It felt like they were set up for failure.
In June of 2012, Academic Performance Excellence Academy (APEX) in the heart of East Hollywood was granted permission to convert from a district high school to a charter school. The catch, however, was that their charter school funding wouldn’t arrive until the following Spring.
“Everyone was telling us to wait a year,” says Cesar Lopez, principle at APEX. “But we had students who were counting on us. If it wasn’t for Charter School Capital, we wouldn’t be open.”
Funding from Charter School Capital allowed APEX to open in September of 2012 and make the necessary changes that would allow the school to continue with an important mission. “We take the kids that no one else wants,” shares Cesar.
APEX is the school gives everyone a chance; in fact, they give everyone a hundred. Students dealing with addiction, pregnancy and other issues that may make them unwelcome at other schools find a home at APEX. The school focuses on personal attention for each student as the way to help them succeed and get to college, and it doesn’t shy away from dealing with the hard issues.
APEX provides group therapy and counseling for students dealing with substance abuse and addiction issues. The idea is that off-site options do not work for everyone; so the school offers treatment in the one place they know the students will get it. “We try to be a one stop shop that centers around their education,” explains Lopez. And if a student gets into trouble, they won’t be sent away. “We want you here to learn everyday.”
It takes a special group of individuals to teach students with challenging needs, and having the right people is crucial to success. This was one of the major motivators behind the change from traditional public school to a public charter school.
As a district school, budget cuts from the state had made it harder to operate each year. Moreover, school officials were unable to hire the right teachers for the job. Mr. Lopez saw his staff changing each year, with most teachers transferring or having to be let go because they weren’t a good fit. This made the school’s difficult mandate even harder to meet. But now that APEX is a public charter school, the school has been able to build staff stability, strengthening school operations and student relations.
With reliable charter school funding from Charter School Capital, APEX is set to dramatically increase the number of students they enroll next year, from 250 now to approximately 400. Many students who could have otherwise been lost now have a path to success. By all accounts, APEX Academy has had more than enough reasons to fail, but with its students it is persevering and thriving.