Why is a former Carolina Panther opening Movement School in West Charlotte?


Movement Mortgage owner Casey Crawford may not be remembered as a tight end for the Carolina Panthers during the 2000-2001 season, but I don’t think he cares. After meeting him last week, it’s easy to see that his legacy will be his community work with Movement Foundation, his nonprofit organization that “comes alongside others to reinvest in communities and empower individuals to fulfill whatever tasks God has equipped them to do.”

Through the leadership and funding of the Movement Foundation, a large commercial property on Freedom Drive once known for its K-Mart store was redeveloped to include Movement School at 2701-C Freedom Drive.

The school recruited 305 students through events and ads directed toward families living in West Charlotte. The year-round public charter school opened Wednesday, Aug. 9 with K-2 classes and will add another grade each year, with a goal of 500 students in a K-5 format.

“There’s nothing like this on the west end,” said Raheem Roberts, first-grade teacher at Movement School. “This gives families another option for education in this area. A lot of the kids on the waiting list for Sugar Creek [Charter School] lived over here. It became apparent that families over here wanted something like Sugar Creek.”

Crawford is responding to a need

Movement School is the result of Crawford feeling the need to respond to economic and education issues.

One catalyst was the 2014 economic mobility study, ranking Charlotte last.

“We love Charlotte,” he said of he and his wife, Michelle Crawford. “It’s such an incredible community. But then you scratch the surface a little bit and it doesn’t make sense to me that a kid born to poverty in this city has the least chance of escaping or breaking the cycle.”

Crawford saw a chance to respond. “We saw the school as the most effective institution to break some of those generational poverty cycles,” he said.

One report he read suggested that the charter school model may work better than faith-based models because it can depend on an organization or company to purchase the real estate for the school. The school can then hopefully be sustained by state dollars.

Crawford realized he could bridge the financial gap needed to sustain a school by providing the space through his foundation.

As a charter school, Movement School will be supported with state dollars. A $12 million investment by the Movement Foundation initially supported building, renovations and transportation for the school. Salaries, supplies, light bills and all other operational expenses will be paid through the state funds.

Movement School grand opening

Why Movement School is different

The first thing you notice about the school is the design; it doesn’t look like a typical elementary school. It’s colorful with large, open classrooms with round windows that open to the hallway. Hallways are decorated with huge photos of the school’s recent events – movie nights, pop-ups and a block party.

“We don’t want anything about this school to be boring,” said Roberts.

Movement School’s teaching methods are modeled after Sugar Creek Charter School because extensive research on schools throughout the nation found it to be an exceptional example. The two schools have formed a partnership to ensure Movement School’s success.

“Our lead teachers and admin have all come from Sugar Creek [Charter School] to help get this off the ground,” said Roberts.

The school will use math and reading assessments to determine each student’s needs. According to Roberts, teachers can tailor the curriculum to the student.

“The model is individualized instruction,” he said. “We do a lot of our instruction in small groups. Our kindergarten and first grade classrooms all have a teacher and an instructional assistant.”

Movement School students will attend character education classes. Classes will focus on teaching character values like responsibility and honesty.

“These students are our country’s future leaders,” said Roberts.

Photos: Courtesy of Movement Foundation


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