Carlos Lopez answers his cellphone in English in the break room of the Hispano Jose Hernandez Center and quickly switches into rapid-fire Spanish.
Lopez's ease with the two languages and his years of experience working in Latino-Hispanic community centers in Pennsylvania help him fill his new role as the education consultant for the Achievement House Cyber Charter School.
Lopez helps Achievement House set up new resource centers for its students. The newest site opened Oct. 1 for York students, located at 225 E. Princess St.
Lopez said he was approached by Achievement House CEO Timothy Daniels to jump-start resource centers for students in areas Lopez has worked before. Since January, Lopez has helped start centers in Bethlehem, Reading and Hazelton.
York made the list because Lopez is also familiar with the area: He worked as the superintendent of schools for the York City School District from 2001 to 2005. So far, the York center has 24 students enrolled.
How it works: The centers allow for students to voluntarily "drop in" for educational support as they take their online classes.
Students have combinations of "live" classes they participate in online and independent
sessions for homework assignments.
Going to the resource center is an option for students: At its core, Achievement House is a cyber school.
But Lopez said students whose parents are concerned about their children completing work can attend the center as often as necessary. Students who consistently miss assignments or classes can also attend the center until they get back on track.
Lopez said the center also alerts students when special teachers will be visiting the center in person: Specialists for English Language Learners and special education support visit to offer additional support, as well as teachers in core subjects.
Lopez said the school is open for all students, but the centers he helps start take a special interest in serving bilingual students. The support staff at each of the centers is bilingual in English and Spanish, which Lopez said helps staff to communicate better with parents, too.
Lopez travels frequently to the other resource centers and the Lehigh Valley Dual Language Charter School, for which he serves as a part of the founding coalition.
Performance: Lopez wants academic excellence from the centers he starts: Achievement House scored 39.7 overall on the school performance profiles this year, but Lopez expects students at his centers to excel. The state Department of Education stated that scores at 70 or above are satisfactory and moving toward success.
Lopez said models like the dual enrollment school he helped to found in the Lehigh Valley are cause for hope: The school scored a 78.6 on its profile.
Lopez said part of raising scores is teaching parents and students about the markers of a good education.
"If the parents know what it is, and what it looks like, then they can demand a quality education," Lopez said.
William Rodriguez, a senior who enrolled at Achievement House in early October, said the center felt more like a family environment than his past two schools: He has attended New Hope Academy and William Penn High School in the York City School District.
Rodriguez said he appreciates the drama-free zone Lopez and the facilitators at the center provide.
"I don't feel like something's about to happen," Rodriguez said.
-- Reach Nikelle Snader at firstname.lastname@example.org.