Faces of Choice
The diverse and growing
Missouri movement to create
better school options
CEAM by the Numbers 2018-19
700 Students rallying in Jefferson
City for school choice
Followers Unique people saw CEAM content
5,462 30,868 14 10
2,322 Parents testified in Parent/student advocate
committee hearings trips to the capitol
Emails sent to legislators asking
for school choice
CEAM statistics from January 1, 2018 through March 31, 2019
Since 2013, CEAM has facilitated
49,465 66,537 804 291
Calls made to raise Doors knocked on Parents trained
awareness of through canvasing Testimonies
school choice gathered
CEAM believes that we have the power to help change the system and make the
dream of a high-quality education a reality for every student in the state.
To learn more and get involved visit CEAMTEAM.ORG today!
have changed and are
changing the trajectory
of our children. They
have to. They are all we
St. Louis City
Carmen Ward’s son Paul is currently a junior at KIPP High School
and has been at KIPP since the 5th grade.
Paul was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 5. He left private
school and entered the St. Louis public school system in the 1st grade.
Paul went to several elementary schools but had challenges at each
school because he was in a self-contained
classroom. He began to mimic the behavior of Watch
his peers and began to regress. Carmen
Then Carmen became aware of charter
schools. Paul ended up at KIPP Academy in
the 2013-14 school year. When Paul arrived he
was performing below his age level and didn’t
have a suitable IEP to meet his educational,
social and emotional goals. KIPP advocated for
Paul, pushed Paul, encouraged Paul, nurtured
his gifts and found resources deep within him
that he didn’t know existed nor did Carmen.
Today Paul is a founding junior at KIPP
high school. He has one special friend and a strong family support
system at KIPP. His reading has improved beyond Carmen’s
expectations and she is seeing drastic improvements in his basic
Carmen has become a major advocate for reimagining education
in Missouri, testifying before multiple committees in Jefferson City,
rallying members of her community in north St. Louis, and putting a
face on the benefits of charter schools in statewide media.
Becki Uccello has been a public school teacher for 23 years. Her
daughter Izzi attended the early intervention program at their local
public elementary school for three years. They moved into that particular
neighborhood because they knew that the elementary school was highly
rated as far as attendance rates and standardized test scores.
At their first parent/teacher conference, Izzi’s kindergarten teacher
immediately told them that Izzi was an “academic failure.” Izzi was
separated from her peers, could not sit with her classmates at lunch
and the playground was not wheelchair accessible.
Izzi is a highly social child and continually being Watch
separated from her peers was taking its toll. Becki
So the Uccellos enrolled Izzie in a private school
even though it meant taking on three part time
jobs to afford tuition.
“It was the best decision we made,” said Becki.
Izzi is now in third grade. She continues to thrive
in her class. She is with her classmates 100% of
the day. The tables in the dining room are round,
so she can sit wherever she wants. The playground
area is accessible. She plays with her peers.
“I am not anti public school,” said Becki. “I have
been teaching in a public school for 23 years. Our son attends public high
school and is a member of its JROTC’s nationally ranked rifle team. But
until public schools intentionally practice inclusion, we continue to support
“Our local public school
system failed our
the private school
system includes her and
encourages her success.”
“No one cares more about the
children than their parents.
School choice is paramount
in Missouri for all families,
because parents need other
options than being forced into a
system that doesn’t work simply
because of where they live.”
St. Louis County
Lisa Smith has been fighting for the best education for her two
children for many years. Her journey began when her son was abused
by other students and locked alone in his Riverview Gardens school
as a Kindergartener. When Lisa tried to get involved in her school to
make positive changes, the district decided to ban her from any school
property, forcing Lisa to seek better alternatives for her children.
Lisa’s children found better schools in the Mehlville school district through
the transfer program (a program that helped
Normandy and Riverview Gardens students escape Watch
those unaccredited districts to better performing Lisa
districts in the St. Louis region).
While Lisa’s children have excelled in the
Mehlville schools, Lisa knew that it was a short-
term fix to the problem and wanted to make
sure that other students would also have more
options. This dedication has led Lisa to spend
years visiting Jefferson City and advocating for
a wide-range of school choice measures including
the expansion of charter schools and the creation
of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts.
When the transfer program ended and Lisa was forced to send her
children back to Riverview Gardens, she was able to take advantage of
the one school choice program Missouri has passed -- virtual education.
Today her children are enrolled in the Riverview Gardens School
District, but taking classes from the safety of their home through a
variety of virtual education providers.
“Teaching at a charter
school allows you to
rediscover the joy of
teaching. This is the first
time in my career where
I wake up feeling really
excited to go to school.”
Mikael Spears is a teacher at Kansas City International
Academy, a charter school in Kansas City.
He spent ten years teaching in traditional district
schools and learned that the bureaucracy of that system
made it really hard to teach, noting that
even something as simple as reading a
book to a student required unnecessary Watch
levels of red tape. Mikael
When Mikael moved to a charter
school he found a completely different
environment, one where he could grow
and fully utilize his knowledge to have a
real impact on his students.
“If you are with a public school
system and you feel like you are being
micromanaged or you feel like you are
being put in a box and you are not able to express yourself
through your technique or your craft,” he said, “this is the
perfect place to come and be yourself and have fun at your
“Education is the new
frontier. It is what can
change every community.
The more you learn the
more you can do and
St. Louis City
Robert, a Normandy student with autism, faced
relentless bullying for years resulting in a miserable
school experience. When his family had the chance to
transfer Robert to a safer school in the Francis Howell
School District (as a result of a
Missouri law that grants students in
unaccredited school districts the right Watch
to transfer to neighboring, higher Robert
performing schools) the welcoming
environment he found there renewed
his spirit and zest for learning.
His father Paul, a single parent,
went to extraordinary lengths to make
sure that Robert could continue his
education at a quality school.
As a result of being given the chance to choose a better
school, Robert is now attending Washington University on
a full scholarship.
Robert’s opportunity came about at just the right time
for him, while many other Missouri students remain
trapped in schools that do not benefit their needs.
changed my life, my
children’s life and have
just made everything so
Stephanie Ross has two children who have benefited
from access to charter schools in the Kansas City area.
Her first daughter is at Mizzou and her second daughter
found a new academic life at Hogan Prep Academy.
Stephanie said her second daughter
was struggling in school and may not
have graduated if she had not moved Watch
to a charter school and gotten an IEP Stephanie
that really helped to turn her future
Her daughter had been denied an
IEP twice when she was in district
schools, with school staff saying that
she just had behavior problems. But
when she moved to a charter school
she was included and soon found
herself on the AB Honor Roll.
After seeing how having educational options has
changed her daughters’ lives, Stephanie says she would
move to have better options if she had to.
“School choice is the way to go,” she said.
“It has been proven the
Saint Louis Metropolitan
area has had failing
schools and districts often
giving parents no choice
on what type educational
instruction their children
St. Louis City
Del-Rio’s daughter was severely bullied at her
neighborhood school. When she and her daughter
addressed concerns with their school they experienced
retaliation including being banned form the school and
retaliation against her daughter by school officials.
Her daughter’s experience was covered in the local news
and Del-Rio has made multiple attempts to get help from
administrators at the St. Louis Public Schools, going so
far as to hold a rally outside of the main administration
Eventually, Del-Rio decided to remove her daughter
from the school to home school.
Del-Rio is still seeking justice from
her school district but understands Watch
that passing an Empowerment Del-Rio
Scholarship Account bill could not only
give her daughter a private school
option but also help the many other
families in similar situations where
their local public school option has
failed their children.
“When he (my son) was
taken out of a pressure
cooker environment and
given the freedom to be in a
place that saw him for who
he was, he grew and our
son started to come back to
Cara Lawrence watched her son, who suffers from
dysgraphia, failing in school by third grade. Her son was
bullied and told he was stupid, but she knew he was an
amazing child and just needed to find the right place for
By eighth grade they moved him to
Marian Hope Academy where teachers Watch
recognized her son’s potential and Cara
helped him to regain his confidence and
find a great path to the future.
Today Cara’s son hopes to get his
bachelor’s degree and become an officer
in the military.
Cara now work as Marian Hope
Academy and is heartbroken every time
she gets a call from a parent who would
like send their child to Marian Hope, but cannot afford it.
“It is devastating to me that a parent should have
to keep their child in a school that is not working just
because of finances,” Cara said. “In a perfect world
parents should have choices.”
“My wife and I have been
greatly impressed with
the level of education our
son has received at GSA
charter school. We are
extremely blessed he is
there. He is challenged
St. Louis City
Ryan Tucker has two children attending a charter school,
Gateway Science Academy (GSA), in St. Louis. Both kids
previously attended an SLPS Magnet School but had a
horrendous experience with his youngest. He tried to be an
active parent with SLPS but unfortunately
he found “the relationship with
administration was toxic, bureaucratic, Watch
inefficient and ineffective.” He was not
able to resolve his issues and concerns Ryan
with the staff and administration and was
forced to withdraw his youngest to attend
Their experience in GSA has been
extremely positive. His kids enjoy school
and the after-school programs offered
at GSA such as Chess Club, Lego Club,
Movie Club, Bowling, Art Club and study
hall, if needed. He sees the values GSA tries to teach students
of time management, planning, accountability, self-discipline,
and a feeling of independence.
He is thankful for having this choice/option, because without
this option, he would have had to look at moving out of the
city into another school district.
“When students are
trapped in a school that
is not meeting their
educational needs, their
future is at stake.”
Kimberlee Gill has served as a school teacher and administrator for
thirty years. She just wrote a dissertation on school-choice policies
across the country and after reviewing twenty-nine states and over
sixty policies, she soon realized that Missouri
was way behind schedule in passing choice
“I learned well-written policy saves the state
Kimberleemoney and can open the door to a better future
for children,” she said. “I became an advocate
to be a voice for those families who need a
state that prioritizes educational excellence.
I believe strongly in ‘the power of the and.’
Public, private, homeschool, and charter schools
must learn to work together as a model for our
children to demonstrate the power of synergy.”
As the product of an adequate public school
education, Kimberlee saw a clear difference
when she received her doctorate at the age of 53, just four days before
her son, who attended private schools, received his doctorate at the
age of twenty-seven.
Her other two children attend private school as well, a benefit that
has come at a tremendous costs on many levels.
“Children are worth any sacrifice, but I would like it to be a little
easier for all parents to have access to what they believe is best for
their child,” said Gill.
apart in our educational
needs, the traditional
school system was still
unequipped to meet the
needs of my children.”
St. Louis City
Keri Wright knows firsthand the benefits of finding a good school
that fits. She escaped poor education in St. Louis when she was
younger by participating in the desegregation program. Today she is
doing everything she can to help her children
have similar opportunities. Watch
Her family’s complex story highlights the need
for better access to schools of choice. Wright’s
children first learned how different education
could be in a different school when they escaped
Normandy schools during the transfer program.
Knowing that she could not allow her students
to return to a school that did not work for them
when the transfer program ended, Wright made
the difficult decision to move to St. Louis City
so her children could have better options. She
ended up in a less safe neighborhood, where her
children cannot go outside to play.
But the move has allowed two of her children to attend Premier
Charter School where they have thrived.
“My oldest daughter Madison, was invited to join the gifted program
at her Premier,” said Wright. “She was also invited to take part in an
accelerated math program after school. My kindergartner, under the
diligent assistance of her teacher, no longer needs speech therapy. I
found the staff emotionally and mentally invested in the success of my
children. My children are offered many opportunities to succeed.”
“Education is the ticket
out. The greater the
education the greater the
chance of getting a good
job that you can provide
for your family with.”
Brandon Self is a student at Lee’s Summit Christian
Academy. He has three siblings, all of whom attend
private school based on his family’s
beliefs and desire for a high quality Watch
education. Brandon has worked with
his school to help raise awareness Brandon
of school choice programs and has
visited the capitol in Jefferson City
to encourage law makers to support
Empowerment Scholarship Accounts.
He said he is working to expand
school choice in Missouri because
he wants his kids to have the same
opportunities that he has.
Brandon believes that every student has different needs
and that different schools work for different students.
He hopes to go into law enforcement and is worried
that his salary will not allow him to send his children to
a school that meets their needs. Brandon has seen his
fellow classmates face similar issues.
“It is hard for many
legislators and people in
general to understand
how much money public
schools are saving just by
the existence of private
Scott Williams is the head of school for Christian
Fellowship School in Columbia, where he spent most of
his life helping to provide a quality Christian education to
the Columbia community.
Scott has recently gotten involved in
the push to create an Empowerment
Scholarship Account program in Watch
Missouri. He sees how much it could Scott
help low-income students access an
education that fits their beliefs and
“We are currently serving a number
of low-income and middle class families
that are receiving significant tuition
assistance to be able to come to our
school,” he said.
Scott is also amazed at the amount of money that
private schools already save the traditional school
system each year. He estimates that in Columbia alone
private schools save the district over $12 million a year
by educating students that the district does not have to
accommodate but still receives funding for.
“Not every school fits every
kid. Having charter schools
gives parents choices to
find the school that will
help their child be the most
Kristen Wright is a teacher at Citizens of the World
Charter School in Kansas City.
She spent most of her career working at a traditional
district school in a suburban area, and was looking for a
new challenge and opportunity when
she moved to a charter school.
She knew that it was the right Watch
decision the moment she walked into Kristen
Citizen’s of the World and saw a wide
variety of creative projects the students
were involved in.
Kristen is concerned about funding
inequities between charter schools and
traditional district schools, and thinks
that every parent in Missouri should
have a chance to choose a charter school
for their children.
She also thinks that charter schools are a great
opportunity for teachers who are looking for more freedom
and more chances to engage with their students.
“Having freedom to do what I want to do in my
classroom makes me excited to teach every day,” she said.
As a mother of five, Cathy Jo Loy has had the privilege
of making a lot of educational choices for her children. She
has been lucky to have the ability to send her children to
both public and private schools and to
choose to homeschool her children when
that has been the better option. Watch
She has seen how placing a student Cathy Jo
in the right environment can make a
major difference in a child’s success.
Her decision to homeschool their foster
child Max was transformative in his life.
After falling behind in school because he
was not given work that challenged him,
Cathy Jo started homeschooling Max
and today Max is on track to graduate
with both his high school diploma and an Associates
Recognizing that others in her community did not have
the same options, Cathy Jo has become a strong advocate
for all kinds of school choice across Missouri.
“We hired tutors,
we bought all of the
educational toys, I have
the freedom to stay home
and let my son succeed,
but my community does
not have that option.”
Cathy Jo Loy
“I am a believer in
virtual education. I’ve
experienced a fragment
of what can be achieved
with this already-
dated and inexpensive
Jesse is a teacher in his local public school. Jesse was a fierce
advocate for the Course Access bill which was passed in July of 2018.
The Course Access bill created the MOCAP program which allows
students to enroll in part-time and full-time virtual education paid for
by the school district. Jesse being in the classroom every day, sees the
benefit of this program which allows his students to be able to take
classes not offered in his district. Because of his relentless advocacy
with regular calls and emails to legislators at the capitol he helped
pass legislation that created new opportunities for all students in
Jesse began constructing an online platform for general chemistry
in 2018-19. His primary motivation was to address a growing trend in
absenteeism, excused or unexcused, by simply “pointing them to the
web” for remediation. Almost immediately he recognized a potential
value for all students. By every measure (efficiency during lab, post-
assessment scores) it has proven successful beyond expectations.
Several years ago, he installed webcams in the lab and lecture
areas. His daughter was scheduled for a major surgery necessitating
a week-long absence, so he decided to try some remote teaching
(VOIP) from the hospital in St. Louis. He discovered, surprisingly,
that delivering content in this way was indistinguishably natural for
“My virtual presence was real; I could see, hear, and otherwise
communicate with them as well as they could with me.”
Giving families control over their
children’s education can make a big
difference in a child’s future.
of Missouri is
across the state to
build a movement
to put decisions
about a student’s
education in the
hands of those
who know the child
best -- their family.
Building a movement requires both
time and money, which is why we need
your help to make school choice a
reality for all Missourians!
Just scan this QR code to donate now!
Your donation will support:
CEAM’s work to raise awareness about
school choice, train families to be
advocates for their children’s future and
help those advocates take action.
Join the movement to improve
education in Missouri !
Share YOUR voice
for School Choice!
Join CEAM in fighting for the power to
choose what is best for YOUR children!
Message and data rates
Text HELP for help