Welcome to Union Academy
Welcome to Union Academy!
It is an honor and privilege to serve as Union Academy’s fifth head of school since our inception in 2000. While UA has grown into one of the largest and most successful charter schools in North Carolina, we remain grounded in our founder’s mission as an innovative school of character.
UA develops the whole child, academically, emotionally, socially, physically and artistically. Challenge, Character and Community are the three founding pillars that guide our work and ongoing service to young people. More than 240 teachers, coaches and staff are dedicated and eager to help our students learn to lead lives of purpose and service.
I encourage you to spend time exploring our dynamic new website! It is full of information about our great school. On behalf of my fellow UA educators, I am excited about the 2022-23 school year and hope to see you on campus.
John D. Marshall
Head of School
What Defines a Great School
Having worked in education for more than thirty years, I often hear parents proclaim that their child attends a great school, while others lament that their school falls short. My first thought is, “How do you know?” I often ask the parent if their school has a stated mission statement and core values. Do they believe the school is living up to its mission and values? How do we know? What are the metrics? There is an timeless adage - What gets measured, gets done.
Currently, North Carolina evaluates its schools on one thing: standardized test scores. Each year the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) gives every school in the state a letter grade (A - F) based on student test performance. These tests are designed to assess the following: 1) whether a student performs at grade level in reading and mathematics; and 2) whether an individual student is demonstrating academic “growth” over time (usually defined in years).
Is the current approach the best way to evaluate school quality?
Many leaders across our state believe the current system for evaluating public schools is broken. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Catherine Truitt believes the model is flawed because it overemphasizes student test scores, while not accounting for other important ways schools prepare students for success. Superintendent Truitt envisions the model including a host of measures - not solely test scores.
What might be other measures to assess school quality? In an age of rising violence, what about an annual safety audit of a school? What about a metric to measure student or parent community service or volunteerism, or attendance? Schools could even review parent or student survey results, with questions focusing on if the school is fulfilling its mission. What about including a writing component? All in all, there are a host of factors parents could agree on that define a great school. Creating metrics to assess these factors is the important work of DPI.
At Union Academy, we are a nationally-recognized school of character. We believe character development and community service are as important as academic performance. Our mission is to develop the whole child. We prepare students for college and life by teaching a curriculum that both prepares them for standardized tests as well as what it means to become a responsible adult. Developing soft skills in students is fundamental to our mission at UA. And we seek to measure all of that.
Are standardized tests vital in N.C. public education? Without a doubt, especially to help our underserved Black and Hispanic students have a better chance for success in college and life. However, a school - which is a community of students, parents and educators - is much more than the sum of its students’ test scores.
The state of North Carolina should expand its thinking as to what constitutes a great school.
John D. Marshall has served as head of school at Union Academy Charter School in Monroe since 2020. He was recently invited by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt to represent charter schools on a state-wide advisory group for testing and accountability. This group is part of a new DPI initiative called Operation Polaris.
Mr. Marshall: The Future of UA
Meet the Administrative Team
John Marshall, Head of School
Shannen Bretz, Lower School Principal
Scott Broome, Middle School Principal
Jim Zorn, High School Principal
Sherryann Sylvestre, Dean of Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction
Jennifer Sutton Smith, Communications Director
Christi Bramhall, Executive Assistant