Public school choice is powerful. Once parents and families have new opportunities to educate their children, they exercise that choice. The rapid charter school enrollment in Guam is nothing short of amazing.
The Guam legislature passed its charter school law in 2010, preceding chartering in Maine, Washington state, and Alabama. The first Guam charter school, called Guahan Academy Charter School, opened in the fall of 2013 with 515 students. Enrollment increased to 600 in 2014-15, with a waiting list of 321 students.
Guahan Academy opened as pre-kindergarten to Grade 12, with a Direct Instruction Curriculum. Two experienced educators, Principal Mary Mafnas and Assistant Principal Terry Cruz, came out of retirement to lead this school after a recent leadership transition. Now that’s passion–and it shows! The high school is a Trades Academy, focusing on vocational skills for its graduates.
Talk about diversity! There are 323 Chamorro students, 107 Chuukese students, and students of Filipino, Caucasian, Kosraean, Yapese, Tongan, Tahitian, German, Pohnpeian, Carolinian, Palauan, Asian, Marshallese, and Kribati ethnicity. 93 are English Language Learners.
Perhaps even more remarkable is the story of the second Guam charter school, iLearn Academy Charter School, which opened just this year on January 27, 2015. iLearn is a STEM program for K-5 students, led by Principal Helen Nishihira and Vice Principal Rachel Alquero. Think about this—the school opened mid-year, and still opened with 136 students! They already have a significant waiting list and expect to open next year with a maximum population of 358 students, as they await the building of a new facility.
The staff, students, board members, and leaders of these two charter schools along with their authorizer, the Guam Academy Charter Schools Council (Council), came together in celebration May 4 for the Inaugural Proclamation of Charter Schools Week. What an honor to be part of it. The pictures below celebrate the story of chartering choices and the diverse and hospitable culture on the island of Guam!