In 2003, the Phoenix Charter Academy Network began like any other good idea: on a napkin.
At the time, founder Beth Anderson was working for a local non-profit organization and was appalled by the number of vibrant, talented young people failing to reach their potential. Creative, intelligent teenagers were dropping out of high school and giving up on dreams of college success. Anderson was convinced that the only way to secure hope for these teenagers was to fix the problem at its root: education.
Driven to provide academically rigorous opportunities for high-risk youth, Anderson and other community leaders conceived of a school that would embed intensive supports around a culture of high expectations for older and disconnected youth. It would prove that all teenagers – not just malleable young children or middle schoolers who demonstrate academic mastery – could move past challenging life circumstances and socioeconomic barriers, rise to meet high academic standards, and secure economic stability in their futures when provided with the right educational environment.
Phoenix Charter Academy opened in September of 2006 as a public, charter high school in Chelsea, a low-income community struggling to combat poverty, violence and low graduation rates. Phoenix Chelsea opened with only 75 students and six teachers. Other schools and youth organizations began to notice transformation within students they referred to Phoenix, and the school quickly grew to fill the community’s need. Teenagers facing all kinds of life-altering circumstances were coming to school, achieving academic success, and going to college.
In 2012, Lawrence Public Schools, under takeover from the State Department of Education, commissioned Phoenix Charter Academy to open a public, in-district high school, Phoenix Academy Lawrence, under the mantle of the Lawrence Public Schools. Phoenix Academy Lawrence’s opening in August 2012 marked the inception of the Phoenix Charter Academy Network and the beginning of an expansion plan that is already radically challenging the status quo for students in alternative education settings in Massachusetts. After years of community building in Western Massachusetts, Phoenix Charter Academy Springfield, the Network’s second Commonwealth charter high school and first true replication, opened in early September 2014.
2003 – Founder Beth Anderson receives a fellowship at Building Excellent Schools, an incubator for future charter school leaders, and begins recruiting others who share her vision for Chelsea youth.
2005 – Massachusetts Board of Education approves Phoenix Charter Academy for a five year charter to become a model for alternative education.
2006 – Phoenix Chelsea opens its doors to 75 eager students looking for a fresh start.
2008 – Phoenix Chelsea moves to its present campus in order to serve more students.
2009 – Phoenix Chelsea launches the Phoenix Urban Fellowship program consisting of 10 full-time, live-in tutors. Due to a 24% increase in Math MCAS scores and a 36% increase in ELA MCAS scores, Phoenix Chelsea receives a 3-year AmeriCorps investment in 2010 to expand the Phoenix Fellowship to 17 tutors. Since then, Phoenix AmeriCorps fellows have contributed to a total of 57% and 71% increase, respectively.
2011 – Phoenix Chelsea receives an unconditional 5-year renewal of its charter.
2012 – Phoenix Charter Academy Network agrees to partner with Lawrence Public Schools to open Phoenix Academy Lawrence. In August, Phoenix Lawrence opens its doors to 125 students.
2013 – Phoenix Charter Academy Network is granted a new charter by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The charter is for a high school in Springfield, MA that will open in the fall of 2014.
2014 – Phoenix Charter Academy Springfield opens its doors to 150 students.
2015 – Phoenix Chelsea receives a second unconditional 5-year renewal of its charter.