The resiliency and commitment of Achieve Charter School leaders, staff, and students is really something to behold. They posses character that we admire and aspire to as we face this pandemic.
During our Special Education Guidance and Support webinar this week, we were reminded of that fact. We were joined by Achieve Executive Director and CCSA Member Council Chair, Casey Taylor, and Special Education Director Mary Tickle.
Both shared what the K-8 school is doing to meet the needs of students with disabilities through its inclusive distance learning model. Throughout their presentations, they frequently referenced how the Achieve community navigated another crisis back in 2018: the devastating Camp Fire.
As Casey reminded us during the webinar, the fire had a devastating impact on Achieve, with the town of Paradise being all but destroyed. Every student was left homeless. Nearly the entirety of the school’s staff was left homeless as well. And Achieve lost three weeks of instruction, forced to relocate to Chico without any school supplies.
But the Achieve community is one of survivors. The school has bounced back, finding an alternative campus in Chico and resuming its academic success; it was named a 2020 California Distinguished School for closing the achievement gap at the end of last year. Now, in the wake of another crisis that’s upending day-to-day operations, the school is finding its footing to ensure that students keep learning and receive the emotional support they need.
Despite being physically apart, Achieve has managed to build a strong sense of community through its morning assemblies on Facebook. The social media gatherings are led by the school’s principal, Steven Wright, who against the backdrop of his impressive guitar collection, delivers birthday announcements, the school’s approach to distance learning, and encouragement in a calm and optimistic manner to students, parents and staff.
The assemblies embody an in-this-together mentality that’s been a lasting source of strength for a school community that’s endured so much in recent years.
“It’s during these times when community is so important. It’s a charter school’s secret sauce,” Casey said. “It is why families bring their students to us. It’s why our teachers want to work for us. We have used that sense of community to support people like never before.”