Co-Founder and Chief Academic Officer of Crossroads Charter Schools
Tysie McDowell-Ray is the Co-Founder and Chief Academic Officer of Crossroads Charter Schools. Two weeks ago she was honored in Washington, D.C. at the Annual Legislative Conference of the Congressional Black Caucus by the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools. SchoolSmartKC is pleased to support the growth and continuing success of Crossroads Charter Schools and educators like Ms. McDowell-Ray.
Q: How long have you been in education? What made you enter the field initially?
A: I’ve been in education for over 23 years. I worked as a pharmacy technician for four years during high school and had initially enrolled in the College of Pharmacy as a freshman at the University of Iowa. The summer following my freshman year, I read the book Savage Inequalities
by Jonathan Kozol and was immediately drawn into the idea of teaching in an urban setting. I switched my major to education and felt I had found my true calling.
Q: What makes Crossroads different than other public schools?
A: Our goal was to create a diverse school that allows students to be engaged in learning and find purpose in what they are doing and who they are becoming. When I give tours, the comment I get the most is the shock of observing teachers and students smiling and laughing. It warms my heart when people see the joy in our schools.
Q: What are your goals for Crossroads Charter Schools in 10 years?
A: Our initial plan was to open and run one really good school. That was in 2012 when we had 190 students. Seven years later, we have three schools with over 900 students. I’m looking forward to when we can focus on just getting better, and not getting bigger at the same time. Our goal is that Crossroads will be a destination for other educators seeking inspiration and best/next practices. We want to become a proof point of how school can be engaging, rigorous and joyous and that educators can fall in love with teaching over and over again. Another goal is that we will be able to track our graduates not just in their careers or post-secondary education, but also in their life satisfaction and how they are engaging and giving back to their community. We spend a lot of time in all three of our schools doing service and learning expeditions in hopes that students see the benefit and necessity of taking care of those around us.
Q: What or who motivates you?
A: I am blessed to be surrounded by strong women in my life. I’m motivated by seeing their perseverance, assertiveness, and compassion for others. When I am down, I think about them and how they handled life struggles and it gives me the strength to keep moving forward. I am also blessed to have my three children (one 16, two 15 year olds). Every decision I make, I take them into consideration and try to make decisions that will make them proud of me. Except when I embarrass them at school with my singing and dancing, then they are mortified! But deep down inside, I’m sure they enjoy having me work at their school.
Q: You recently accepted a national charter school leader award in Washington, D.C. What was that experience like?
A: It was a great honor to receive the award and I know that the award was bigger than myself. I was selected in part because of the wonderful work of our dynamic teaching staff. I’m in awe of how they bring their authentic selves and create joy in their classrooms and allow students to do the same. It was an honor to be recognized alongside Congressman Lacy Clay from St. Louis and basketball legend Jalen Rose! For the past few years I’ve participated in Charter School Advocacy on Capitol Hill in D.C. where charter school leaders visit members of Congress to educate them on charter schools and advocate for positive policy changes. I truly enjoy representing Crossroads in D.C. and sharing our story. While in D.C. I also had the honor of meeting Rev. Jesse Jackson! I had goosebumps chatting with this legend who has been a part of most major historic events over the last 60 years.
This content was originally published by SchoolSmartKC on 09/26/19