Georgeanna Wiest, Founder of Heritage Leadership Academy, and her family
Education reformers all across the United States recently concluded National School Choice Week, a nationwide celebration recognizing the many advances made in education options for children and their families.
Thousands of events were held from coast to coast, highlighting the progress this movement has made in providing millions of American families with greater access to solutions that work for them.
Hopefully 20 years from now school choice will be so mainstream that children in 2038 won’t know what it was like to be limited to only one option.
To that end, Civitas has decided to begin regularly highlighting institutions, parents, and educators that are the real “boots on the ground” in the long-term effort to provide American families with options to meet their child’s unique needs.
Recently Civitas staff had the opportunity to speak to parents and teachers at Cathedral School in Raleigh (highlighted in the video below), as well as interview the founder, Georgeanna Weist, and Head Administrator, Carl Chaney, of Heritage Leadership Academy (HLA), a brand new University-Model school in Apex.
Both HLA and Cathedral School participate in North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides needs-based scholarships to families that, despite needing education alternatives for their children, are unable to pay the entire cost out-of-pocket. School choice has made all of the difference for many of those families.
Cathedral School, Raleigh
Heritage Leadership Academy, Apex
Interview with Georgeanna Wiest, Founder and Carl Chaney, Head Administrator*
Q. Georgeanna, based on your interactions with parents, what seem to be some of their top priorities as they choose where to send their children to school (i.e. affordability, education quality, safety, more say in what their children are learning, etc.)?
Parents seeking to enroll their children at HLA almost always say that the opportunity to invest in their child’s education and character development is what attracts them to our school the most. They see the value in the high quality education AND the time they are able to spend with them in the home, and they have wanted something like HLA for a long time.
Affordability is probably #2. Because we are only on campus 2-3 days/week, our tuition is significantly lower than a traditional private school. Parents are able to obtain the same level of education for half the cost, all while being able to spend more time with their children. It’s a win-win!
Q. Carl, having a teaching background, with a decade of experience in our state’s public school system, how do you define school choice?
School choice offers families educational programs and services, through public funds like the Opportunity Scholarship and Disability Grant, that are best suited for their children’s needs by providing options for students to be put in a learning environment in which they can thrive academically and relationally.
It is ultimately the responsibility of the parent to put their child in a position to be successful socially, intellectually, and creatively, whether that be a public school, private school, character school, or homeschool. School choice empowers parents to make those educational decisions to best serve their children.
Carl Chaney, Head Administrator of Heritage Leadership Academy
Q. HLA has experienced significant growth in such a short period of time. What sort of needs do you see HLA filling in the education market that other institutions, including traditional public schools, have potentially left unmet?
HLA is one of only eight University-Model® schools in the state of North Carolina. Our model is a unique combination of homeschooling and private schooling – an option that was not available in our area until recently. It’s frequently coined ‘the best of both worlds’, allowing parents to be heavily involved and influential in their child’s education while still having the accountability, support and guidance of a professional educator.
Q. What are your thoughts on the process to becoming an Opportunity and/or Disability Scholarship partnering school? Is there anything you would recommend the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA) tweak to make it easier for non-public schools to apply?
The process to become a participating school is not difficult. I was opening a school AND trying to get all of that in order at the same time, so it was quite a bit of paperwork, but an established school would have no difficulty.
Sadly, it’s an underutilized resource – probably due to a general fear of government involvement in a private, religious institution. We have found that we in no way have to compromise our beliefs nor our practices as a Christian organization in order to be in compliance with program regulations. Furthermore, we see it as an incredible tool in reaching a more diverse population with an educational option that would otherwise be unattainable.
*Some interview responses have been shortened for brevity.