Fathers & Daughters, Mothers & Sons

Father-Daughter Dance

Our gym was transformed to the theme of "Fly Me to the Moon" at our first Father-Daughter Dance on March 3rd. Dads and daughters all dressed their best -- dancing, socializing, smiling, and singing -- a night to make memories. Giggling girls requesting songs, dads giving dance lessons, photos being snapped, lots of fun being had. Let's not forget about the chocolate fountain!

Mother-Son Nerf Battle

A BLAST was had by all at the first Mother v. Son Nerf Blaster Battle on March 4th hosted by the PTCA! Mothers and sons got to dodge darts, find foxholes, and avoid crepe paper ‘lasers’ as they laughed and enjoyed a full morning of fun with one another. While not on the battlefield, participants could practice their aim in the gym or rest (for the moms, mostly!) and grab a snack. The jury may still be out on which side had the most hits; but, judging by the smiles on all the faces, we can be sure everyone won!

Seven Oaks Teachers in the News

Dear Seven Oaks Families & Friends, 

I’m writing because Seven Oaks once again finds itself in the news. This latest coverage raises questions about the qualifications of our teachers, who collectively have a hundred years of teaching experience. Our critics expect you to be scandalized to learn that we have teachers who don’t have a license in hand. Well, as I’ve been telling families from day one, it’s true! We do have uncertified teachers. We reject the notion that the only capable teachers are licensed ones. Some licensed teachers are good and some are bad. Some unlicensed teachers are good and others are bad. Our goal has always been to hire the best available teacher for each available position, whether certified or not, within the guidelines laid out in law. Thankfully, Indiana has given charter schools some leeway in hiring. 

Indiana intended for charter schools to be innovative. The hope is that they would offer parents a meaningful choice in education. To that end, they granted charters some flexibility in hiring and in the choice of curriculum. This flexibility allows us to offer a rigorous education in the liberal arts and sciences, with instruction in the principles of moral character and civic virtue. It also means that we are able to hire teachers like Ms. Hoit, who is finishing her Ph.D. in classics. Or Ms. Holland, who spent the last three years running a children’s music theater in downtown Chicago. Or Mrs. James, who spent time teaching in France and then worked for an education consulting firm before coming to Seven Oaks. Or Mr. Barnett, who knows eight languages and competed in the math olympics in high school and who turned down a funded Ph.D. program to teach fifth grade. 

The standard rule for Indiana charter schools is that 90% of their full-time teachers must be licensed or in the process of obtaining a license. As it happens, at the beginning of the year, 11 of our 16 full-time teachers did not have a license in hand. But, as the law requires, all are progressing toward a more permanent form of licensure. Here’s where there’s some potential for confusion. Unlicensed teachers start with something the state rather misleadingly calls an “emergency permit.” As long as a charter school teacher is progressing toward licensure, this permit is renewed annually for up to three years. In the case of our teachers, several of our teachers began the year already on the cusp of licensure. One needed to renew her Indiana license after having taught for a number of years in a private school; another was waiting for her license to transfer from another state. Several more are eligible for what is called an “advanced degree permit.” Dr. Smith (Ph.D., American History, Notre Dame), Ms. Hoit (Ph.D. [ABD], Classics, Bryn Mawr), and Mr. Moschel (MA, Humanities, St. Johns), are eligible to sit for content and pedagogy exams and receive a so-called “advanced degree permit.” In fact, Dr. Smith has completed his tests, and Ms. Hoit lacks just one.  

So why the news coverage? If you’ve hired good teachers and you’re following the law, what’s the big deal? Yesterday, I went before the State Board of Education to ask for a waiver from the 90% rule. The law invites schools to request a waiver, and so we did. We asked that up to 50% of our teachers be allowed to remain uncertified. 

And why did we do that? If all our teachers are in the process of obtaining licensure, why the request? The reason lies in a lack of clarity about something called a “charter license.” According to the law, someone is eligible for a charter license if they have a bachelor's degree from an accredited school with a GPA of 3.0 or higher and they take licensure exams for the areas they wish to teach. When we hired our teachers, we made the understandable mistake of thinking that "charter licenses" are licenses. (After all, charter licensure is listed as an option on the Alternative Licensure page of the Department of Education website.) We carefully read the statute; and in the end we were persuaded that charter licenses would satisfy the 90% licensure requirement. Shortly before school started, however, we discovered that the Indiana Department of Education reads the law differently. A charter license, we are told, is not a form of licensure. 

The DOE’s interpretation particularly affects our elementary and fine arts teachers. Their only other option is an alternative licensure program called a "transition to teach" (T2T) program. Problem solved, right? Unfortunately, T2T programs are typically 24 credit hours at roughly $500 per credit. 

A broader perspective is helpful here. Teacher certification is a novelty of the last hundred years. Even now, the states with the strongest growth in classical charter schools are the states that allow the greatest freedom in hiring. In Texas, Arkansas, and Colorado, charter school teachers aren’t required to be licensed at all. Other places allow a larger percentage to remain uncertified. In New Hampshire, for instance, 50% of charter school teachers have to be certified or have three years of experience. Some states require alternative certification programs, but at far less time and expense than Indiana. In Ohio, for instance, charter school teachers must complete an alternative certification program that is a mix of online modules and classroom experience, but it only costs $200 and is completed within six months.

Doubtless many in this state who have been through a T2T program have found the sacrifice worthwhile. In the case of a classical charter school, however, the usefulness of these programs is somewhat diminished.  The reason lies in the fact that these programs were not designed with classical charter schools in mind. Every certification program I’m aware of promotes a philosophy of education, methodology, and curriculum at odds with that of a classical school. 

And so I went to the State Board of Education on a fact-finding mission. The board of Seven Oaks wanted to know whether our unlicensed teachers would need to undertake the time and expense of an alternative certification program, or whether the State Board of Education would be open to a waiver—given our innovative philosophy of education, curriculum, and pedagogy. The State Board rejected our request for a waiver. And so now we know. Alternative certification is our only option for some of our unlicensed teachers. In the eyes of the educational gatekeepers, this step is necessary to make sure that teachers like Mrs. Helton, Mrs. James, and Ms. Holland, are fit to teach.  

Okay, so you asked and were denied. You’re moving on. You’re following the law. You have decent teachers. What’s the fuss? Ah well, here I can only speculate. There seems to be an orthodoxy in the educational community that every teacher must pass through a state-approved program that teaches the teacher to teach. The presumption seems to be that it is easier to learn content on the job than methodology. 

Where does that leave our teachers? Of course, the DOE’s interpretation of the law and the SBOE’s denial of the waiver fall hardest on our unlicensed teachers. They will have to divert time and money to a program that will add little to their ability to teach. But they have time. Again, charter school teachers have three years from the time they start teaching to obtain a permanent form of licensure. The typical alternative certification program takes no more than two years, even while teaching full-time. 

Very best,
Stephen Shipp, Ph.D.
Seven Oaks Classical School 

Press Release: Enrollment Update

The number of students currently planning to attend Seven Oaks Classical School this fall is up by an estimated 55%, according to new enrollment figures just released by school officials. 

Seven Oaks Classical School, which is located at 200 E. Association Street in Ellettsville, will be starting its second year of operation when the academic year gets underway this fall. Over 90 new students in grades K-9 have applied to attend the tuition-free charter school, said Dr. Stephen Shipp, the school’s headmaster. This enrollment number will bring the student population to an estimated 255, he said. 

“We have been able to offer seats to 92 new student applicants for the 2017-2018 school year,” Shipp said. “We will continue to accept applications on a first-come, first-serve basis until each grade level at the school is full. 

“It has been exciting to see the surge of support for Seven Oaks as the community learns that there is a public school option that offers a cutting-edgeliberal arts education with an emphasis on good character and civic virtue,” Shipp said. “We began the school year with 161 students in grades K-8. Over the course of the year, our enrollment has grown to 165. Even now, we continue to accept transfer students in various grades.” 

Shipp noted the Seven Oaks plans to add instruction in ninth grade this fall. “We’ll continue to add a grade each year until we are a full K-12 program,” Shipp said. 

“Our   current   families have seen the Seven Oaks difference firsthand,”  Shipp said. “Nearly all of our current students are planning to return to our school and we will have an influx of new students in the lower grades,” Shipp said. Kindergarten enrollment at the school is expected to top 55 students this fall and there will likely be up to 43 first-graders when classes begin. “The continued growth of students in these lower grades ensures the long-term stability of the school,” Shipp said.  

Seven Oaks Classical School is open to students from any economic background in South Central Indiana. “We already have students from Monroe, Morgan, Owen, Clay, and Greene Counties attending our classes daily,” Shipp noted. “Because we are a charter school, it doesn’t matter what district students live in. 

“I would encourage any parents who want their children to enjoy a content-rich, time-tested curriculum to contact me at 812-935-5003,” Shipp added. “Beginning in kindergarten, our students begin mastering a defined body of knowledge in reading and math, science and history, art and music.”

Seven Oaks’ innovative curriculum, which is based on a model by Hillsdale College’s Barney Charter School Initiative in Hillsdale, Michigan, uses the Latin language as a foundation for instruction in the liberal arts and sciences. “We don’t teach to the test. State standards are the floor, not the ceiling, of our curriculum. Our approach to education has been successful for hundreds of years and is now being rediscovered,” Shipp said, “I’ve seen it benefit students across the socio-economic spectrum. It is crucial in developing analytical techniques, critical thinking, logical reasoning and rhetorical skills in students. Instruction in Latin begins in the primary school grades and will extend through high school.”

Winter Concert Now at 6:30 PM this Thursday


The Winter Concert was originally scheduled to start at 6:00pm on Thursday. But with the cancellation of the dress rehearsal on Tuesday, the concert has been moved back by a half hour. Students still need to arrive by 5:30pm to practice. But the concert now begins at 6:30pm. Seating will begin at 6:20pm.  

The concert will take place at the Ellettsville First Assembly of God (115 W Association St Ellettsville, IN  47429), the church immediately to the west of Seven Oaks, just across 1st Street. 

Seven Oaks Students Honor the Honorable

Veterans and family gathered at Seven Oaks Classical School on November 11 to honor those who served in our country's armed services. They have done their duty and deserve our gratitude. Students prepared songs and recitations to solemnize the occasion. Each of the two dozen servicemen and women present were recognized individually for their service. 

Seven Oaks to Honor America's Veterans

Seven Oaks Classical School will be presenting a Veterans Day program on Friday, November 11, and would like to invite any family members, friends, and neighbors to join us in honoring the sacrifices of our veterans. The program will start at 10 am and conclude at 11 am. The seating of veterans will begin at 9:45am. Students of all grades will share songs and recitations appropriate to the occasion. If you need further details or have any questions, you may contact the office at 812-935-5003. The school is located at 200 East Association Street, Ellettsville, IN 47429. 

Seven Oaks Dads Get Involved


Fifteen Seven Oaks fathers and grandfathers came out on Monday for kick-off meetings for Eagles Watch. The newly-formed Parent Teacher Community Association (PTCA) has created a Trustees Committee that will oversee this program. Committee members Jarod Koon and Shawn Rogers are spearheading the drive to get dads, grandads, and uncles involved in the daily life of the school.

The benefits are tremendous. Our students will benefit from the role models. The extra eyes will add to the security of the campus. The men will get a clearer sense of what the school day looks like. They'll have opportunity to observe classes, eat with their children, join them for recess. 

Every man who signs up will undergo a background check. Once they've been cleared, they will receive access to a shared Eagles Watch calendar, which includes a running task list.

To get involved, click here to complete a brief interest survey.   

Community Workdays Coming Up

The first phase of contracted renovations is complete, but projects remain. We've scheduled community workdays for 9:00am-1:00pm, Sat, Nov 5, and Sat, Nov 19. Feel free to come and go as your schedule allows.

The focus on November 5 will be the inside of the building. Priorities include painting the music room and anchoring lockers to the walls.   

Workdays aside, if you're handy and have a few hours to spare one day, let us know. We'd welcome the help at other times as well.

Public Info Meetings, School Tours Scheduled

For those considering Seven Oaks, or just curious and wanting to find out more, we have put a series of public information meetings and tours on the calendar. If you have questions in the meantime, or if these times do not work for you, feel free to contact the school office at 812-935-5003. 

  • Thu, Nov 3, 7:00-8:00pm - Public Info Meeting 
  • Fri, Nov 4, 8:30-9:15am - Campus Tour 
  • Thu, Dec 1, 7:00-8:00pm - Public Info Meeting 
  • Fri, Dec 2, 8:30-9:15am - Campus Tour 
  • Mon, Dec 19, 7:00-8:00pm - Public Info Meeting
  • Tue, Dec 20, 12:30-1:15pm - Campus Tour

Seven Oaks Families Turn Out for Chili Cook-Off

Seven Oaks Families turned in out for the PTCA's first event. The newly formed Parent Teacher Community Association put on the event in the school's gym. There were sixteen chili entries with a wide variety of recipes represented. Event organizers sold 161 tickets and made $551 between ticket sales and donations. 

Kindergarten Takes Learning from Classroom to Field Study

After a science unit on habitats, two Seven Oaks kindergarteners decided to use their recess for a nature study. Thanks to their careful powers of observation, they discovered a worm, which they proudly held up for their teacher to see. 

Community Workday Scheduled for Saturday, August 20

As we prepare the school for opening day, there is a lot of work to be done on the grounds. We invite you to join us onSaturday, August 20, for a community workday. We'll start at 9AM and go until 3PM. Come for any or all of the day. We will be breaking into teams in order to divide and conquer.

A few jobs on the docket:
    •    Assembly of outdoor basketball goals
    •    Installation of privacy fence 
    •    Sanding and painting flagpole
    •    Planting trees and shrubs
    •    Removal of overgrown plants and shrubs
    •    Removal of graffiti
    •    Cleanup of parking lot
BYOT (Bring Your Own Tools). Common garden tools, gloves, wheel barrows, paint brushes, hammers, etc., might prove useful. 

We will have water and light snacks on hand for all in attendance.

Hope to see you there!

Landmark Day in Life of Seven Oaks

Monday was a banner day in the life of Seven Oaks Classical School!

The faculty assembled for the first time to begin three weeks of in-service training. The first two weeks will be led by Hillsdale College's Barney Charter School Initiative.  

Phillip Kilgore, Director of the Barney Charter School Initiative, leads the Seven Oaks faculty in a discussion of the foundations of classical education. 

Phillip Kilgore, Director of the Barney Charter School Initiative, leads the Seven Oaks faculty in a discussion of the foundations of classical education. 

Construction crews began to arrive as early at 6:30am for full-scale demo.  

The site superintendent is now on-site to guide demolition and renovation.

The site superintendent is now on-site to guide demolition and renovation.

Lawn crews also labored all day to clear the overgrowth and mow the property. 

For the first time since Seven Oaks took ownership of the property, the beds of the islands in the parking lot are visible! 

For the first time since Seven Oaks took ownership of the property, the beds of the islands in the parking lot are visible! 


Announcement: Start of School Delayed to September 6

This announcement is not an easy one to write. We have been planning to open August 15. Our teachers will arrive next Monday for three weeks of training. However, we are not satisfied that the pace of renovations makes an August 15 open certain. Rather than wait and hope, we decided to delay. After spending the last week in conversation with our general contractor, Triangle, Inc., and Grace College, our authorizer, the Seven Oaks Board voted today to move the first day of classes to September 6, the day after Labor Day.  

Should I be worried now about the school opening September 6? 
No. We have delayed by three weeks in order to leave sufficient time for project completion. Our financing is place. We have the backing of our authorizer. Our faculty is in place. Books and furniture are on order. The pieces are falling into place—more slowly than we wished—but they are falling in place.  

What am I supposed to do about child care in the meantime? 
We are working on organizing a series of academic camps in an alternative space. We’re still ironing out the details, but the goal would be to offer our students faculty-run camps, free of charge. These would not count as instructional days, but they would be designed to prepare students for our academic program. 

What does this mean for the school calendar?  
We are in conversation with our authorizer. Our goal is minimize the impact on the summer break. We will send out a revised calendar as soon as we get approval from Grace College.  
When are we going to be able to meet the teachers? 
We are planning a Meet-the-Teacher night for the evening of Monday, August 1, 6:30-8:30pm. Look for details in the next e-newsletter.

Is there going to be an open house at some point? 
We have scheduled our first open house for Thursday, September 15, 6:00-8:00pm. Again, look for details in the next school newsletter. 

Seven Oaks Invites Bids for Food Service

Seven Oaks Classical School is seeking proposals from food service management companies to operate our school’s food service operation.  A public opening of proposals will be held at Seven Oaks Classical School located at 200 East Association Street, Ellettsville, IN 47429 on July 13, 2016 at 9:00a.m.  Proposals will not be accepted after this time.  Proposals are to be submitted in a sealed envelope marked Food Service Management Company Bid.  To obtain a copy of the Request for Proposal, contact Dr. Stephen Shipp at (812) 935-5003 or headmaster@sevenoaksclassical.org.