York Academy charter's new CEO strengthens foundation

York Academy Upper School chief executive officer Angela Sugarek. August 15, 2019.
John A. Pavoncello photo

York Academy Regional Charter School hopes to move to the next level with a new CEO who has a strong background in the International Baccalaureate program.

After working in an urban-suburban community in Texas, Angela Sugarek is practiced in serving a blended school community, said board President Nancy Ahalt.

Though this is her first time at a charter, Sugarek said its management is not too different from a public school — the main differences being a charter's management is more independent, costs are higher for a smaller student body and growth is limited.

"Part of the problem in perception is the idea that they are that different," she said.

Background: Sugarek holds bachelor's degrees in math and history from Eastern New Mexico University and a master of educational administration from the University of Texas at Austin.

She was the principal of two schools in the Houston Independent School District that both used the IB program — a rigorous curriculum that gives college credits to high school students, which York Academy has used since opening in 2011.

In administering the program, she follows in the footsteps of Dennis Baughman, who left the school on July 1 after four years as CEO.

Board of trustees Vice President Ellen Johnson said she believes Sugarek will push the program forward.

IB: Even though IB has traditionally been geared toward private schools and affluent families, in the last 20 years, there's been a push to bring the program to public schools, Sugarek said.

It's a rare opportunity in the region, with Lehigh Valley Academy, in Bethlehem, and York County School of Technology among the few that use the IB program. There are pockets of IB schools in D.C., Colorado and Texas, she said.

More:York Tech a leader in bringing academic program to vocational schools

The charter is one of four in the state to offer the primary (K-5) and middle years (6-10) programs.

In middle years, eight subject areas are given equal focus, including design — teaching a way to solve problems —  which can be anything from coding to sawing and drilling, Sugarek said.

The school added 10th grade this year and will add another grade each year, planning to eventually offer the two-year IB Diploma Programme for grades 11-12.

Priorities: In addition to commending Sugarek's experience in implementing the IB program, the board praised her team approach and background in data analysis.

"One of the things that I think people found really exciting is she’s a real collaborator," Johnson said. 

Maintaining academic standards is also a priority, Sugarek said, and Ahalt said that's one of the reasons she was chosen.

"She led a professional learning community that embraced accountability resulting in a 38% increase in students meeting grade level in reading and 89% increase in percent of students meeting grade level in math," Ahalt wrote in an email.

Her background as data analyst for the New Teacher Project in Houston will be key in analyzing student data, which has become critical to improving student achievement, Ahalt added.

The school: Now with an enrollment of about 820 students, the nonprofit public school offers free tuition, funded through its home districts: York Suburban, Central York and York City.

Sugarek is an advocate of the state funding charters because those schools are approved by the state. 

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Funding through districts "creates a situation where the school districts know what they're losing," she said, adding that both charters and public schools need to do a better job of attracting students.

More:York City district aims to recover 75 students with 'aggressive outreach' campaign

"Charter schools ultimately are filling a need; otherwise they wouldn't be here," she said.

York Academy Upper School chief executive officer Angela Sugarek. August 15, 2019.
John A. Pavoncello photo