Part 1: What is Movement School
How can we help more families break the cycle of poverty? And how can we do it in a sustainable, accessible and scalable way?
Those were the questions former NFL tight end and Super Bowl champion Casey Crawford pondered as he retired from football, began building a business and looked for ways to spark positive change in his adopted hometown of Charlotte, N.C.
He found the answers in Movement School, a new public charter school that brings business, education and nonprofit efforts together to make a lasting impact on communities.
Movement School is a groundbreaking cooperative between the Movement Foundation, Sugar Creek Charter School and the state of North Carolina. The result will be a new tuition-free public charter school that will open in 2017 for 300 students in west Charlotte. Crawford’s Movement Foundation is investing $12 million in startup costs for the school; its academic program is being developed from Sugar Creek Charter’s award-winning example; and a North Carolina public school charter is assuring a tuition-free, state-sanctioned education.
It is just the first step in a massive plan to bring the Movement School model to more communities across the U.S. in the years ahead.
Part 2: How it all began
Seeds for the Movement School were planted more than 20 years ago. As a teenager growing up in an affluent Washington, D.C. suburb, Crawford saw first-hand the difference an education made in the life of children.
His father owned a True Value hardware store in a depressed urban neighborhood in the nation’s capitol. Crawford worked summer jobs there and forged friendships with other teens from the neighborhood who worked in the store. He saw stark contrasts in what happened next. Those teens with education opportunities — regardless of their financial or family status — followed healthier paths. Those young men without education fared much worse.
He went on to become an All-ACC tight end for the University of Virginia football team and played for the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, winning a Super Bowl in 2003.
When he launched his business career, Crawford revisited education. He hoped to invest some of his profits in schools that reached underserved children in urban areas. However, his research showed most private mission schools in large cities eventually failed for lack of sustainable funding.
Part 3: Finding answers at Sugar Creek
Crawford says he was intrigued when a friend’s research project suggested private foundations should partner with public charter schools. The reason? Private donations could be used for upfront startup and infrastructure costs while relying on per-student tax dollars to sustain operations.
He immediately began searching for charter schools doing great work that Movement Foundation could support. He found Sugar Creek Charter School in his backyard.
Sugar Creek was founded in 1999 by a cohort of leaders, including former Charlotte mayor Richard Vinroot, to address the needs of children living below the poverty line in northwest Charlotte. Today, it serves 1,500 children preschool through high school and is widely recognized as one of the state’s top-performing charter schools.
Led by principal Cheryl Turner, Sugar Creek focuses on individual instruction and character education, teaching students both academics and life skills. The school’s waiting list is 500 names long.
In 2012, Crawford launched Movement Foundation and chose to help Sugar Creek Charter start its new high school among its early investments. Almost immediately he wanted to do more.
“I call it the Casey multiplication factor,” Turner says. “He just instinctively saw how we can expand and reach more students.”
The vision: Use Movement Foundation’s capital, Sugar Creek’s successful model and Turner’s experience to start another charter school, this time along Freedom Drive.
Part 4: Launching Movement School
In 2015, Movement Foundation acquired a dilapidated shopping center once anchored by a K-Mart store. Plans were drawn to renovate the space and seed Movement School with classroom furniture, technology and other needed items.
Construction began in fall 2016. The total investment is projected to be more than $12 million.
The school is set to open in fall 2017 with 300 students in grades K through 2. An additional grade will be added each year. It will also offer a cafeteria and transportation to school within a five-mile radius.
Its curriculum is modeled on Sugar Creek, meaning a balance of traditional studies and life skills. All students will take character education that cover everything from character traits (like generosity) to global citizenship.
For Crawford, Movement School is about building new hope in young children and encouraging them to reach their full potential. He says once Movement School is well established in Charlotte, he hopes to expand the model to other cities.