David Chaney & Ben Harris are the fellas who changed Oklahoma public education. About 10 years ago, they took the available internet technologies and the state charter school policies, then formed partnerships with several curriculum publishers; and set up a charter option for the small rural school district near Lake Eufaula, in eastern Oklahoma.
Since then, the two pioneers formed hundreds of partnerships with providers of arts, athletics, & academic institutions. They spoke to community clubs, parents groups, academic institutions, and municipal governments. Most of their efforts were about informing Oklahoma that education can be innovative and customized to an individual's unique circumstances. Sometimes they were called before state agencies, legislative bodies, courts, and other entities.
10 Years of Innovation
Every year since 2011, the legislature and the State Education Dept. kept changing the rules of virtual schools, and often it was seen as clear attempts to slam the brakes on the astronomic growth of Epic. Superintendents report that last year, State superintendent Joy Hofmeister blatantly shut down Epic for several weeks because it 'wasn't fair' and made other schools look bad during the pandemic's early weeks. Then Hofmeister asked if Epic could provide free mentoring to other school districts on how to deliver academic instruction. This was all happening while she fined Epic for misreporting payroll expenditures which she admitted was partially due to her office providing wrong directives.
It's clear from the criminal indictment of Joy Hofmeister (2016) that she was colluding with organized labor figures to unseat the Republican incumbent in 2014, and deliver control to the 'old guard' swamp. It's clear from Hofmeister's silence during the wildcat strikes of 2018, that the unions treated her like a whipped puppy who would not stand in there way. But Hofmeister was also someone that Chaney & Harris thought they had a good relationship with. All that changed after Hofmeister was reelected in 2018.
It was in 2018 that the wildcat strikes led to even more massive growth for Epic. Families want a stable and reliable education partner. Teacher strikes, public health emergencies, and other unforeseen interruptions are problem for families who need a reliable routine to plan family life around. Epic steadily showed annual growth of roughly 50% since their first 1000 students of 2011. But the strike nearly doubled their enrollment and in 2019 they were at nearly 20,000 enrollment. Then they jumped to over 30,000 in 2020. But the incompetence of public education in the pandemic era led to an enrollment of about 60,000 in the 2021 school year.
Observers expected Epic to become the states largest 'school district', but not this quickly. Those making fortunes off of the state's largest agency(common education), went to war against Epic. The slanders, libels, & defamations, were consistently discredited, but they did not stop. Commercial media and metro school districts were often implicated, but none were ever punished with defamation judgments.
Attracting the Best
But other extracurricular outlets include junior rodeo, drama, dance, music, speech, debate, journalism, shooting sports, and other community-based youth organizations.
Mental health trauma abated and therapeutic recovery became possible. Special family obligations could be accommodated because online instruction is open 24/7.
The Attacks Continue
This past week, the board of Epic terminated that contract, due to pressure from the state board of education which oversees virtual charters. Now a district court judge is ordering Harris & Chaney to reveal all their EYS management processes. That's a de facto 4th amendment attack and exposes all their superior administrative innovations, so that competitors can adapt to the skills and insights which Chaney & Harris spent personal fortunes to acquire.
If the court prevails, what they will no doubt discover... is that hard work, long hours, & personal/family sacrifice; is what Cheney & Harris utilized, to give every Oklahoma child another option for public education.