Understanding Your Options for Educational Settings with Carlos Melendez
January 24, 2023
Understanding Your Options for Educational Settings with Carlos Melendez

As parents, we want the best for our kids. When it comes to their education, there are so many options out there, it can feel overwhelming and sometimes impossible to find the best setting for them. What really are the differences between public, private, online, and homeschooling? What is an NPA? How can families find the resources they need to make these important decisions for their children?

Today I’m joined by Carlos Melendez from Schola, and he lays it all out for us in a way that is easy to understand. Schola has been helping match students with their perfect education setting, and today Carlos is here to explain the different options available so you know where to get started. And not only does he help you better understand your options, but he shares what other resources are available to help both families and schools in this process.

Listen in, and discover what educational setting might best suit your child’s needs.

About Carlos Melendez:

Carlos is the Chief Marketing Officer at Schola, a software company that helps families find their perfect school or educational setting. He is an expert at creating effective marketing campaigns for schools in any market, which has helped his school partners increase their revenue by more than $100m in his 5 years at Schola. Carlos’ expertise includes integrated marketing communications and social media advertising. In addition, he has a law degree from Universidad Rafael Urdaneta and a Master’s in Business from Thunderbird/ASU.

Jump in the Conversation:

[1:14] – About Schola
[2:21] – Understanding your options and choosing what’s best for your kids
[3:35] – Public schooling options
[11:07] – NPA (Non-Public Agencies)
[14:20] – Private schooling options
[18:45] – Shift towards online schooling
[20:26] – Dual enrollment programs
[21:49] – Homeschooling options
[25:15] – College prep models
[28:04] – More resources for families and schools from Schola
[36:00] – Turbo Time
[45:28] – Carlos’s Magic Wand
[47:46] – Maureen’s Takeaways

Links & Resources



Maureen O’Shaughnessy 0:03
Hello fellow parents and educators. Thank you for joining me at education evolution, where we are disrupting the status quo in today’s learning models. We talk about present day education, what’s broken, who’s fixing it, and how. I’m Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your host and founder of education evolution, micro school coalition, and co founder of active, I consult and train with schools and leaders who are fiercely committed to changing the narrative, reimagining the education landscape, and creating learning that serves all children and prepares them to thrive. If you are new, welcome to the podcast. Please subscribe on our website to get it delivered to your inbox weekly. If you’ve been around a while, have you left a review?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:08
Hi, Carlos, it is so good to have you on Education Evolution.

Carlos Melendez 1:12
Thank you so much for having me, Maureen.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:14
And listeners today I’m chatting with Carlos Melendez. Carlos is the Chief Marketing Officer of Scala. And Scala is a minority founded ed tech organization that is doing an amazing matchmaking service for families and schools. And you’ve helped over 100,000 families connect with their ideal pre K to 12th grade school through your dual sided program. So I’m excited to learn more.

Carlos Melendez 1:43
Yeah, for sure. Maureen, I’ve been here at school for the last six going on seven years. The idea from the start was always we want to be the tool to choose your next school, right. And what we’re helping families do throughout the country is just make sure that they understand their different options when it comes to school to educational setting, whether that be a district school, a charter school, private on line, even to understand some of their homeschool options, we’re able to really help families navigate all of that, so that they’re making the best choice for their students at home.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 2:21
Carlos, that is huge. I brought my girls back from international schools for high school to have more choices in English. And we tried, I don’t know, five or six different models and one daughter with autism super capable, one gifted Interborough and fears and wanted a reason. And when I couldn’t find the right fit after all of that effort. And I know the school world, I helped them graduate early. And I started a micro school to be a resource that meets kids more where they are. So I know as a mom, and I know from all of the parents that reach out to me, at least, you know, saying, Hey, tell me about lead prep, where my child is isn’t working. There’s this huge gap. And there’s so much misinformation. So let’s take it back a notch. And just remind listeners of some of the different school choices that there are because we all want the same thing. We’re not saying everybody should be in private or everybody should be in public. We’re saying every child deserves a learning setting that aligns with their way of learning and plays to their strengths so that they are successful and have agency so this isn’t a promo for anything. So let’s unpack public private charter homeschool, can you give little definitions for each to make sure everybody has that foundation?

Carlos Melendez 3:44
For sure I am at let’s start with the school that most people know which is just your district schools, right? So all 50 states have district schools that are publicly funded, a lot of times they’re allocated by a by geography, basically, where you live, you get assigned to a certain school, however, that has been expanding more and more. And this is something that a lot of parents are not familiar with, with the fact that right now we have 13 states that allow you to enroll in any school district you want. So that happens here in Arizona, where you’re able, if you live in Scottsdale, you’re able to go to school in Glendale if you want, and vice versa. And that’s happening in a lot of different states, as well as there’s 18 more states that require schools to participate in some open enrollment. And there’s another eight and further and 19 states that allow schools to choose if they want to be an open enrollment, which means that the whole the whole concept of you have to live in a certain neighborhood to go to a certain district school no longer really applies to a lot of different states. The next category that we have are charter schools, right so charter schools is similar to this Trix schools are publicly funded, but they are just not run directly by the state. They are run by private groups of individuals that have been given special permission by the state. Charter schools are tuition free, because they are funded by the government. Sometimes there may be some fees when it comes to uniforms or you know, certain things that they use the classroom, but they are mostly tuition free.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 5:26
I am looking through a very narrow lens at what’s been happening recently in Washington State. So my understanding of the charter schools that I’ve investigated on the West Coast is a lot of times they’re located in socially, socio economically disadvantaged locations. Oftentimes, they have a longer school year longer school days, and they do a great job of catching kids up that they are not competition taking the varsity athletes and the all the honors students out of other traditional public schools, but that they really serve a wide community but also catching some kids up that wouldn’t get that service otherwise is Is that accurate? Across the board? Do you think?

Carlos Melendez 6:06
I would definitely say that that’s a big part of it. But in general, the thing with charter schools is that they are just trying to innovate within the public school system, right, they are just trying to give another option where you are able to narrow down perhaps a little bit of the focus. And we can talk about magnet schools, which is also part of the district school system, which which does that as well. But the thing with charter schools is that a lot of times, you’re able to really hone in on very specific models, right? Whether it can be Montessori school, or it could also be performing arts. things, right. And sometimes when I talk about performing arts school, some parents might push back and say, Well, I don’t want my child to just learn drama and the yards. I want them to learn, you know, math and science. And the reality is that every school has to teach math and science, right? This is the core curriculum, but it’s the way they’re teaching, it is going to be focused on on certain things that might be more appealing to certain students, right? If you have more interest for the arts, if you’re being explained math and science through an art scope, where an example that is being given is about, you know, seats and seats in a theater as opposed to, you know, something widgets and a factory, that’s going to be something that communicates better to the student. But so far in the country, we have about 7800 charter schools in 45 states. And that’s about 3.7 million students that are being served right now. Just in charter schools around the country. Wow. Definitely a growing movement right now. And again, one of the one of the questions that we get from a lot of parents is just how does this work? You know, what do I have to pay just because a lot of times, you know, the word charter doesn’t doesn’t connect to a lot of parents. And again, many of these schools have their own buildings, but a lot continue to be co located. So sometimes you will see a district school and one of the floors of the district school or half of the building will be devoted to that charter school, which is going to have their own rules as to who can enroll there, or if there’s a waitlist, or if it’s just open enrollment, like a lot of charter schools throughout the country.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 8:21
Love that. Tell us a bit about magnet schools.

Carlos Melendez 8:24
Yeah, for sure. So magnet schools are operated by the school district as well, but it they really allow kids to focus on on a specific learning track. So that’s going to be it could be stem, it could be also performing arts, it could be medical science, but all those subjects are going to be taught through the lens of that school specific track. So there’s about 4000 Magnet schools in the country. And on top of that, there are a lot of magnet programs within those traditional public schools. So they are permitted in all 50 states. Now, you know, not every state is going to have a freestanding magnet school. But most states have at least a magnet program within it that again, are going to allow it’s similar to charter in the sense that they’re picking one track whether that be stem steam, performing arts and allowing students to learn through that lens basically,

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 9:24
got it and I know in the Lake Washington School District were one of my microscopes is they instead of saying magnet, say choice school, and it’s lottery, but again, anywhere in the district, you can go to the Latin Bay School or you can go to the STEM school, they have a lottery to get into it, but it’s public school like the magnet school, they just call it choice.

Carlos Melendez 9:45
Yeah, and you know, the lotteries are very different than and all the states just because the way the lotteries are weighed can be different sometimes it has to do with if you live in a certain neighborhood, you might get more are weighed in the lottery, as bad as it could be, if there’s a family member of the students already at the school, they might be more likely to get a spot. But that really varies in every state, everybody’s doing kind of a different thing. Washington, DC and New Orleans and Louisiana, they have a sort of ranking system where you rank the schools where you would want to go. And then after the lottery goes through, they tell you, Well, you have a spot in this school and that school. And basically, depending on how you rank, you’re able to attend different schools. So throughout the country, we just see a lot of different things. That said, it’s important for parents who just understand that they do have the choice to go to more than one place. That doesn’t mean while I was able to afford this house in this neighborhood, and I only get the option to go to this one school. The reality is that the majority of states now are allowing allowing for some sort of choice, whether again, that be that you can go to another district, whether that be that you can attend a charter, and we haven’t covered our private schools, which a lot of people are familiar with,

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 11:08
before you go before you go to private. Are you familiar with NPAs non public agencies, these lead prep is one of my microscopes was and I want as we’re really setting out these options to make sure that that gets some airtime.

Carlos Melendez 11:21
Yeah, for sure. Maureen, if you could explain a little bit then about what MPAs are for sure.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 11:26
Yes. So if you look on the state education websites for whatever state you’ll see the NPA non public agency list. And this is a tool that is public school funded. And if a student has an IEP and has a need, that cannot be met by that school district, then they pay. And sometimes it’s something like residential treatment. And these can be kids that, well, in the case of LEED prep, we have one teacher for every four or five students. So these are kids that maybe had sensory issues and being in huge high schools with 1000 kids in between classes and stuff like that would trigger sensory issues, or kids that have had trauma, or kids that have some absences due to medical conditions. So there are all these specialized schools out there that are smaller or specialized or work with deaf students. So if a district can’t meet that student’s needs, and they’ve exhausted all of the IEP options in their district, there’s a national mandate that students have the least restrictive environment to learn in. And that’s when NPAs can be tapped into, and the public school pays the private school. And as such, we have to for those students, I think we have three of our our students, right now. They’re NPA, we have to do state testing for those students, we have to go back and meet any little extras that are public school requirements that aren’t private. But that’s important to know about because some kids nothing is working for. And parents don’t have the money to explore other options. And the school districts do pay for that.

Carlos Melendez 13:06
Yeah, no, definitely. It’s one of the one of those things that it’s just really important, specially when we’re talking about our students with with IEPs. To really fulfill that need, right? Again, it’s not that oh, we can push certain IPS can be fulfilled with some traditional classrooms. And sometimes they cannot. And again, here at school, and I know everybody who I’ve met working in education, all we want is the best outcome for the student, right? The best outcome for the students, sometimes unfortunately, it’s not going to be at the school that we’re working at. And we just want to make sure we’re leading them in the right direction, so that we know how fundamental that K through 12 Education is going to be to determine what their future is going to be like. So if we’re able to address an IP situation by sending them either to a private institution or charter institution or a different place than where they’re at right now, but their needs are going to be met. We want to make sure we’re sending them there. I mean, it’s just, again, our mission and education is just to form children, and we have to make sure that their needs are being met.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 14:15
Yes, agreed. What other options are out there that parents should know about?

Carlos Melendez 14:20
For sure. We have our private school choice. I think what’s important to say is that, you know, we’re always very conscious that that a lot of private schools in the country tend to be a little bit cost prohibitive, right. Or for a lot of parents. That’s not really a choice because, you know, tuition can be, you know, several $1,000 a year, which again, can be challenging for parents navigate however, a lot of different states have been releasing different types of either voucher programs or state funded scholarships, which give more access when It comes to different private schools. So we know private schools are in all 50 states, they can be faith based or independent. Now 31 states right now offer official programs that can provide either scholarship to private schools or some type of tuition assistance. And of these 22 states offer actual official scholarship programs, state aid states offer both scholarship and the duction programs. And one state offers only a deduction program. So that’s really going to vary. School is based out of Arizona, which does have an official state tuition assistance program. So you can take basically a voucher, which is part of what you’re already paying in taxes, and use that and apply that to a school of your choice. And that will reduce what you have to pay in tuition. Again, each individual school, each individual private school is going to have their own tuition assistance, as well. So you know, depending on the type of school, they might have some sort of scholarship, whether that be academic or athletic need based. So we always direct people to talk to the private school, after they’ve applied, right? It’s important that you don’t limit your choices. If, again, it’s important to apply if there’s not an application fee that is prohibitive, just apply to the school and see what options they have for you. Because a lot of times these private schools are willing to work with with families and meet them where they’re at, if they see, you know, potential in the student and their environment.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 16:34
Absolutely. A couple of other notes on private schools. First, I want to just reiterate what you said. I mean, a lot of private schools have a mission, and our mission is to be very inclusive. And so we’ve never turned away a student based on finances, whether they’re homeless, or whether they have parents that can pay the full tuition. So really, don’t be afraid to ask schools, sometimes parents also asked me Are you accredited, and that is a lens that families want to look through accreditation just means that that an outside agency has evaluated the governance, the financials, the course offerings, a lot of different pieces. And given a stamp of approval on that outside stamp of approval is something that a lot of universities look for. It’s just kind of a guarantee. And one other piece is sometimes private schools are called independent schools, and they’re independent from the school district. I know, you know, this, Carlos, and a great way to find lists of schools is the National Association of Independent Schools and ay ay s is the big umbrella. But I’m in Seattle, so Northwest Association of Independent Schools and to be is you can click on there and see the seven Northwest states. And you can see I want to school in this area, I want to school it focuses on STEM, I want to school of the size I want to Jewish school I want. So there it’s a resource to help you sort and there are schools I’ve never heard of. So it’s a great tool to unpack what other private schools might be in your area.

Carlos Melendez 18:08
Yeah, for sure. And that’s something that we’ve, you know, from that lens, it’s something that we’ve incorporated into into school into our search engine there, when people are describing their child’s wish, because that’s basically what they’re doing through the school match process, saying this is how my child is how they interact with the world, how they like to learn what they like to do at home. And through a series of questions. They’re now we’re able to show you a couple of different schools that are going to be of all of these different types, right. It could be your traditional district school, it could be your charter school, it could be your private, we haven’t touched yet on on the online schools, which is another big trend that we’ve seen specially since COVID. We saw a lot of people shift to the online model just because, again, for their specific needs, it just fit better. We know that even right the school year, when COVID hit, we already had close over half a million students nationwide that we’re in online programs, and we know that that we don’t have the latest statistics on what’s happened after COVID. But we know that that stayed pretty high just because a lot of people didn’t make it back to the classroom. If you follow the news, you’ve seen that the two biggest school districts in the country which are New York City and Los Angeles have lost 1000s of students since the pandemic and and just being a there were a variety of reasons why that happened. But you know, part of it is that there is a component of the student population that stayed online, and some people are doing homeschool as well. But right now, we have 36 Different states that actually offer online public school that has been established by school districts or charter At our school, so they these are public options that are available in 36 different states and it’s official online school. So it’s nothing that you have to pay for. It’s something that you have access directly through your district, if that’s the option that you’re looking for. But I get it. Sometimes there might be issues with mobility there. There’s a lot of reasons why you would want to look at an online school. And it’s important that you understand that that’s a choice that you have as well.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 20:26
Yes, Carlos. Absolutely. Before you talk about homeschool, I all of these different options keep growing in my head, there’s so many and I had never lumped them together. Can you talk about dual enrollment programs, because that’s also public and free?

Carlos Melendez 20:41
For sure. And the interesting thing about dual enrollment programs is that it’s, a lot of times, it’s what you were able to experience with, during COVID, right, where it was a component of it online, a component of A in person. And sometimes this is just going to help students tackle the different things they have to do, but just be able to be at home for a certain amount of time, just because again, in different students situations, a lot of times when we’re talking about students, you’re just thinking K through five. But this is especially important for high schoolers who might have, you know, they might have to contribute at home, they might have a job or something that they’re doing, or they might have to travel, because they’re on a team. There’s a lot of different reasons why somebody would have to do part of everything online, but they still get that social component by being able to go in person and have this classroom experience. So this hybrid model, as some people have called it as well, is something that is, again really helpful for a lot of different students in that situation.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 21:48
Absolutely. Hybrids give so much more flexibility. Now, talk about homeschooling, which can also have a hybrid component to it.

Carlos Melendez 21:57
Yeah, for sure. And we’ve seen that homeschool has really blown up again, before COVID happened, we got seen that in the late 90s. We had right about a million students in in the country that were being homeschooled right before COVID. We know that it was about 2 million students. And now after COVID We’re estimating that there’s about 4 million students nationwide that are choosing to be homeschooled at this point. So every every state in the country allows you to to homeschool your children. Now. It’s important to understand that there’s access to resources when it comes to homeschooling, right homeschooling doesn’t mean, I’m just going to improv and just do what I think that my children should be learning. There’s actual programs and curriculums that you have access to, from the state, which are going to allow you to prepare your children for standardized testing for anything they need before they go off to college. homeschooling. It has its challenges for sure. I mean, it’s it’s one of those things that can be can be difficult, and it can be hard to navigate without the right tools. But there’s a lot of tools out there for us to use. We saw the rise of pods, as they call them during COVID as well where it was homeschooling, but just several people in the neighborhood that weren’t going into one classroom on home classroom, and they were getting the same curriculum, which is also a great idea. And again, it’s the ideal educational setting for some students. So I wouldn’t dismiss homeschool. It’s just something that again, for some families that it is the right choice. And it’s important to be able to read up on all the resources that you have. And again, there is support from the state for homeschool.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 23:49
Absolutely. And I know parents have asked me in the past, do I have to go it alone and sometimes they don’t know that there are homeschool coops where parents have joined together. Hey, all take kids to the YMCA for swimming, if your unpack science and do field trips, and there’s also access to your public school. So some kids go back and take Chemistry at their public school or do soccer after school. You always have a right to what your neighborhood school offers. You don’t waive that when you’re at a private school or homeschool and I think some parents think they’re giving something up but they get to choose.

Carlos Melendez 24:22
Yeah, no 100% And again, it’s it’s one of those things that families have to choose right if if homeschool is the right option for their child. Families really know best when it comes to that. But the important thing is understanding that there is choice you are able to do homeschool if you want and also if it doesn’t work out you can always go back to district school you’re not giving up your spa or anything like that you’re you’re going to be able to go back to district school it might be challenging in some places like private and charter because a lot of times they do have waitlist or they do have have spots reserved. But if you want your child to go back to a traditional classroom, that’s something that you’re able to do after you if you have to, if you want to experiment with Homeschool, but again, not for everybody, but there’s definitely some families out there that that find that useful.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 25:15
Absolutely. The only other option I can think of, I mean, the homeschool round, there’s unschooling world schooling, there’s all different kinds. But the only other organized genre that comes to mind is I know my daughter in 11th and 12th grade tested into college, and school districts in Washington State, and many states, let kids be enrolled in high school and attend college. So when she took English 101, as an 11th, grader, that quarter of a class that one quarter class counted as the whole 11th grade English class, some kids, even graduate high school with their AAA complete. And then there’s a little piece of this pie, called P TECH, and I got to interview somebody on this. And P TECH is businesses link with a high school. So every high school in Dallas has this. And the businesses go in and start working with kids in ninth grade and give them real life experiences paid internships, and the cool thing they do with this dual high school college enrollment, is they make sure that kids that are disadvantaged and maybe wouldn’t have normally tested into college in 11th grade have extra mentoring and tutoring. So it’s a very inclusive model to get all kids college experience in high school. So I don’t know, Carlos, any other models jumped out at you,

Carlos Melendez 26:34
I would say it’s college prep is arguably the hottest trend in high schools lately. And it’s exactly that, right? I mean, not only are students getting a head start in, in college, just because they’re getting credit, sometimes again, they can get basically an Associate’s before they get to college. But it’s also helpful that you are setting the expectation that they will go to college, right. And when we see these college prep schools, a lot of times we’re seeing numbers in the upper 90%. So 97% of them end up in going into higher education 98%, which, if you’re familiar with how education was in America, in the 90s, those are insanely high numbers. But we’re even seeing college prep at the elementary and middle school level, where again, we’re setting expectations early by filling up the school with different colleges, understanding how the application process works, what you need to have before you go to college. And that way, again, students are thinking already from first grade, about what it’s going to look like 12 years from them when they’re applying to college. And just making sure it’s like, Okay, once I go into ninth grade, I want to make sure I’m working on these credits. Because when I applied to school, having these credits aren’t going to help me get into this college or give me a leg up or I’m going to save money by going to by getting these credits early. So definitely very, very hot market right now for all of the college prep schools around the country.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 28:07
Wow. This is the perfect podcast to be dropping during National School Choice week because I feel like you’re really unpacking all these options. And I my guess is most families don’t know every single one of these options. So you’re stretching that? And you’re exemplifying. What Scola has is a resource that any parent for free can tap in to this knowledge base to understand what school options are, share who their child is. And have you helped with matchmaking?

Carlos Melendez 28:39
Yeah, it’s really important to underline the free part. And that’s our mission is to make sure that children are matched to their ideal educational setting. The reason we don’t say ideal school is the reason that what we just talked about just now, right, there’s different educational settings not there’s not a school out there, specifically a school like a building for every child, sometimes, some children are going to be better served by homeschool or by other options or by an online school. But what we want is for parents to really understand their choices when it comes to schools. And now, one of the big A, in the beginning, you mentioned that this was a minority founded company, which is true Jaime Martinez, our CEO, he’s originally from Mexico, myself, I’m originally from Venezuela. So as immigrants to this country, one of the things we understood early on is just the value of education here in America. But also it’s the fact that there’s not that much information out there in other languages, especially in Spanish. So everything that you see in school, bola is also available in Spanish for parents, and our parent the outreach team so that people will actually talk to parents after you go through the quiz. You have the chance to connect to a school a parent outreach team member who’s going to walk walk you through the different options that you have and what they mean. Because again, right now we’re throwing some buzzwords that make sense for us who work in education. And maybe for a parent out there that doesn’t, hasn’t interacted with a lot of different schools, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. But we want to make sure that we’re communicating what each school means what that’s going to mean in the classroom, and that we’re able to do it in your language as well. So everything that you see in Scala is available in Spanish, we have those team members that are able to speak Spanish, with all of our communities. Right now, some of the bigger communities where we see a lot of movement on the school platform are in New York, and California and Texas, and Florida, which again, all of them have a big Latino component. And it’s, again, all of these parents that are really looking for something better for their children than their current situation, but perhaps haven’t had the access to the information. And now understanding that there is that choice, and that they’re able to, they’re able to look for something different because they’re, they’re able to read the information in their language. That’s something that’s really powerful. And we really believe that we’re changing the community, just nationwide by giving more access to choice.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 31:19
I love that this is a free resource for parents. I want to sign up my micro school, how expensive is it for us on the school end of things?

Carlos Melendez 31:28
Yeah, so that’s, that’s a great question. And at the basic level, every school and in America has a profile or can have a profile. So we’ve already pre loaded about 120,000 School profiles. Wow. So everybody is able to go in there, they can go to school.com, or school solutions.com. and claim the profile for their school, what happens when you claim the profile, claiming the profile is completely free. And it just means that if any family is connecting to your school, you’re going to be able to receive an email that says, hey, this person, this student, this family is interested in attending your school, now you have 24 hours to make sure that you get back to them. And the reason we say 24 hours, is because we know that once parents begin looking for schools, it usually is about a two week period before they make their final decision on where their child is going to attend and really start that application process. So we also want to make sure that schools are following up as soon as possible with parents and we get that communication strike while the iron is hot, right? Mm hmm. That is completely free for schools as well. And we have some basic tools in the back end, where you can text message with parents, you can email with parents, and you’re able to do that for free on the platform. We also have some paid tiers. And that is more when when you need just a little bit more help getting more traffic. So we have some sponsored posts, we have our actual team that can help jump on the calls with you. So if you have a smaller front office, which happens a lot of times where we ask, Hey, who’s doing who’s helping you with marketing over here? And it’s like, well, I’m the principal, that head marketer, front office person, I do tours, I do everything like Well, look, we have our staff here at school, and I can help you screen through the calls, see if this is actually a good match, and move along in the application process so that the school receives a full application. And instead of just a name and a phone number, we can work with that family to get the full application again, if it’s the right fit. If it’s not the right fit, we are not going to send that child to that school because what we see with students that go through Scola is that we see a lower turnover, we see less churn because it’s students that actually match the philosophy of the school, as opposed to just trying to get in the first student that walks by the building. We are not trying to do that because what’s going to be best for the student is a getting a student that really wants to be there. And it’s going to be best for the school because again, if you’re getting a kindergartener, and you’re a K through five, you’re going to have five years of this student returning. And we’re going to stop that churn, which a lot of times is what puts schools in a really sticky situation when it comes to funding if they’re losing students one year or two years.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 34:33
Wow. Free for families free for schools or schools can pay and get some extra help. And so many choices, and all of us want kids to have the right fit. To me. This is an amazing win win. Anything else you want our listeners to know about Scala before we ask you a few turbo time personal questions.

Carlos Melendez 34:54
Thanks, Maureen. Yeah, what I would definitely want everybody who listens to this to go to school a.com And check us out. If you’re a parent and you’re just curious about the options that you have in your area, launch school a match. Again, it’s a it’s a free process that won’t take you longer than five minutes to just fill out some questions about how your child interacts with the world, what their favorite subjects are, and that way we’ll be able to give you some recommendations about your area again, Scola works in all 50 states so wherever you are, you can go in there and just check out some schools in your area. If you’re a school leader, my call to action is definitely claim your profile. Again, there’s no strings attached to that, and you will get any matches that come in through the platform. They will go directly to your email, once you match that profile. So for that you can go to schola.com And you will click on the option or you a school or you can go directly to Scola, solutions.com. And Scola is spelled sch o la.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 35:56
Excellent. So everybody has a call to actions school leaders, parents, teachers. Let’s get on this. Carlos. I love weaving in the person behind the concept or the program. So may I ask you a few turbo time questions a 101st time

Carlos Melendez 36:14
go ahead, Maureen.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 36:15
Awesome. What’s the last book you read?

Carlos Melendez 36:19
Oh, that’s a great question. And the last book I read I actually have next to me right now. It’s called the membership economy. By Robbie Kalman Baxter, it talks about basically how to create products that people want to buy as memberships as opposed to one off one off transactions. So it’s really interesting. Again, if you’re more of an entrepreneur, and you’re looking at different products to create, why do we pay for memberships now, for so many things, it’s funny because even my car, the last car that I bought, gave me some trial for three months of remote turning it on. And afterwards, they’re selling me on a membership for that. And as you see more and more different services are pushing you to membership. So it’s a book that basically talks about the philosophy behind creating memberships for different things.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 37:13
Oh, yeah, I’m seeing that in my personal life. So that’s really cool. Yeah. How about two inspirational folks you’d love to meet? It can be historical, it could be fictional. Who would you put out there? Anybody inspirational that you would like to meet?

Carlos Melendez 37:28
Let’s think so. Me being Venezuelan. There’s a person that we’ve, you know, grown up admiring. So obviously here in the US, you have George Washington, who’s an admirable person, for sure. But we had Simone Bolivar. So if you’re, if you’re familiar with Latin American independence movement, Bolivar was the liberator of pretty much half of South America, everything from Venezuela down to Peru. And again, in a time where it was Spain was a massive superpower. And just this person from Venezuela was able to lead the charge to liberate all of these different countries. And if you read any of his writing, it really is so beautiful, and sounds like poetry when it comes to, you know, that love he had for for independence and for liberty. So I think that’s just really interesting. And I feel like I would have a lot of questions for him, as well as on the American side, I read. So I watched the play first, and then went back and read the book, but Alexander Hamilton, big, big fan, I think, again, he is the poster boy for immigrant mentality, just coming to a new country and making a name for yourself and working hard, and really sticking to it, being passionate about what you know, and just continually learning. Just he was a person who was also obsessed about being educated, just learning more. And again, through his education, he was able to be a founding father even though he was not born in the US.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 39:03
Love it. Yes. And there are statues everywhere and avenues named after Simone Bulevar. And isn’t that what Bolivia the country is named after?

Carlos Melendez 39:12
Yeah, so Bolivia was was named after him. It’s country in his honor. And if you go to Central Park in New York City, there’s a statue of course in Mongolia as well as in Washington DC. We have a statue first one will you as well.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 39:26
Love it. What is a favorite thing or fun fact about growing up in Venezuela?

Carlos Melendez 39:34
Oh, that’s that’s really fun. So I grew up in a city called Maracaibo. It’s the second biggest city in Venezuela. So about 3 million people or so. One of the cool things was that at night in my hometown, you can always see sort of lightning in the background, but it doesn’t it doesn’t have sound. You can just see the lights and that’s called a rainbow they cut that Remember, the ray of Catatumbo bar Kibo is the well the state of Zulia is the place that has the most lightning strikes in the world, you can look that up. It’s in the Guinness Book of World Records. And it’s just basically a consistent thing that happens, doesn’t really have a sound, but you can always just see lightning strike. That’s why our state flag has a big sign because it’s really hot there. And then a lightning going through the side. So always really interesting when people you know, scientists go there and see it. And for me, it was just something that I saw every night just lightning really far away.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 40:35
Oh, that is really interesting. How can others be activists to get students connected to schools that work for them that ideal match, you talked about? How can everybody be making that happen? If their aunts or uncles or business owners, what can we be doing?

Carlos Melendez 40:52
I think what’s important is to listen to students, right? And it coming from from Latin America, and I’m sure a lot of our Latino families are going to feel identified. A lot of times there, there can be a lot of pressure from parents, for children to be a certain profession or be something very specific, right? Well, I want you to be a lawyer, I want you to be a doctor, just you know, a couple of professions have always been viewed as you know, this is this is a real professional over here, I want you to be one of these things. I myself, my father is a lawyer, I went to law school before I went to business school, and and that everything here at school, which was my real passion, but it’s important to listen to children and see how they interact with their environment, to understand what drives them. If a child who is unhappy in their educational setting is a child that’s not going to perform well. No matter how smart they are, no matter how brilliant and no matter some of the conversations I’ve had with parents before, it’s like, well, you know, I know my child is smart, you know, I talked to him. And I know he’s, he’s intelligent, but he’s failing in school. And I don’t know what’s going on. And it just takes a conversation with the child and really understanding what’s making them unhappy at the school. It could be the philosophy, it could also be even bullying, or they might have some sort of IP that has been overlooked. There’s so many things that you can find out by talking to a student themselves, as opposed to just looking for a school that other people have been saying is a good school, the fact that something is a good school, and I’m doing air quotes right now, because a lot of times what parents mean by that is just that they performed well in standardized testing. And that doesn’t paint the whole picture of you go to school as website, we actually don’t rank schools, they we don’t put a grade to them based on their standardized testing, because that only tells part of the story. I know, Maureen? Yeah, we were we were talking before this about one of the examples I see a lot, but it’s just if a student arrives to fifth grade with a first grade reading level, and that’s cool. Within one year, it gets them to a fourth grade reading level. That’s an amazing achievement as an educator is an amazing achievement. But if you look at the standardized testing, it still shows the child as failing and reading, right, because they’re at fourth grade, and they should be at fifth grade. Now that didn’t tell the whole story that that school was perfect for that child because they brought them up below. So again, it’s important to understand that every child learner learns different, their journey is going to be different. And they already have these passions that are determining what they want to do in the future. And we shouldn’t be imposing on them what we want for them, but just really listening. And through our listening and through what we learn from what they want in their life. That way we can actually go in and choose a school and help them be in that edge. Ideal educational setting for the

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 43:56
Mic drop. I totally agree. When that’s turbo time question, what Carlos is something that most folks don’t know about you?

Carlos Melendez 44:06
Oh, well, I think I set it for a second there. But I actually did graduate from law school. So before I went into this, I was a lawyer, which is it’s always funny. I was a criminal defense attorney before I went to business school. So really, really different. And I think that’s one of the things that makes me so happy about coming to work. Right before I joined school. I also worked for two major league baseball teams or any reds in the San Diego Padres. So I love baseball, but it’s just a completely different thing. You know, when I woke up for work as a defense attorney, you know, obviously, those are pretty tough cases. Yeah. Then in baseball, you know, it was fun, but it was most most mostly entertainment that you’re providing to people which is still nice. And you know, I had a great experience out there but I’m My work with Scola has been the most fulfilling thing I’ve done in my career. Because I am thankful that I am able to travel next week I’ll be in New York and the week after that I’ll be in Houston. And I got to be in the classroom and hear from school leaders. Look, these are the children that came in through school and look how well they’re performing and how happy they are. And just seeing the smile of those children or those teenagers in their new classroom is what makes me wake up every day and do this.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 45:30
I love it. And we always close our podcast with a magic wand moment. So Carlos, I’m handing you a magic wand. If Scola and its mission, were wild success, or if school and learning were ideal. What I mean, what would you wish with your magic wand to get us there?

Carlos Melendez 45:50
Yeah, I think that as as the head of marketing over here, the what I struggle with still is making sure that everybody knows about their choices, right? Because if everybody understood the choices that they have, we would just have a better education overall, throughout the country. A lot of people are just settling for their neighborhood school, which again, sometimes might be my workout for them. But a lot of times that is just not working out for their child. So ideally, tomorrow I would have everybody know about Scola, and everybody understand what’s going on matches so that they go in there, they got a couple of school options. And they really start talking to three to five different schools and really understanding the difference between them and just making the right choice for their children again, to just ensure that future success.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 46:44
Love it. Carlos, thank you for being this way shower for school, helping families know more so that they can get what they want for their kids. Every parent I know. We want our kids to be happy. We want them to be seen, heard valued, we want them to thrive on their terms. And that’s what you’re doing at school. So thank you so much.

Carlos Melendez 47:08
Thank you so much for having us, Maureen. And thank you for for having this podcast. Again. It’s just so important that we do have these discussions about education. It’s not something that we can just have in the back seat and just again, settle for for where we’re at now. Education, education and educators, we have to continue learning all the time and evolving and growing in order to better serve our community better serve our children, and better serve our future.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 47:39
Agreed. Thank you.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 47:50
Isn’t it amazing? How many options there are for our precious rainbow of learners. And many of these options can be combined into new hybrids. It is so impressive. That school is providing a free matchmaking tool to help families know of these many options and to help schools get the word out, and that they’re also available to provide extra support to schools. as Carlos said, We small schools definitely need a little extra help when it comes to tech at times. I love school as motto that we want to be the tool to help you choose your next school. We all want to match every child to their ideal school setting. As a mom and educator. This is a deep desire of mine. It’s my hope that education, evolution interviews and newsletters and lives are helping us all access new learning options for each child. What a wonderful tool school it is for our schools. neighborhood schools would get to truly serve the kids that are the right fit. If families were more discerning choice magnet charter NPA, and dual enrollment schools can provide other free school options. And homeschooling and private education can get the word out to a broader audience about the unique features of their programs. I love to that this planning in advance and proactively selecting the correct school or a school that stands a chance of being a good fit will result in lower turnover. That means more productive learning experiences for everyone.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 49:43
I’m also reminded of the first board chair at lead prep, Rene. He came from the Netherlands. And I was surprised to learn that they look at university education very differently from us. So we’re like hey, if you’re lucky, a university might yuzu in the university is full of teachers that have been working their way up by researching and writing to get tenured status. These teachers or professors, then are guaranteed a job. And the Netherlands does it very differently. And I use this example because we need to keep thinking of different ways and not get locked into how things have always been done. In the Netherlands high school students get to select the colleges they want to attend. If a college isn’t staying progressive and cutting edge, it has the chance of going out of business. And there’s no such thing as a guarantee that professors will get to teach at a school for ever. They have to have quality to stay in the game. We need to be able to vote for quality and relevance and provide lots of options in our school system. We have to keep going on this until every kid is in the right place. And learning systems have evolved to meet the needs of today’s kids. Carlos suggested that we need to listen to students, and that resonates, it’s an important part of any matchmaking. What are our child’s passions? Are they able to sit still and listen to they need something more physical, it’s so easy to get caught up in accomplishing or completing or heading in the right direction.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 51:28
But when these are our priorities, our students get drug along in the process. As a result, they often say they feel like they’re just doing school, but there’s no relevance for what has meaning in their lives. This is sad and avoidable and needs to be changed. Carlos has magic wand to make sure that everybody knows their school choices is beautiful. And I love that they’re not only making this happen for free, but also doing it in Spanish. We all need to think about inclusion through as many lenses as possible. To make this happen, parents are going to need to check their expectations and be open to schools that perhaps weren’t a part of their plans originally, and really know their child and make that the priority Getting the right fit for where their child is now. And I would extend this magic wand by encouraging us to keep creating more options. Until every student has a learning setting that works. Until then we are not done. So let’s keep education evolving. listeners. Thank you for being a part of this wonderful, and necessary education evolution.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 52:57
I know how challenging it is to make changes inside your own school or community. I’ve spent years working with schools around the world on creating learner centered programs. And it always struck me how much schools were able to get done with the right tools and guidance. If you’re ready to make changes like this in your own school, let’s talk and put together an action plan. Visit educationevolution.org/consult for a free 15 minute call. And let’s see if we’re a good fit for more work together. Thanks again for listening. To support the education evolution. Subscribe so it lands in your podcast app and gets out to more decision makers. Then rate and review it. For more information in shownotes go to educationevolution.org. education evolution listeners. You are the ones to ensure we create classrooms where each student is seen heard, valued and thriving. We are in this together and we need you. Let’s go out and reach every student today. Thank you for listening, signing off. I am Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your partner in boldly reimagining education.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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