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Posted on Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 6 a.m.

National Heritage Academies, affiliate plan charter high school, K-8 school in Ypsilanti Township

By Kyle Feldscher

Charter school operator National Heritage Academies and affiliated company PrepNet hope to open a charter high school and K-8 school in Ypsilanti Township in time for the coming school year.

The companies propose to build the schools at the intersection of Merritt and Hitchingham Roads.


Students sing around an indoor "campfire" at South Arbor Charter Academy in Augusta Township. South Arbor is one of two National Heritage Academy schools in the Ypsilanti area.

File photo

National Heritage Academies, which operates 40 charter schools throughout the state and 67 schools around the country, is applying for authorization of a K-8 charter school on the site. PrepNet, which operates two Grand Rapids-area high schools, is applying for charter high school authorization, officials confirmed this week. Several K-8 NHA schools serve as feeder schools for PrepNet's west Michigan schools, and the company was founded by NHA founder J.C. Huizenga.

The new high school would be called Arbor Prep. Dave Angerer, executive principal of PrepNet, said the company's research has shown demand exists in the Ypsilanti area for a school similar to the two west Michigan schools.

A charter school is a public school operating under a charter contract issued by a public  authorizing body, which can be a university, local school district, intermediate school district or community college. Charter schools do not charge tuition.

In order to start a charter school, organizers must draft a charter and apply to an authorizer. It's not clear who the authorizer of the two schools would be.

Joe DiBenedetto, a spokesperson for NHA and PrepNet, said the applications are due at the end of January. The review process generally takes a few months and if everything goes according to plan, the schools would be open for the coming school year.

NHA currently operates two charter schools in Ypsilanti — Fortis Academy and South Arbor Charter Academy.

PrepNet operates Grand River Preparatory High School and Wellspring Preparatory High School in Grand Rapids.

The proposed location for the school is on the border of the Ypsilanti Public Schools and Lincoln Consolidated Schools districts.

Lincoln Superintendent Lynn Cleary said she’s not too sure what effect the proposed schools will have on the district, but she’s confident in the district’s ability to retain students.

She pointed to the Washtenaw Intermediate School District’s International Baccalaureate and Widening Advancement for Youth programs in which the district is participating as reasons parents would keep their children in Lincoln schools.

The International Baccalaureate Program offers students a standardized curriculum aimed at helping students succeed in the interconnected, globalized world. It's a program offered in schools around the world.

The WAY or Widening Advancement for Youth program is a project-based learning system for students who have dropped out of school, are at risk of dropping out or aren't on track to graduate.

“We’re all about kids here. We have a great community here,” she said. “I don’t know if charter schools are going to be able to offer that. The arts and music programs here are second to none.”

Cleary said Lincoln school board President Kim Samuelson has been hearing from parents about the proposed schools. Many of them have not been happy about the proposed schools’ proximity to the district. She said she anticipates losing some students to the new schools if they are opened, but said the district will always welcome them back.

Ypsilanti Superintendent Dedrick Martin said the district will not change its strategy because of the proposed schools.

He said the district's New Tech High School, which follows a national model of project-based learning with an emphasis on technology, gives students an option for 21st-century learning. A planned redesign of Ypsilanti High School will result in a “vastly improved educational vehicle for all students.”

“I am confident that when we complete the redesign process we will have a stronger, more competitive comprehensive high school that will retain and continue to draw students under the Schools of Choice program,” he said.

Ann Arbor Public Schools spokeswoman Liz Margolis said she was not aware of the proposed charter schools because they will not be within AAPS’ boundaries. However, she said the eastern side of the district has lost students to Ypsilanti area districts through the state's Schools of Choice program and said that the district is be aware of the competition for area students.

She said the district is confident its high school curriculum is strong enough to retain students.

“We feel very strongly about what the curriculum is at the high school level (in Ann Arbor) and we traditionally gain students back in high school,” she said. “We know there are people that are looking for alternatives … we lose kids to charters but then get them back, we see that routine a lot.”

View Proposed charter schools in a larger map Kyle Feldscher covers K-12 education for He can be reached at



Tue, Jan 25, 2011 : 11:19 p.m.

From the Myth of Charter Schools by Diane Ravitch: The CREDO study, a national study of charter schools by Stanford economist Margaret Raymond evaluated student progress on math tests in half the nation's five thousand charter schools and concluded that 17 percent were superior to a matched traditional public school; 37 percent were worse than the public school; and the remaining 46 percent had academic gains no different from that of a similar public school. The proportion of charters that get amazing results is far smaller than 17 percent.


Sun, Jan 23, 2011 : 3:47 p.m.

Charter schools have their place. Parents want the best environment for their kids to learn, sometime that includes segregating them from the bad apples in their school district. People with enough income do this buy living in wealthier school districts or by sending your kids to private schools. This dilemma causes problems for politicians who want help the poor and at the same time keep the teachers unions happy.

Tony Livingston

Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 9:35 p.m.

We had experience with a local charter school, too. They had some racial diversity, but very little economic diversity. The kids had to be driven to school so that blocked out any family that was not able to do that. Essentially, kids there were from families that were very involved in their education. Even so, their test scores were no better than AAPS who has many poor and poorly educated families as well as many families from non-english speaking homes. I am not saying charters are good or bad. But there is a definite segregation that does occur between many charter schools and the local traditional public schools.

average joe

Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 1:35 a.m.

Lynel- I believe that Tammy was trying to point out that all kids are eligible to be enrolled in a charter. It will be more effort on the parent's part, just like transportation to & from school, and maybe providing a lunch, etc. They may have to even be INVOLVED in their child's education, which in a perfect world, would be among many other commitments required before they became parents. Educating our future is a joint venture between the school & the parents, and is only effective when all parties are pulling equally. This is why the charters are possibly more sucessful.

Heidi Hess Saxton

Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 1:42 p.m.

Hot lunch is also available -- including free and reduced lunch for financially disadvantaged families. There is no question, parents have to be more involved. But study after study has shown a direct correlation between parent involvement and student success.


Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 12:46 a.m.

Tammy, parents have a bit more to do than justnsign them up for the lottery. They also have to be able to provide daily transportation to and from school.

Heidi Hess Saxton

Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 1:40 p.m.

Many parents carpool.

Tammy Mayrend

Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 10:58 p.m.

The thing with charter schools is that there is a lottery to get in and EVERYONE has a chance for enrollment. It just takes more effort on the part of the parents to put your child there because you have to physically sign up for the lottery. My son's classes have included children from every religion and multiple ethnicities. We have children that are struggling to learn, just like any other school, and those children are helped through early intervention to help them to excel. My child has also been taught about many cultures and beliefs. He is being molded to remember good manners, to be kind to others and to follow a good moral compass. Is this Christianity? Yes, it also follows many other spiritual paths. Yes, the schools do push the testing and reading, and they do wear a moderated uniform, but the teachers (and support staff) are very involved with our families to help them be the best. Will everyone like everything about a charter school? Probably not, but it certainly is an option for many families. I would have been involved with my children no matter where they were, but choose to try to go the route with the charter schools hoping that we'd end up in an environment where most of the parents help their children excel. And that is where we are. If given options, I will always fight for the best environments for my children, and hope that what they have learned will shape the person they will become. I'm just glad Michigan has allowed for charter schools as a non-tuition option for families.


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 9:55 p.m.

I'm thrilled to see two charter hi schools coming to Washtenaw county. Mine has been in charter until we pulled ours into an Ann Arbor school. Wish we stayed with Fortis. Great school but we were more worried about hi school then anything else. I much prefer charters over public and am glad to see charters giving public a run for its money. The only reason charters are so successful? Is because they have no overhead union fees, dues and costs. So we really need to think about why public is having problems. Right?


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 9:36 p.m.

there are plenty of smart poor kids, they just need the right environment. While wealth and bad parenting are huge factors in a kid's performance, bad management and bad teaching are also huge factors. Watching the Hope Jackson fiasco certainly sheds some light on how the willow Run Schools are being led. When you have a bell curve with ZERO people at advanced levels and 80% of the children not meeting basic proficiency, you have a systemic school problem. I refuse to put the blame on the children, they are innocents.

Sandy Castle

Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 9:58 p.m.

This is absolutely true. None of us appear to know how to fix it not even the people paid the big bucks in administration. The big question is, should we leave our children in those poorly performing schools? I don't believe so. Our kids have a limited amount of time to get the education they need to move forward in life and we don't have time to wait for the answer to the district's problems. Especially when the problems were going on long before the current economic problems. The Ypsilanti schools have always been alot of talk, but it never translates into successful action.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 7:03 p.m.

Braggslaw wrote: "1. Not one student from Willow Run achieved advanced status in Math or Reading. One Student achieved advanced status in Science. 2. Ypsilanti had 10 students classified as advanced in Math, 3 in reading, and 6 in Science. 3. Lincold had 12,5 and 10. In contrast Pioneer, Huron, and Saline had literally hundreds classifed as advanced in each subject. With around 40% (268 out of 682) students classified as advanced in math. Salin [sic] had only 413 studens and Huron had 455 students tested." Are these statistics the product of the schools or of the students' and their families' socio-economic circumstance? Or might there be other factors? Can you even begin to answer these questions? Good Night and Good Luck


Sun, Jan 23, 2011 : 1:25 p.m.

You are what your record says you are. Losers always have excuses.


Sun, Jan 23, 2011 : 1:55 a.m.

Right on Murrow. Let's try these stats...<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Tony Livingston

Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 9:29 p.m.

My kids are in AAPS and I would agree with you. There are a lot of parents that give their children every possible advantage in school. It is actually one of things I dislike about Ann Arbor. If the same curriculum and teachers were downriver, the result would be completely different. The private resources that Ann Arbor students are getting at home are unbelieveable and that absolutely is critical to the results. Yes, the schools do a good job. But they have a lot of students from very high achieving families to work with.


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 6:37 p.m.

My kids spent 10 years in the NHS system. I never felt as though they were being taught anything that was religiously driven. There were and are many minority students there. My reason for leaving that system was that there was a single minded focus on standardized testing and the bragging rights of those results. Yes, they learned and had to study very hard. No they were not allowed to bend the rules. There was limited athletics (coached mostly by volunteer parents) and minimal band (led by a fantastic instructor Mr. M). The teachers work their tales off to keep the parents happy. The admin does a nice job of balancing the books and pushing test scores. My view is that any school could be successful with the amount of parent involvement that we had. No busses = forced involvement. For those opposed to these types of schools, get involved in your kids' school to make it a success or shut up.

Heidi Hess Saxton

Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 1:39 p.m.

You tell 'em!


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 6:31 p.m.

emu2009, That is NOT true. They do not have all the requirements that public schools do, and they DO expel kids for discipline issues who end up back in the public schools.


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 6:42 p.m.

And the public schools expel kids too! There is a code of conduct that all schools post. In AAPS it used to get you transferred to a different school like Roberto Clemente if you were labelled as a problem.


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 5:55 p.m.

As soon as Public Schools get back to having standards more people might support them. To much time is spent on issues that should be taught at home...manners, respect, how to dress etc...From K-12 these are all CHILDREN and should be treated as such. Unless the children are paying the taxes the adults will make the decisions. Focus on education and accountability for students and teachers.

Peter Eckstein

Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 5:26 p.m.

The Wall Street Journal article on National Heritage Academies is enlightening. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> I am disturbed at the notion that the story of Adam and Eve might be taught in a publicly-funded school. I think children might well be exposed to that among a variety of creation myths--Greek, Navaho, etc. But there is only one story of human origins that has any place in a scientific curriculum. That is evolution, as pioneered by Darwin and confirmed and fleshed out by a century and a half of scientific study. If God created Adam in his own image, why did he give Adam and his desendents DNA that is more than 99% identical with that of chimpanzees? The churches are, and should be, perfectly free to teach Adam and Eve, but public school science programs should teach the truth of evolution.


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 8:04 p.m.

The article is interesting as it provides some background; it took me a few minutes to also notice that it is over 10 years old.

Glen S.

Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 5:16 p.m.

... to be fully engaged in this regard. I have to wonder: Is this what we really want? Is this what is best for our kids and our community? Likewise, once we reach the point where most parents &quot;with means&quot; opt out of the public schools, will voters still be willing to support them by voting for school millages and being involved in school board elections, etc.? If not, who will be there to look out for the kids who need our help and support the most?

Glen S.

Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 5:12 p.m.

Although the result of many, individual decisions, it appears that what we are developing locally is a dual educational system: 1.) A collection of private and charter schools that serve mostly white, middle-and upper-middle class students and the families who have the extra time, money and inclination to assure their kids get high test scores and successfully master college entrance requirements, and: 2.) What is viewed by many as an increasingly second-tier public school system, charged with serving mostly low-income, minority and special-needs children, and those from families who lack the understanding or resources to be

Heidi Hess Saxton

Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 1:36 p.m.

Have you actually BEEN to a charter school? Seen the large number of minority and economically disadvantaged students? You're making a lot of assumptions here in the first paragraph that don't mesh with the facts.


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 4:41 p.m.

@Patti and Ben, Charter schools are required to make available their budgets, hire highly qualified teachers, provide the same services a public school provides i.e. special education etc. In some cases their scores are better than the public schools and they can offer some things that public schools can't such as foreign language in elementary school, and smaller class sizes. Smaller class sizes can make a world of difference for some kids.


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 3:53 p.m.

Some interesting MME data from the State Website 1. Not one student from Willow Run achieved advanced status in Math or Reading. One Student achieved advanced status in Science. 2. Ypsilanti had 10 students classified as advanced in Math, 3 in reading, and 6 in Science. 3. Lincold had 12,5 and 10. In contrast Pioneer, Huron, and Saline had literally hundreds classifed as advanced in each subject. With around 40% (268 out of 682) students classified as advanced in math. Salin had only 413 studens and Huron had 455 students tested. There is a wealth issue and a parenting issue that should be taken into consideration, BUT the abysmal failure of the Ypsi, Lincoln and Willow Run schools means that your kids are bascially statistically doomed if they attend those schools.


Sun, Jan 23, 2011 : 1:51 a.m.

braggslaw - My &quot;statistically doomed&quot; kids at Lincoln have an excellent GPA and will likely be NHA material when they get to LHS. Likewise for many of their friends. I also know of several MD's, PHD's, etc that went to LHS. Check where the VP of HR at Ford got her high school diploma. You're stats are very misleading!

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 6:58 p.m.

Are these statistics the product of the schools or of the students' and their families' socio-economic circumstance? Or might there be other factors? Can you even begin to answer these questions? Good Night and Good Luck


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 3:22 p.m.

Parents are the best arbiters of a school because they care the most about their child. (not an administrator or teacher's union). Parents and their children should be able to vote with their feet. Bad schools die and good schools thrive. With reference to special education, parents with special needs children should also have the right to choose. If I feel my kid is not getting what he/she needs out of a school, I want to pull my kid. I am against the public school monopoly.


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 3:18 p.m.

I love the fact that there are charter schools for our kids to go to, the public schools are failing, these are public schools too but they have a better quality of education, I would think that new charter schools coming to the Ypsilanti area would make the Ypsilanti public schools open their eyes and make some huge changes to their k-8 grades because that is where all the learning takes place, if the way you are teaching the kids in k-8 fails then the kids will fail in high school and so on and so on.


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 3:16 p.m.

Ypsi is ranked in the bottom 20% of school districts in Michigan. 476 out of 582 Willow run is ranked 524 out of 528 Lincoln is ranked 411 out of 528 Basically these three school systems are to put it gently ... not good. Parents should have a choice.

Emma B

Sun, Jan 23, 2011 : 4:20 p.m.

As a current UM student who spent the first 8 years of her education in the Willow Run district not too long ago, I know my parents would have LOVED a charter option then. We moved out of the district and my parents have been commuting back to Ypsi ever since. The quality of education in the Willow Run district is really just plain poor at times-- I spent a good two years playing catch-up in the Chelsea school district and it wasn't for my lack of intelligence or poor family background. Even my peers who came from less fortunate backgrounds were being stifled intellectually and not challenged in the slightest. Plain and simple, Willow Run was just behind. Of course, I did have a couple teachers that were quite good and I was VERY fortunate to have classes with them, but not everyone was so lucky. I hope that competition helps improve districts like Willow Run, for everyone's sake.


Sun, Jan 23, 2011 : 1:40 a.m.

braggslaw - I hope you realize that socio-economic factors influence test scores far more than a schools ability to teach or any other factors. This is fact, not opinion. If you're judging schools by test scores alone then you are very short-sighted.

joe golder

Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 4:47 p.m.

thanks for the stats.

Patti Smith

Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 3:10 p.m.

Soooo, is this one of the charter schools that gives its teachers scripts to read from? Or do teachers get to actually speak their own words? Will special education students be accepted (and by &quot;accepted&quot;, I mean still allowed in after Count Day)? Will special education teachers be certified *in special education*? Will we get to see how much of our *public* money will be paid to teachers vs. administration vs. CEO or board of directors or whatever they call them?


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 3:03 p.m.

This is not an attack, How about you do a story on how Charter Schools can &quot;expel&quot; kids from their program, and how they end up right back in Public Schools, after they have received their State Funds for the year. How many kids don't cut it at Charter School for behavior problems and end up back in public schools, where everyone gets educated. You want to compare apples to apples, have the Charter Schools required to provide ALL the services that public schools are required to provide, with the SAME population of kids, and then we can talk about it.

Tony Livingston

Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 3:59 p.m.

I would agree that this is true about charter schools. My kids attended a charter in grade school and one was allowed to get waaaaaay behind. Turns out there was a learning disability that they did not diagnose because they did not have the proper procedures or staff in place. But, there were good things too that we don't find in AAPS. The number one reason that I hear for choosing charters is smaller and more personal environments. This is especially important to parents in grade school.


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

There is nothing wrong with choice. Why should kids be doomed to attend Ypsi or Willow Run Schools? A parent now has another option.


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 1:50 p.m.

It is true that AAPS high schools do have a very strong curriculum and a huge variety of extra curricular activities and electives. But in general, their sports and music programs are very competitive and hard for kids that haven't had private training to get into. I think that is the draw for smaller, more personal high schools. It doesn't do any good to go to a school with great programs if you can't get into it. I think a school like the one proposed here would be very appealing. But, this one will be pretty far away for most Ann Arborites.


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 1:31 p.m.

"We feel very strongly about what the curriculum is at the high school level (in Ann Arbor) and we traditionally gain students back in high school," she said. "We know there are people that are looking for alternatives … we lose kids to charters but then get them back, we see that routine a lot." So Liz Margolis knows the weak elementary program is the reason so many kids go private/charter and then come back for high school? I thought she didn't realize this. Now I feel even worse because she seems content with the situation.


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 1:27 p.m.

The notice as well as a very detailed site plan of the facilities can be viewed here: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 12:52 p.m.

As homeschoolers researching our high school options we are very excited to have a new option. Sign us up.


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 12:48 p.m.

Is this location just down the road from a current Lincoln elementary school, or am I confused? Can anyone clarify? I think a charter HS is a great idea - there's a need for that, with so many area charter schools that are K-8 only.


Sun, Jan 23, 2011 : 1:42 a.m.

It's just down the road from Childs Elementary, an excellent school.


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 12:38 p.m.

Glen S. the National Heritage Schools plan for a High School is a PUBLIC school. It is paid for by our tax dollars and yes is direct competition to the same schools we finance with our tax dollars, ironic eh? This is what they call &quot;competition&quot;...supposed to improve quality... The NHS also are largely Christian too...

Heidi Hess Saxton

Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 1:21 p.m.

While there are many Christian families who attend, NHS schools focus on the &quot;global virtues&quot; recognized and respected by all cultures and faiths: integrity, compassion, perseverence, wisdom, gratitude, etc. It is a PUBLIC school, which means that religion is not taught in the classroom.

Tammy Mayrend

Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 12:32 p.m.

As a parent of a South Arbor student (who will next year have two students there) and one who is in close proximity of the new school campus, I couldn't be more thrilled. We have years yet before high school yet I am already considering where my children will be when that time comes. We will choose school of choice options and now likely look to the charter high school before choosing local options. As a resident my biggest concern is the traffic at several intersections, that would lead to the school campus, are already busy and accident prone. That is something that needs to be addressed!

average joe

Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 12:25 p.m.

@ my 1st post- My bad.. I missed the point about the PrepNet HS- need more coffee. I see the term heritage accademy &amp; think K-8. But it is interesting that the three districts' responses are directed at the HS students. Does that mean they have conceded that Heritage is doing a better job of educating elementary students??


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 12:10 p.m.

Good for NHA. Our daughter went to South Arbor. Then she went to Milan High School because it was school of choice. We were very happy with South Arbor and wished that they had a high school program. I know that schools of choice and charters are not liked by so many but when you need something different/better for your child there are options. I agree with Glen S. first statement, why new building. It would be wonderful if NAH or Prepnet could use building already in place. Although some local schools lose funding because parents choose charter school, this schools could/may be hiring this layed off staff. Yes there are some flaws with charter schools, but it needs to be an option. And by the way our daughter came from an Ann Arbor public school.

average joe

Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 12:04 p.m.

The &quot;reasons&quot; Ms. Cleary gives for students to stay enrolled at Lincoln, (IB &amp; WAY) are for middle/high school students, while the proposed school is K-8. Not in any way a direct reason to stay at Lincoln over Heritage. And, the students at South Arbor(another Heritage school) on Carpenter placed in the top ten elementary schools in the STATE on recent achievement tests.


Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 12:29 a.m.

I doubt that

Glen S.

Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 11:36 a.m.

At a time when local public school districts are cutting back, laying off, and have many empty buildings in the area -- why the need to build two new facilities on empty land at the edge of our area's sprawl boundary? Better yet, why the need for these new private schools at all? Just imagine how much better our local public schools COULD be if the investment in all these new private, charter schools and &quot;academies,&quot; etc.. (construction, staffing, state funding, parental involvement) were instead invested in our struggling public schools?


Sun, Jan 23, 2011 : 1:20 p.m.

What makes you believe that &quot;struggling public schools&quot; would spend any additional investment any better than they have spend the money that they have already received? They have proven that they are inept. Why not give someone else a chance?


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 11:23 a.m.

&gt;&gt; not been happy about the proposed schools' proximity to the district. Are you kidding? The people that I know in the township are jumping for joy. I specifically remember when Lincoln decided to close Bessie-Hoffman yet not sell the property. The response from the super was that if we sold the building, most likely a charter would purchase the property. By not selling the property to a charter, it helps prevent competition. How is that plan working out? 5 miles away vs 1/2 mile away. It's nice to see that there is yet another option that is focused on more than creating hair dressers and fry cooks.