50 Leading Companies to Watch 2022
Non-profit organizations transform the lives of people for the better. They give these people the opportunity to grow and help them feel that they are not alone.
Edkey® Inc. is a non-profit organization that provides high quality educational services to a variety of institutions, empowering fulfillment of their individual missions. Their services promote the improved quality of individual and family life.
We interviewed Mark Plitzuweit, President and CEO, to understand the company in detail
Q. Can you share one or two stories of individuals whose lives have been changed because of your organization?
Student names changed to protect their identity.
In 2019 Anna, an 8th grade student, lived with her mother and younger sister Barbara, a 6th grader, while attending the Children First Leadership Academy (CFLA), an Edkey school that provides intensive homeless and impoverished student education and supports. Anna had some specific learning and social disabilities and had received special education services at the school since she was a young child.
After years of careful teaching and positive experiences at CFLA, Anna was just starting to let her personality shine. While preparing for and attending a no-cost, school-sponsored, East Coast Learning Expedition, Anna was able to learn much about US history and herself, and see many historical sites in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Gettysburg, and Washington DC. Like all the other CFLA students, up to that point in her life, Anna had little to no experiences outside of Phoenix. The month of extensive US history study leading up to that week of being with her 8th grade classmates and experiencing a whole new dimension to her world seemed to have been a turning point for Anna. By the time she returned from the excursion she was smiling, conversing with both students and adults, and seemed poised to enter high school.
Two years later, in the first week of her sophomore year, Anna’s mother died unexpectedly. Since there was no father, things were very bleak for Anna and Barbara. Their 19-year-old sister and her infant child moved into their tiny apartment so that Anna and Barbara could maintain some stability and avoid being put into the foster care system despite being orphaned. CFLA continues to provide the family with support, and we are very happy to report that both girls are doing well in high school and are on track to graduate.
Q. How long have you been around and how did you get started?
Edkey Inc. was founded in 1996 as Sequoia Schools in Mesa, Arizona to meet the needs of a new age of students and provide choice to parents who sought a better and safer education for their children. Edkey soon expanded to meet the specific educational needs of other communities across the state. Currently, Edkey owns and operates 26 diverse charter school and program sites. Edkey schools offer a wide range of themes including Back-to-Basics, S.T.E.A.M., High End Performing Arts, Founding Fathers, and Deaf Education. We serve students from rural, inter-city, and suburban homes as well as the homeless. Edkey provides a rich academic experience to general and special education students, English language learners, athletes, and artists within both traditional classroom and online settings.
Within its diverse mission, Edkey operates Children First Foundation which raises funds to support homeless and high needs students. In short, Edkey serves the needs of each family in each community with a vast array of resources to help each student achieve the education they need to succeed regardless of their circumstances.
Q. How do you keep your supporters up to date about your work?
Edkey and each of its schools and programs have websites, social media accounts, and parent messaging services to ensure that we live up to one of our core values: Communication. Additionally, teachers and staff send home flyers and are encouraged to send emails and texts or to call parents to keep them informed of upcoming events and student progress.
Q. What are the main obstacles that stand between you and your mission, and how do you plan to overcome them?
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges Edkey faces is the ability to attract and retain educational leaders and teachers in a society where many are departing education for reasons beyond our control. To overcome this obstacle, we have sought the input of our employees to determine that which we do well and that which we can do better to encourage them to build a successful career in education and particularly with Edkey. With this information, Edkey has been able to implement changes that create a more favorable work environment. As we continue to listen to and value our employees we will adapt to the needs of our employees.
Q. Why choose an Edkey school?
Parents choose an Edkey school because it meets their child’s needs better than the other options available to them and because at Edkey, we listen to them and adapt instruction according to the needs and interests of each child.
Brief us about your core values that makes you stand out of the crowd.
Edkey’s core values are what make us T.I.C.K. Each employee strives for Transparency, Integrity, Communication, and Kindness. Each of these core values are interdependent on one another.
In a world with so much misinformation, we want to be very transparent in everything that happens in our organization. Although there is much information that is protected by laws and societal norms, there is much that can and should be shared, regardless of whether it presents our organization in a positive or negative light.
Integrity within the organization is paramount to being transparent while sustaining the trust of our students, staff, and their families, along with each stakeholder with whom we are associated.
Communicating with our students, staff, and their families, along with our stakeholders in an honest and timely manner helps them be successful, minimizes unnecessary irritants, and paves the way to build and sustain relationships of trust essential to our success.
Q. How does your instructional programs help access the best education?
Our instructional programs are designed to address the specific needs of each student. We differentiate to ensure that instruction is not just delivered but also understood. With anywhere from 5 to 25 students in a classroom, such differentiation requires the skills and passion of each teacher and an innovative organization that provides the necessary physical resources for that teacher and those students to succeed.
Meet Edkey’s Visionary
For over 27 years, Mark Plitzuweit has been a model leader in education. He has been the recipient of multiple awards in both K-12 and Higher Education environments. In his current role as President and CEO of Edkey® Inc., Mark has enabled his teams to be the best versions of them by providing professional autonomy, paired with personal accountability, across all levels of the organization.