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Posted on Sat, Jul 23, 2011 : 2:30 p.m.

Principals of new Ypsilanti Township charter schools enjoying challenge of opening new facilities

By Kyle Feldscher

The principals in charge of the 2 newest charter schools in Ypsilanti Township say they’re looking forward to welcoming students and establishing their schools in the community.

Shawn Leonard, the principal of East Arbor Charter Academy, and Matthew Hudson, the principal of Arbor Preparatory High School, are taking charge of the new schools as they prepare for the beginning of the schools’ initial year.

Leonard, who’s coming to the school after serving as principal of Hamtramck Academy, said getting to be a part of opening East Arbor was a big reason why he decided to take the job.

“There’s a lot involved with it. I have in my car a whole binder with a task list about three pages long of things to take care of in order to successful open up a new school,” he said.

East Arbor is expected to have 585 students attending in the first year, spread out from kindergarten through sixth grade. The school will eventually house kindergarten through 8th grades. Arbor Prep will have 225 students to start the school, with 175 freshmen and 50 sophomores, but is expected to be up to full capacity of about 800 students once the rest of the classes are added.

Construction at each school is moving along at a rapid pace, with East Arbor having much of the frame of the school completed, and Arbor Prep’s structure clear to those who are driving by on Hitchingham and Merritt Roads, where the schools are located.

The schools went into the actual process of being built in early May and are expected to be finished well before school begins after Labor Day in September.


East Arbor Charter Academy principal Shawn Leonard stands in front of the school building, which is expected to be finished in time for the new school year.

Kyle Feldscher |

Each of the new principals said the challenge of opening a school was a major reason why they accepted their jobs.

Hudson, who began work on Monday, said part of the attraction of the job was continuing to work with the South Arbor Charter Academy families he had come to know during his 9 years at the school. Hudson spent two years as a history teacher at South Arbor before becoming an assistant principal for the last 7 years for the school’s 7th and 8th grades.

“The fact that the high school is being put up 3 miles from South Arbor Academy was a big draw to me,” Hudson said. “I would still be able to service students that I’ve known and worked with, some families, for 9 years.”

Leonard has some experience opening up a new school through National Heritage Academies, the parent company of East Arbor, through his work at Achievement Academy in Canton where he served as a principal-in-residence.

Arbor Prep and East Arbor Academy

Here are some stories on the evolution of Arbor Prep and East Arbor Academy

He said his biggest goal for the first year at East Arbor is establishing a sense of community. Leonard said he has faith in the NHA academic curriculum, but those standards won’t mean much without all the school’s families and students buying in to the school’s philosophy of high achievement.

Leonard said he has been meeting with the staff at the school to find out what teachers are interested in offering as clubs, along with contacting local Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts to bring those organizations into the school.

“Really, the goal this year is to establish the community, get our students and our families embracing East Arbor and NHA, understanding what our values and our expectations are,” he said. “From there, once you build that foundation, then the academic piece will come.”

As a part of building that community, both schools are finalizing their athletic offerings for the coming school year.


Matthew Hudson stands in front of Arbor Preparatory High School, which is expected to house 225 students in its first year.

Kyle Feldscher |

Each school will offer boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls cross country, and girls volleyball. In addition, East Arbor will offer boys flag football and Arbor Prep, which is run by PrepNet and affiliated with NHA, will offer cheerleading. The teams will all compete against other NHA schools in the area, Leonard said.

Hudson said Arbor Prep’s goal will be to get students into the best possible colleges and that extracurricular activities will be a major part of that endeavor.

One of the unique programs at Arbor Prep will be the extra elective classes offered after school on Mondays. Hudson said each teacher will be required to offer to teach an elective of their choosing from 3-4 p.m. every Monday. He said a teacher whose subject might be chemistry during the school day might have the opportunity to teach a photography class during this time period, which will be optional for students.

“The one thing that’s good is that we are opening, in a sense, small,” Hudson said. “We’ll only have freshmen and sophomores, so we’ll have room to grow as our school grows. There is a sense of urgency to have enough things to have people come, but as the years pass and the population grows and we have 800 kids in the building, we have years to grow our staff and programs.”

Both schools are holding events during August to allow students and families to begin meeting each building’s staff. East Arbor will hold a Popsicles in the Park event at 1 p.m. Aug. 23 at Heritage Park in Ypsilanti for students to come and meet their teachers. Arbor Prep is still holding information nights, along with planning a Meet the Principal night on Aug. 4 and a Meet the Staff night on Aug. 18 at South Arbor.

The ribbon cutting ceremony for East Arbor is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Aug. 30.

Kyle Feldscher covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.


Stacey Foley

Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 4:05 p.m.

Check this website for a link to the top charters AND public schools districts in Michigan. <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;sp_id=87</a>


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 6:07 a.m.

Well it's unfortunate that so many people are ignorant about Charter Schools. My son is now going into the NEW Arbor Prep high school and has been in a Charter school by NHA since Kindergarten. My daugther is going into fourth grade and has been in the same Charter school since Kindergarten. They are not a &quot;fleeting&quot; phase. They are a wonderful opportunity to allow my children to succeed academically and surpase the education in &quot;public&quot; schools that they would have missed out on unless I earned enough money to pay for a private school education. The MEAP scores that my children's school have received have not only surpassed the &quot;public&quot; schools but have also passed up the state average in most instances. I think it's ignorant to blame the charters for the failing &quot;public&quot; school system. So are those who don't support Charters saying that I should stick my children in the failing &quot;public&quot; schools just to make a point to push out the Charter schools. Use them regardless of the &quot;crappy&quot; education they receive and who cares if I set them up for success academically because &quot;eventually&quot; the public schools will get a grip and catch on and actually do what's right for the kids and not themselves? No thanks! I would rather not throw my child under the &quot;public&quot; school bus and take the time and effort to do what's in their best interest and put them in a school who's main drive is to educate our future children and set them up for success. I have many friends who have seen the success my children have had and have pulled their children from these failing public schools and tried a charter school for the first time and love it. Their children are learning more than they ever have. Thats coming from a parent who has been involved in Charters for over 9 years with MUCH success.

shadow wilson

Sun, Jul 24, 2011 : 9:03 p.m.

apologies to cette I did not read carefully his/her apology.I sympathize believe me if any of you have kids needing special services. My relatives go back long and far in special ed services in education.The only point I am making is that charters are not demons.

shadow wilson

Mon, Jul 25, 2011 : 5:07 p.m.

It seems Cette that you have had personal frustrations with special ed services.Of course I could be wrong.But if I am not wrong then surely you have had frustration with trad public school special ed as well. I am not a rah rah for charters.I am only saying that they are an attractive alternative to some and that they are not some thieving entity leeching money from trad public schools.Charters are here to stay.Perhaps holding their feet to the fire regarding special ed services is needed.Believe it or not I emphasize and sypathize.


Mon, Jul 25, 2011 : 1:16 a.m.

But they are not innocents.. administrators in the charters are quite familiar with this argument. charters do have those laws on the books, but for special ed to take place, the staff has to want to do it, and charters don't want to and frankly are ill equipped and underfunded to deliver services. What sounded like a good idea, isn't so great.

shadow wilson

Sun, Jul 24, 2011 : 7:54 p.m.

Unfortunately cette has seen fit to call me a shill. And then he/she looked up the word and decided it i fit.However based on cette's information I don't see how it fits.I have never said charters were better than trad public schools. I said they perform on par some do better some do worse. I would simply appreciate some honesty in this debate,Charters are not private schools.Charters are operated under the exact same guidelines of public schools because they are public schools.I challenge anyone to define that as shilling for anything. I also said charters are here to stay.Now some may find that a matter of opinion but evidence is certainly in favor of charters increasing in numbers. I challenge cette and anyone else to show us where charters have defied the law and continue to operate.

shadow wilson

Sun, Jul 24, 2011 : 5:32 p.m.

It is so disappointing to read the dishonesty of those of you that are attempting to discredit charters.I won't waste my time posting again the link to the state of Mi where the laws and regulations of charters are clearly spelled out and coincide with all other public schools in the state. So to those of you that are looking at charters ask parents,teachers and others involved and with ties to charters how they like them and how they think charters compare to trad public schools. If you find them interesting and worth a try go for it; if not trad public schools are still there. And just to reiterate the dishonesty of most of you is disgusting.If you don't like something your tactics are to simply lie about what they (charters) are.Truly disgusting. Keep it up if you like it aint gonna work.Charter schools have increased in number . For those few of you with integrity and honesty here is another link the dishonest ones might as well skip this as you will just continue to lie about this issue <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Sun, Jul 24, 2011 : 5:50 p.m.

There are multiple realities to any given situation. A parent of a special ed child will experience things different events and encounters with schools and schools staff then a parent of a high achievement strongly independent child. , The state of special ed in the state of Michigan is alarming. That's why, what happens with public money is very important. It's not dishonest, what we are saying, it is upsetting, and it is true.


Sun, Jul 24, 2011 : 4:04 p.m.

Best quote regarding charters as seen in the NYTimes, which are publicly financed but independently operated....&quot;With these charter schools, people are trying to say, 'I want a custom-tailored education for my children, and I want you, as my neighbor, to pay for it.' " In the State of MI and in our area, it is a known fact that these schools take money away from public schools, by having students enrolled in their school on count day...taking state money, then those students then enroll back into the regular public schools soon afterwards with no money coming into our schools. Instead of funding schools adequately, consolidating schools via a county-wide school system and eliminating the multiple ISD's our politicians have stuck us with more charters schools with little to no oversight so they can trick people into believing they are custom-tailoring education for children when the truth is they are merely &quot;providing private education&quot; with you, me and our neighbors paying for it. National Heritage and PrepNet are just making money off the taxpayers of Michigan, by providing low quality private education with your public money in tandam with the proponents who want to destroy public education. If parents really cared they would demand that politicians do their job by adequately funding public ed. and eliminating the multiple school districts, Superientendents, and ISD's in this state instead.


Thu, Jul 28, 2011 : 4:16 a.m.

Seriously? I am surprised at your lack of knowledge in regards to National Heritage and PrepNet. Have you ever had a child in one of those schools? It appears not. Your comment about making money off the taxpayers and providing a &quot;low quality PRIVATE education&quot; is ridiculous. First and foremost it's not a &quot;private&quot; education. It's public and free for anyone who wants to go regardless of the district you live in. Second, the money they receive is the same amount that the public school would receive had they been doing &quot;their job&quot;. The rest of the money for extra programs, study guides, school books they GIVE to the kids, summer workbooks, FREE afterschool enrichment, tutoring etc. all come from the Company or College in most cases that decide to CHARTER them. My childs College Charter was Grand Valley State. They recieve a phenominal education. They are excelling in MEAP and other testing above state and district averages. National Heritage is simply a company who manages the charter for the College or Company instead of the politics that public schools go through that isn't working to &quot;help&quot; children. Do you really think that people such as myself got up every morning saying &quot;well let me drive 30 min one way (no buses) to a charter school&quot; instead of going to the public school and taking the bus that is maybe 5-10min from my home? NO I simply wanted a better education for my kids with the ability to be able to &quot;chose&quot; which college they wanted. So to simply sit there and make assumptions that you have no experience in is just well to quote shadow wilson &quot; a serious of blatant untruths&quot; I am simply not willing to wait at my childs expense for the &quot;public&quot; schools to get their crap together. I don't have time for that!

shadow wilson

Sun, Jul 24, 2011 : 7:46 p.m.

your whole post is a series of blatant untruths


Sun, Jul 24, 2011 : 1:36 p.m.

They did not mention IB either. The one taking over the middle school from Ypsi East Side. We dropped out of that one to go to one of the hi schools in Ann Arbor. IB is too structured and once you are in that structure there is no easy way out. Charters are great for those who are more academic and more suited to this type of life. I love charters but also like the hi school ours will attend in September. Tough choices out there.


Sun, Jul 24, 2011 : 1:06 p.m.

Congrats! It is more evident to me every year that the only thing that is going to force a change for the better in our public schools is a stronger accountability with educators and healthy competition. I would love to see more transparency in testing results so parents could further evaluate our educators teaching effectiveness. Public schools can look at themselves and thier reluctance to overhaul a flawed system as a charter school welcome basket.


Sun, Jul 24, 2011 : 12:42 p.m.

What is constant is change, and the idea that charters are here to stay is laughable. They will be the coming educational scandal of the next decade, that's been my prediction. They are a thinly veiled attempt to get around school vouchers, a way to supposedly get private school quality with public money, and it's a scam. Neither private school quality education is being delivered and poor special ed is, and for many schools a company gets to profit off of both problems.


Sun, Jul 24, 2011 : 4:19 p.m.

If it's too good to be true, it probably is. Charters operate with very little accountability, it's very disturbing. Running a private school on public money is a education policy problem that will have to addressed.

shadow wilson

Sun, Jul 24, 2011 : 3:01 p.m.

I am curious why your comment on calling me a shill has not been removed....having said that I can only say having known someone that ran a charter program at a university the crap that you are foisting upon us is almost laughable.......and this is because in case you have not noticed it aint exactly as if public schools are lighting the world on fire. Charters do not perform any better or worse than trad public schools.Charters do offer some qualities that public schools do not. As for charters being here to stay I will take the word of the person I knew who was a nationally recognized and universally respected public education administrator.....charters are here to stay....and finally if any of you think or believe that all trad public schools follow all guidelines and provide all services in a timely manner you are dreaming_ ever heard of advocates?

shadow wilson

Sun, Jul 24, 2011 : 12:14 p.m.

As I said before the c ensors removed my response charters are here to stay. Charters do not out perform traditional public schools but they are here to stay. Charters are required to follow the same laws as any other public school because charters are public schools And just so you all understand there are tens of thousands of charters in the land they are here to stay. The claim that charters have poor accountability is substantiated how? Show us articles, documentation etc etc of this poor accountability. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Sun, Jul 24, 2011 : 4:23 p.m.

shill shill 296 up, 8 down A person engaged in covert advertising. The shill attempts to spread buzz by personally endorsing the product in public forums with the pretense of sincerity, when in fact he is being paid for his services. I looked up the word shill, and I will retract it, and you are not engaged in covert advertising, you're front and center on advertising, and I have no idea if you're being paid for your services. Sorry.


Sun, Jul 24, 2011 : 12:34 p.m.

Oh please, stop being a shill... Poor accountability...let's track how many special ed kids get to stay past the initial 30 days of school in a charter, after the school has charged the state for special ed kids costs, and then lets see how many more services that child will require when it goes back to traditional public education. Let's see how these kids fare when they end up back in the regular school system, what did they learn while in a charter? Real data. How many charters are in regular communication with their local ISD, getting support services for those more needy kids, how many self contained classrooms are those charters running, and what the quality of the support staff?


Sun, Jul 24, 2011 : 12:40 a.m.

two years and all you proponents of Charter Schools will bev raging on them.


Sun, Jul 24, 2011 : 12:04 a.m.

I'm very excited for the new Charter schools and I can't wait to send my daughter there, Kindergarten through 12th grade. I went to Lincoln most of my school years and I'm happy to see them get some kind of competition to make them step up their system. My years there were great until I got to Middle School and then it was terrible. And the things I've heard from recent students almost make me want to homeschool rather than send my daughter there. I think Charter schools have and teach great values to students. Public schools focus too much on sports and other extra curricular activities instead of actual education.


Thu, Jul 28, 2011 : 4:24 a.m.

Quote mmppcc: &quot;This is only because they're compensation and job security is much worse than that offered by public schools.&quot; That is simply amusing. If the traditional public schools have much better teachers since they are paid so much more than why are the schools failing? Think about that. What you don't know is that charters don't simply pay their teachers to be teachers. They have expectations and the teachers get their raises based on parent satisfaction survey's, job performance and the test scores of their students progress. That is how they are measured as a teacher. If public schools did that maybe the schools wouldn't be failing and the children would actually be getting a good education and that's what will bring parents to the school and encourage the children. Don't misunderstand. I don't think that ALL public school teachers are bad. I love teachers. I admire them for the job they do. Don't categorize Charter verses Public school teachers in such a way that you discredit what they do based on how much they are paid.


Sun, Jul 24, 2011 : 1:40 p.m.

Congrats on a great choice. Ours went to a charter for 4 years until Ann Arbor opened up school choice. Then ours went there. There is no way ours will ever set foot inside Willow Run. That system needs to shut down completely. I am also hearing negative things about Lincoln now too. Interesting. Lincoln was a great school. Wondering what has gone wrong there. Good luck with the charter.


Sun, Jul 24, 2011 : 1:39 a.m.

I went to a charter school for High School after doing 9th grade at Lincoln. I know a lot of other families who have chosen charter schools for their children and I've heard of no problems. We all had great experiences when it came to our education and the attitude of the teachers, especially compared to teachers at Lincoln. I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree. As far as team sports are concerned. I just think there is too much money put towards those things that could be put towards other more important parts of the education process. There are other ways of teaching the values of being a team player. I definitely see the advantages of that, I'm just questioning where the focus should really be in educating children for the future.


Sun, Jul 24, 2011 : 1:19 a.m.

Obviously, you never played team sports and learned the values that are instilled in youth. The numbers don't lie when it comes to successes in life for those who participated in team sports. Athletics have nothing to do with the reason so many school districts are in financial narrows. In 10 years, let me know how many of the original teaching staff are still at said schools. I would be willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that it will be &lt;10%.


Sun, Jul 24, 2011 : 12:54 a.m.

There is no evidence that this charter school will be better than Lincoln. Charter schools typically have poor quality teachers compared to public schools. This is only because they're compensation and job security is much worse than that offered by public schools. The best teachers, just like everyone else, follow the money. Think about it. What kind of employees would you get if you paid them less than every other employer for doing the same job? You'd get the left-overs. That is capitalism.


Sun, Jul 24, 2011 : 12:07 a.m.

Let me clarify, they focus too much money on those things...explains why they are broke. Most kids that play sports aren't going to go pro so I don't see the point. Why not just focus on fitness in general?


Sun, Jul 24, 2011 : 12:04 a.m.

Silly Wilson, don't you know that special ed is for public schools? Why, most staff at charters have no idea what a local ISD is, and dontcha know, the real money for special is somewhere else,not at a charter. After all, they are on a shoe string budget.


Sun, Jul 24, 2011 : 1:49 p.m.

Charters get the same federal money for special ed, they would like you not to realize it. They are public entities, and they are missioned with taking care of special ed just like traditional public schools, they just don't want to.


Sun, Jul 24, 2011 : 1:47 p.m.

Special Ed and public ed go hand in hand. They get more federal funding then the charters do. I hate to say it, but charters are more geared towards non special ed population then the special ed population. Depends on what you want and what you expect. Charter schools are on a shoe string budget and don't get much money from the feds as public schools do. I hate to say it but our neighbors child is special ed and was held back twice by their private school. Scary.

shadow wilson

Sat, Jul 23, 2011 : 10:16 p.m.

Charters are here to stay.There is no credibility in demonizing charters. And in fact charters are public schools.If anyone thinks charters are not honoring educational guidelines and laws then they should take recourse.


Sun, Jul 24, 2011 : 12:06 a.m.

There is lots of credibility in demonizing charters. There is poor accountability, there is high student turnover, there is very, very poor delivery of special education service, and very few charters outperform traditional schools. It's just a set of people scamming the system, at the expense of innocent children.


Sat, Jul 23, 2011 : 8:57 p.m.

Yikes, another charter school. Except while they say they take all comers, they don't keep all comers...not everyone is a keeper in these establishments, but yes, they use public money....I'm sorry to see it open, except of course if they started charging tuition, then I would be fine with it.


Sat, Jul 23, 2011 : 9:01 p.m.

The school I sent my son to cost me plenty


Sat, Jul 23, 2011 : 7:29 p.m.

Just what a struggling, depopulating community needs, another half-empty school building. Here's hoping they go out of business as quickly as it took them to eract that warehouse they call a school. If these charter folks took as much time trying to improve established public schools as they do trying to run them out of business, we might actually see some improvement. Stanford University released a study recently that showed only 17% of charter schools out-perform traditional public schools.


Sat, Jul 23, 2011 : 8:29 p.m.

Hmm....I figured the anti-charter school whiners would have come out sooner