Nine Hart Vision Awards Announced at the 22nd Annual California Charter Schools Conference

March 18, 2015

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Contact: Dannie Tillman
(213) 924-2439

(Sacramento, California) - Nine inspiring and exceptional leaders and advocates in the charter school movement received a prestigious Hart Vision Award at the 22nd Annual California Charter Schools Conference, held from March 16-19, 2015 in Sacramento. Hosted by the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), the four-day annual conference whose theme "One Movement, Many Voices," drew 2,500+ diverse members of the charter movement to the largest state charter school conference in the country.

The Hart Vision Awards were established in 1995 in honor of Gary K. Hart, retired California State Senator and former California Secretary of Education. While serving as state senator, Hart sponsored the legislation that established California charter schools. The goals of the Hart Vision Awards are to annually recognize and honor individuals who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and excellence in education. The 2015 Hart Vision Awards were presented during the event's plenary sessions:


Charter School of the Year:

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Camino Nuevo Charter Academy (CNCA) celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. CCSA Board Member Ana Ponce, a devoted charter school movement advocate for CNCA and all charter schools, serves as CEO of CNCA. CNCA is a community of high-performing public schools that utilizes a comprehensive approach to prepare students from preschool through high school for success in college and in life. Staff at CNCA uses academic rigor, experiential and hands on learning, continuum of care and wellness and an emphasis on family to empower students to thrive in a culturally connected and changing world. Not only is CNCA student focused, but also community centered by working to strengthen its local neighborhoods. CNCA's leadership is also very adept at securing facilities and building positive relationships with its authorizer, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and is one of the pioneering organizations involved in LAUSD's Public School Choice (PSC) program.

Elected Official of the Year:

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Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen (R - Modesto) has a reputation for being an approachable and responsive leader who works beyond partisan politics to find realistic solutions to district and statewide challenges. She is a strong advocate for choices in education, and has successfully passed measures to help charters with their facilities funding needs. Last year, she was unanimously chosen by her colleagues to serve as the Assembly Republican Leader, and has made education reform a top priority for the Caucus.

Elected Official of the Year:

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Assemblymember Marc Levine (D - San Rafael) was elected to the Assembly in 2012 and represents Marin and Sonoma Counties. Levine has authored legislation on blended learning and supported other legislation to make the K-12 system more effective for California children. He has toured several charter schools and has first-hand knowledge about charter schools and the communities we serve.

Teacher of the Year:

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Genein Letford is one of the founding 3rd grade teachers at NEW Academy Canoga Park, where she discovered the power of using music to help teach vocabulary and academic concepts to her students. As a celebrated advocate for music education, Letford now serves as the music director and has created a dynamic award winning music curriculum that not only teaches music standards but also incorporates corresponding math, science, language arts, geography and social studies concepts for whole student learning. She also helps to empower teachers to incorporate the arts into their classroom one lesson at a time. In 2009, Letford began the Music For All: Instrument Scholarship Fund, which awards low-income students with instruments for their ongoing music education. She was also a finalist for the Bravo Arts Educator Award and was also awarded the National Sontag Prize in Urban Education in 2010.

Volunteer of the Year:

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Enrique Esparza and Maritza Leal from Redwood City, CA are dedicated advocates for children and committed parents. Devoting countless hours of community service, they along with a group of parent leaders with Innovate Public Schools initiated and led a powerful effort for more than two years to bring new high-quality school options to Redwood City. In response to these efforts, more than 300 parents came out to successfully urge the local school board to unanimously approve the fall 2015 opening of KIPP and Rocketship charter schools.


Charter School of the Year:

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John Muir Charter School's founders and leaders in Sacramento go beyond advocating for students and the charter school movement by uniquely leveraging legislative opportunities to operate dozens of schools across the state. They foster a positive authorizing relationship with one authorizer and are thereby able to serve thousands of students in unique and creative ways. Students are provided the opportunity to earn a high school diploma while working with California Conservation Corps, Local Conservation Corps, YouthBuild and Workforce Investment Acts sites around the state, doing exciting and valuable work for the community. Young women and men in the Corps between the ages of 16-25 work hard protecting and restoring California's environment and responding to disasters, while earning their diploma and a paycheck, learning vocational, life and leadership skills and helping to improve their community.

School Leader of the Year:

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Judy Burton is founding president and CEO of Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, the largest nonprofit charter organization in Los Angeles, comprised of 26 free, charter public high schools and middle schools serving 11,000 low-income students. Burton, who hails from the community her schools serve, has successfully impacted at-risk students through best practices in leadership development, teacher professional development and parent community engagement. Burton has created and replicated some of the highest performing and renowned charter schools in the state. She is also successful at building relationships locally, at the state level and nationally and has served as a key leader on many education reform efforts at the school, district and charter school movement levels throughout her distinguished career. Burton has also led the acquisition, renovation, and construction of 15 permanent school sites for Alliance schools. She serves on CCSA's Board of Directors. Claremont University awarded Burton an honorary Doctorate of Education Degree in 2011.

Supporter of the Year:

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John Fisher is a longtime supporter of efforts to expand educational opportunity for underserved students in his home state of California. Fisher continues his family's legacy of supporting the growth of high quality public charter schools through his family's foundation, the Doris & Donald Fisher Fund, and serves as a leader within the philanthropic community helping to secure broader support for the unique charter school growth opportunities emerging in California. Fisher also serves as chair of the boards of directors of the KIPP Foundation, the Charter School Growth Fund and the Silicon Schools Fund.

Speakers and Program:

Jed Wallace, CCSA president and CEO and Amanda Ripley, investigative journalist and best-selling author presented keynote addresses at the event. Juan Williams, FOX News political analyst and best-selling author, moderated a panel entitled, "How Do Charter Schools Address the Vision of Brown v. Board?" In addition to 150+ breakout sessions, 50+ poster sessions and 230+ exhibiting companies, the conference also offered a special programming strand exploring the impact of the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. Pre-conference programming as well as tours of several Sacramento charter schools. Learn more about the event.

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About the California Charter Schools Association

The California Charter Schools Association's vision is to increase student learning by growing the number of families choosing high quality charter public schools so that no child is denied the right to a great public education. Our mission is to ensure a million students attend charter public schools by 2022, with charter public schools outperforming non-charter public schools on every measure. We do this by serving as the advocacy organization that builds the policy environment needed to grow as quickly as possible the number of students attending high quality charter public schools. For more information, please visit our website at