During the conversation the CEO as well as other members of the leadership and related parties (including students) it became obvious that the philosophy of the school includes teachers as more than just masters of contact; they are the first responders to the individual and unique needs of children. Since their students often come from the foster care system or homelessness, or have been removed from other schools, teachers need to constantly understand and interact with the trauma in their backgrounds.
In their student handbook it says, "Our culture system is predicated on 'fair isn't always equal...'" (p. 15) - a policy many across the District might not want to repeat, yet is more honest than anything else. Every student has a unique background and needs to be treated based on what is happening in their lives. Teaching the exact same thing to each student in the exact same method is the antithesis of differentiation.
The same concept brought up the name Sandra Bloom and the "Sanctuary Model," something Arise Academy is building towards as their focus over the next number of years. By dealing with an individual's trauma instead of ignoring it they have found success in retaining students that would normally leave the system and most likely never return. One major support for this has been their emphasis on counseling as a preferred resource. The CEO said their student-to-counselor ratio was something like 1:26. This ratio is unheard of in the regular public school system (where they might be lucky with 1:200) and should be changed.
Overall it was a very intriguing conversation and I was happy to take part in it to learn how to promote the idea that Maslow's hierarchy of needs has a lot of legitimacy and we need to take student's home lives into account when educating them. I was also happy to see that this charter school could be a model to follow in the School District. I just hope people in administration are paying attention.