School Spotlight: Three Oaks Public School Academy

Three Oaks Public School Academy Snapshot

Students Served: 400+

Grades Served: Kindergarten – 5th Grade

Year Established: 2003

Managed by Choice Since: 2003

Authorizer: Bay Mills Community College

Charter Renewal Date: 2013 – Renewed through 2018/19 school year

Charter Granted for: 5 years

Principal: Mark Brunger

Area Superintendent: Lisa Key

Free and Reduced Lunch: 97%

Board Members:
Lynn Young, President
James Crocker, Treasurer
Wendy Brown, Secretary
Charles Gruszka, Director
Ashley Williams, Director


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Superman, Batman, Spiderman and Wonder Woman are some of the most popular superheroes known today. But when you step foot in Three Oaks Public School Academy (TOPSA+), you will meet many modern day superheroes disguised as administrators, teachers and students.

Known for its excellence in academics, TOPSA+ has shined throughout the community and the State of Michigan by beating the odds for the past five years. For the fifth year in a row, the Academy’s enrollment numbers are the highest they have seen since opening their doors in 2003. This can be attributed to the fact that students are held to high academic standards, career and college-ready benchmarks in Math and Reading are met, and children are held to high behavioral standards creating a fertile ground for academic success.

Through various publications and the Michigan Department of Education, Three Oaks Public School Academy has earned numerous awards for their academic success. In 2014, they were ranked the Best Elementary School in Muskegon County and 12th Best Elementary in Michigan by Bridge Magazine. TOPSA+ is also a Michigan Department of Education (MDE) Reward School proving they are exceeding standards. Most recently, they were ranked as the Best Elementary School in Muskegon County and number 26 out of 100 in the Top 100 Public Elementary and Middle Schools in Michigan by The Mackinac Center for Public Policy with only 15 charter schools making the list. Additionally, they received an A+ rating for being an urban school that is performing in the top 5% academically; TOPSA+ is truly a school that is beating the odds!

TOPSA+ Principal Mark Brunger said, “The biggest component of academic success is that everyone knows they are a partner at our school. It’s not solely the child’s responsibility. The families, students and staff all play a large role in the success of each individual student. We all have a vested interest focused around proficiency and academic growth. We don’t accept excuses at our school. You are expected to perform when you walk through the door.”

TOPSA+’s strength comes from the selfless, never-ending passion that flows from its teachers. Every teacher owns the success of the whole child and embraces every part of each child’s story. Grace- not excuses – paves the way for strong relationships that produce academic success.

This year, TOPSA+ has also worked to implement programs to benefit the entire school community. They have recently started an after-school program with a local church to foster academic and musical growth. The program is two-fold and meant to give TOPSA+ students a role model and to benefit students from Muskegon High School that are given the opportunity to “give back” by mentoring the younger students. The program is designed to also increase academic progress throughout the year and provide a musical twist. Watch DOG Dads is another initiative that gives opportunities for fathers and men of the Muskegon community to volunteer their time to the school. It focuses on the building of relationships among adults and students, helps students see men as powerful role models who value education, and gives teachers needed volunteers in their classrooms.

Aside from academics, Three Oaks works to strongly foster a relationship with its community in many ways. Community building is a large part of what makes TOPSA+ shine. They offer community dinners, as well as a free community carnival each summer. They also provide the use of their gymnasium for various basketball leagues. There is no doubt that giving back to the community is a large part of the success of the Academy!

TOPSA+'s school building
TOPSA+’s school building

The greatest news of all is that Three Oaks Public School Academy officially claimed 1212 Kingsley Street in Muskegon, MI as their forever home by purchasing their school building this year.

“Purchasing this building means that Three Oaks Public School Academy is here to stay,” said Sarah Wildey, Vice President of MIChoice. “Three Oaks strives to be a pinnacle of excellence and safety as a cornerstone to their neighborhood.”

The Board of Directors has contributed to TOPSA+’s success by constantly yet strategically raising the bar for themselves as a Board and for the school leadership team. The TOPSA+ Board expects that each child will receive the best possible education in the safest possible environment… and the TOPSA+ team delivers each and every time.

So you may not see the presence of capes or incredible stunts on a daily basis, but the staff at TOPSA+ is dedicated to preparing students to become inspired, ethical, compassionate and reflective citizens… the superheroes of today, tomorrow and beyond.


TOPSA+ teachers answer “What are some strategies you have used with struggling readers and also accelerated readers?”

lisaLisa Sportell, 1st Grade Teacher

I create hands on, interactive ways to learn. Students use colorful, hands on materials daily along with computer based activities. They are engaged and are challenged at their levels.

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alexisAlexis Quebbeman, Kindergarten Teacher

In Kindergarten, I initially want my students to understand the one to one correspondence concept. We use Halloween Monster fingers to help them with this. The students are always so excited to wear these and read with them! I also love to use stuffed animals as reading buddies. My students who say reading is hard for them get a sense of comfort when they have a stuffed animal on their lap. For the accelerated kids, it is important to keep their motivation high even though they have met the kindergarten reading goal. I read a lot of books to my students and I ALWAYS give students a chance to look/read the same book that I read. They love to use the same high energy expressions that their teacher uses while reading. I often see students playing school with their classmates. It’s all about letting my students get excited to read!

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taraTara Triezenberg, 3rd Grade Teacher

Some strategies that I use with struggling readers are teaching close reading and note taking skills to my entire class. Struggling students can use both of these skills to help them become better readers. Additionally, I teach my struggling readers about their schema. When students make connections with what they already know, it’s easier for them to file new knowledge into their working memory and eventually move it to their long term memory. Similarly, I also teach my struggling readers about metacognition. When students are explicitly taught to think about their thinking as they read, they will begin to notice and apply the reading strategies that are being taught.

With my accelerated readers, I use questioning strategies to encourage higher level thinking. I may ask my accelerated readers higher levels of questions from Bloom’s Taxonomy, the creating and evaluating questions. In addition, I also use student guided book clubs to encourage my accelerated readers to read higher level texts.

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elizabethElizabeth Szymanski, Reading Specialist

With struggling readers I think the trick is to get them to realize that reading can be fun, so I’ve created lots of games to work on their skills. They have so much fun playing the games, that they forget they are also reading. Accelerated readers love a good challenging project. One group of accelerated 3rd graders researched local history and discovered that we have shipwrecks right off the coast of Muskegon. We took a trip to the local library and learned how to use some of the resources that aren’t available on the Internet. They used this information to create posters which they displayed for the whole school.