Rural - Not Flyover!

Is the neglect of rural America a great failing of our democracy? How can our rural charter schools become beacons of progressive values in environments that may not be receptive? What’s it like at a rural, community-based, community school? Is there an opportunity for rural-urban charter collaboration?


Christopher Norwood is the Founder of the Florida Association of Independent Public Schools and the Governance Institute for School Accountability (GISA). Norwood is the former Executive Director of Lawyers for Children (Florida), he is certified by the Florida Commissioner for Education to provide Governance Training to Charter Schools. He is sought out by many to represent charter schools with application appeals, terminations and non-renewals before Florida’s Administrative Law Judges and School Board Administrative Hearings. Norwood Chair’s the City of Miami Education Advisory Board and serves on the Audit and Budget Committee of Miami-Dade Public Schools.


Doug Thomas is a former teacher, business owner, and a founder of the Minnesota New Country School, a nationally recognized innovative charter school in Henderson, MN. He served as the founding president of EdVisions Cooperative. Doug spent 10 years as Southern Minnesota representative for the Center for School Change at the Humphrey Institute, University of Minnesota, and was a 4-term board member of Le Sueur-Henderson Public Schools. He has led the effort to create 35 new small secondary schools using the EdVisions model. Doug is a strong advocate for small schools, teacher leadership, and innovative learning strategies and has a special interest in community development.

Kim Goates is founder and CEO of Education Evolution, a company that specializes in creating a customized distance education program specific to the Charter school's mission, vision, purpose and goals. Kim has immersed herself in finding a better way of educating students especially in rural communities.  She has created, designed and implemented systems which bridge the gap between homeschooling families and the charter schools by using a “hybrid distance” program. Kim is passionate about providing parents and students educational options that work for their individual family needs.

Marcos Martinez is the CEO and founder of PODER Academy schools in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He has opened multiple high achieving charter schools in Colorado and Wyoming, and his schools have won numerous awards for academic excellence, athletic championships, and overall financial viability. His schools have truly closed the achievement gap, and this is evident from his state test scores. Besides for his school administrative history, Mr. Martinez has taught at the secondary and collegiate levels, and he is also a certified fitness instructor. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Education Literacy at the University of Wyoming.