[at]choiceschools.com.

 

It's All About the Children

How does Choice help the whole child develop?
While other schools are narrowing their focus on only the academic outcomes of the students, Choice begins by looking at how to bring our mission to life in each school. Our mission, “To empower every child with the knowledge, skills, character, and work ethic to achieve the American Dream,” provides the framework for how we manage our schools. This philosophy of looking at the whole child cause us to ask, “What are all the skills needed for each child to be successful in all areas of life and how do we provide that for them?” This mission is what guides our focus and decisions at all schools, zeroing in on the skills that all our students need and ensuring that each staff member is working together toward the success of the whole child.

Choice is dedicated to developing the whole child because 21st century learners bring a new diversity. The students we serve are not only culturally diverse, they are children of poverty, children from broken families, children who have suffered abuse, children with physical and mental health concerns, children of families in crisis, and children with unique learning needs. Our staff comes together as a collaborative group to support their students and the needs they have as learners.

Interested in learning more about what we can do for your charter school? Reach out directly to our Vice President, Sarah Wildey at sarahwildey[at]choiceschools.com.

What does the whole child model look like at Choice Academies?
Our schools work collaboratively within the community they are located to provide not only the educational needs of the student, but to also provide a classroom that has a solid character education program, academic and cognitive thinking, engagement with nature and the community, disciplined physical movement, artistic expression, and hard work. When a student is receiving an education that embodies these things, they are much more prepared for the challenges of their future.  As each students becomes part of the Choice family, we strive to see each of them become everything they can as individuals by providing the whole child with the tools they need to achieve the American Dream.

Interested in learning more about what we can do for your charter school? Reach out directly to our Vice President, Sarah Wildey at sarahwildey[at]choiceschools.com.

What about special education at Choice Schools Associates and MIChoice schools?
Our fundamental belief is that all children can and will learn at high levels. Special education students are no exception as we believe that every child can be successful when given the needed supports and interventions. Our charter schools are held to the same standard as any public school in Michigan when it comes to special education services. We provide a range of services to students based on their individual needs. We contract with reputable agencies and work with local ISDs to provide ancillary services like speech, occupational therapy, and social work. Every one of our charter schools has certified teachers on staff to work with students with special needs. We sit down with parents to develop an IEP that meets the students needs, then provide those services to the individual students. We also support our schools by having people in our central office dedicated to helping school boards, principals, and teachers work through difficult situations related to special education, whether it is how to handle discipline or work with a staff on a difficult IEP.

Interested in learning more about what we can do for your charter school? Reach out directly to our Vice President, Sarah Wildey at sarahwildey[at]choiceschools.com.

 

Board Members

I’m extremely interested in serving on a Board of Directors for a Choice managed Academy, about how much of my time will it take for board meetings and work outside of meetings?
The privilege of becoming a charter school Board member is open to all who are interested, and who are able to commit a small amount of time each month to fulfill their appointed Board duties. The steps involved to join a charter school Board are designed for busy people just like you and, unlike local school Board elections there is no expensive, long-term campaigning that you are required to participate in. Your appointment is only based on whether or not you meet the authorizer requirements for service, and if there is an open position available on the desired academy Board. Members of a charter school Board can expect to volunteer approximately five to seven hours a month in service. Duties include: preparing for and participating in monthly Board meetings, serving on Board committees as requested (most often you will be able to choose one that coincides with your personal interests or expertise), and attending strategic planning sessions, which may be held a few times a year at the discretion of the Board. At Choice, we believe that our strong boards lead to better schools for all of our students. If you are interested in applying for this important avenue of community service, please contact us here and tell us more about yourself, why you want to become a board member, and what Academy/area you are interested in serving. We’ll be in touch with you to help you get started in the process.
As a Board Member, am I liable or at risk for anything that occurs at the school?
Each Board of Directors is provided legal services by its own legal counsel and is guided by policies constructed by the National Charter School Institute and approved by the Board. Additionally, the Board enjoys broad immunity through the State of Michigan’s “Governmental Liability for Negligence Act 170 of 1964. The Act provides broad immunity for charter school board members from liability for personal injury or property damage. In addition, each charter school purchases general liability and umbrella insurance coverage that protects the board members and the academy staff.