Kids First Podcast - A Charter School Podcast with Chris Neeley
By Kids First Podcast
We talk to educators, school leaders, policymakers, and charter school acolytes about their stories.
We always start with “why” here…because it’s not just about a job, occupation, or field; it's about why we do what we do.
Kids First Podcast - A Charter School Podcast with Chris NeeleyApr 12, 2023
Shaping Success with Erik Weir: Unleashing Financial Acumen and Entrepreneurial Insights for Tomorrow's Leaders
Get ready for a compelling episode of the Kids First Podcast. We're thrilled to welcome a very special guest, Erik Weir, the principal of WCM Global Wealth LLC.
As a leader in wealth management, Erik serves an impressive roster of clients, including Grammy-winning artists, sports icons, international fashion moguls, and even Forbes-listed billionaires. His expertise ranges from finance to real estate investment, making him a coveted speaker at major corporations nationwide.
In addition to his financial prowess, Erik is also the owner of WTA Media, a leading force in film marketing, financing, and literary representation. He has served as an executive producer for inspiring films like 'Unbroken: Path to Redemption' and 'Run the Race'. His company has marketed numerous notable films, including the $80M grossing 'I Can Only Imagine' and the $69M grossing 'War Room.'
Erik's entrepreneurial spirit doesn't stop there. He's an investor in five Topgolf locations in the US and is now venturing into European markets, with the first location set to open in Germany this December.
An Amazon best-selling author, a martial artist, and a multi-engine pilot, Erik truly embodies the spirit of lifelong learning, a value we deeply admire and promote within the South Carolina Public Charter School District.
On November 14th, Erik will keynote our Fall Leaders' Summit, sharing his journey and insights into entrepreneurship and goal setting. Prepare for an episode inspired by Erik Weir, a testament to dreaming big and working hard to realize those dreams.
Soaring High with Doug Adomatis: Inspiring the Future Trailblazers of Aviation
In this episode of Kids First Podcast, we're joined by the multi-talented Doug Adomatis, an educator, pilot, amateur radio operator, and advanced open-water SCUBA diver. With a mission to mold the future trailblazers of aviation, Doug brings his passion for flying into the Greenville Technical Charter High School classroom.
From his transition from successful entrepreneur to inspiring educator to his role as the after-school Aerospace Club faculty sponsor, Doug's journey is nothing short of inspiring. He also plays a pivotal role in AviCom, South Carolina's state-wide high school aviation competition, demonstrating his commitment to promoting aviation among young minds.
Join us as we take a deep dive into Doug's fascinating world of aviation and learn how he's shaping the future of the industry, one student at a time. Prepare for takeoff!
Valerie Dix - A Journey of Passion and Innovation with 2023 District Teacher of the Year
Welcome to a riveting new episode of the 'Kids First Podcast'. We're thrilled to bring you an inspiring conversation with Valerie Dix, the esteemed 2023 District Teacher of the Year. A passionate educator and a beacon in the realm of Spanish and Divergent Learning, Valerie's journey is nothing short of inspiring.
In this episode, Valerie opens up about her fascinating path to becoming a teacher and her experiences teaching Spanish—a testament to her dedication and versatility in the field of education. She delves into her love for Spanish and Divergent Learning, sharing how these passions influence her teaching style and impact her students’ learning experiences.
Tune in to hear Valerie’s story and glean insights from her wealth of knowledge and experience. This episode is more than a podcast; it's a masterclass in education, engagement, and inspiration. Don't miss it!"
Betsy DeVos - Champion For Education Freedom
Meet Betsy DeVos - Champion For Education Freedom! She's a leader, an innovator determined to open up educational opportunities for students of all ages. With over three decades of activism under her belt, she has been a major force in transforming public policy reforms to give students more freedom when it comes to where, when, and how they learn. From 2017-2021 she proudly served as the 11th U.S. Secretary of Education, demonstrating her passion and commitment to providing every student with the opportunity to succeed.
If you're looking for a podcast that gives you an up-close look at educational freedom, Betsy DeVos is the champion for you! With her decades of experience and commitment to true reform, this is one show that's sure to inspire and inform. It's time to learn what real education freedom looks like - and who better than Betsy DeVos! Tune in to hear all about how she's raising the bar for education reform. You won't want to miss it!
Dr. Thomas Hodges -Dean at the University of South Carolina College of Education - Education Champion
This week on the Kids First Podcast, we have the privilege of introducing you to Dr. Thomas Hodges – Dean of the College of Education at the University of South Carolina! Dr. Hodges is a true champion for education and has dedicated his career to developing teachers and creating pathways for traditionally underserved candidates in rural communities to enter the teaching profession.
He began his journey as a teacher in Nashville, Tennessee before going on to become Coordinator of Elementary Education Programs, Chair of the Department of Instruction and Teacher Education, and Dean for the College of Education. His research focuses on identifying and institutionalizing programs that support the educational success of all students.
Tune in to hear Dr. Hodges discuss his thoughts on education, his journey as an educator, and how we can bring more innovation into the classroom. So don't miss out - join us this week on the Kids First Podcast for an enlightening conversation with Dr. Thomas Hodges! You won't want to miss it.
Corey DeAngelis -The Education Reform Maverick
Corey DeAngelis is a well-respected and tenacious advocate of educational reform. As a senior fellow at the American Federation for Children and Executive Director of Educational Freedom Institute, DeAngelis has continually pushed forward innovative strategies to create lasting and meaningful changes in the space of education policy. Moreover, his stalwart work on this front has not gone unnoticed - he was named on Forbes' 30 Under 30 list, and received the prestigious Buckley Award from America's Future in 2020. His influence in public policy debates also earned him the Future 40 Award from Maverick PAC in 2021, as well as the OCPA Citizenship Award in 2022. DeAngelis is a dedicated champion of educational change, unwavering in his efforts to make impactful improvements.
Alan Wilson - South Carolina's 51st Attorney General
Welcome to the Kids First Podcast! Today, we are honored to have South Carolina's Fifty-First Attorney General, Alan Wilson, with us. Alan was elected back in 2010 and took office in 2011. In addition to serving as Attorney General, he has been a Judge Advocate General in the National Guard providing legal support for soldiers and assisting in the prosecution of military crimes.
Growing up, service was a foundation of the Wilson family. All four brothers attained Eagle Scout rank and all continue to serve their community today - something that Mr. Wilson hopes will inspire our young listeners! So let's get started and learn from the wise words of South Carolina's 51st Attorney General, Alan Wilson. Enjoy!
Greg Thompson - Board Chairman of Liberty STEAM Charter School
Greg Thompson is the Board Chairman of Liberty STEAM Charter School and founder of the Thompson Family of Companies. He has dedicated his time and effort to the betterment of Sumter community, becoming the driving force behind the Liberty STEAM Charter initiative. He is the President and CEO of Thompson Construction Group, and Chairman of IndustrialServices, taking it from its inception with two employees in 1986 to a leader in industrial cleaning in the Southeast, with more than 2,500 workers today.Greg has devoted his energy to the revival of downtown Sumter, South Carolina, through his positions as Chairman of the Sumter Economic Development Board,Founding Member of the Sumter Smarter Growth Initiative, and Former Member ofthe Sumter School District Finance Committee. His company is also an active business partner of Crosswell Drive Elementary and has formed a partnership with the Sumter School District to develop the E3 Professional Development Conference and the State of the District Breakfast. His vision is to foster collaboration amongst local leaders to create a school that meets the needs of Sumter’s families.
Shannon Erikson - Chairman of the Education and Public Works Committee
Shannon Erickson is a prominent figure in South Carolina politics, having served as a member of the House of Representatives from Beaufort County's 124th District for 13 years and currently Chairing its Education and Public Works Committee. She has also Chaired the South Carolina General Assembly Women’s Caucus, making it no surprise that she continues to be an influential voice in South Carolina.
As an unwavering Kids First Advocate, Shannon has held numerous positions, including serving on the Governor's Advisory Committee on Child Care; United Way of Beaufort County; First Steps to School Readiness/United Way Quality Task Force; to name a few. Catch her on the Kids First Podcast to hear more about her passion for Kid first initiatives! Additionally, Shannon has held key roles within the Chamber of Commerce and the Republican Party to further her commitment to the children of South Carolina.
Shannon Erickson is a shining example of committed public service in South Carolina. Her tireless advocacy for kid's first initiatives has made her a role model for many across the state. Tune into the Kids First Podcast to hear more about her story!
Trey Walker - Chief of Staff to Governor Henry McMaster
Chris Neeley sat down with Trey Walker, Chief of Staff to Governor Henry McMaster and his longtime friend, for this week's Kids First Podcast. Walker has a wealth of experience in government relations, political consulting, agency management, and crisis communications at the state and national level. His current duties include providing counsel and advice to the Governor, handling the office's daily operations and administration, developing and executing the Governor's legislative agenda and executive budget, as well as significant policy initiatives. He also has extensive experience working with the state's executive branch, serving as deputy chief of staff to Governor Nikki Haley and as Chief Executive Assistant to McMaster during his two terms as attorney general. Politically, he has been involved in US Senator John McCain's presidential campaigns, assisting in the election of the first majorities to control both chambers of the South Carolina General Assembly as executive director of the state Republican Party and serving as a senior consultant and advisor for dozens of successful candidates running for federal, state, and local offices.
Harold Koffler a Charter School Parent and "Dadvocate"
This week we sat down to talk to a parent of the South Carolina Public Charter School District’s family. Harold Koffler and his wife Lisa are the parents of a wonderful 13-year-old daughter named Hope. Their family has moved all over the state looking for the right environment for their daughter to reach her full potential in education. After years of searching, they eventually landed here in Columbia, SC at PACE Academy, and we are so thankful to have them. In this episode, we talk about the importance of individualized learning and the power that it can have. You don’t want to miss my conversation with this awesome father, “dadvocate”, and friend.
Jonathan Butcher of the Heritage Foundation
Jonathan serves as the Will Skillman Fellow in Education at The Heritage Foundation. His area of expertise lies in Education Policy, which he studied at the University of Arkansas.
Butcher is an author as well as commentator, writing and researching education policy around the United States. Most recently, he published “Splintered: Critical Race Theory and the Progressive War on Truth” and wrote several chapters in The Heritage Foundation’s “The Critical Classroom.”
Generally focusing on K-12 schools, he has hopes of creating solutions for many problems presented in schools of all ages. Butcher’s conservative background has influenced his approach to addressing these issues. He believes that many of these concerns have arose as a result of the government’s expanding role in education. He also has zeroed in on topics such as free-speech and racial prejudice which results from critical race theory and its implementation in lower-level education.
He is a Senior Fellow with The Beacon Center of Tennessee, a research organization. He also served as the Education Director at the Goldwater Institute prior to his position as the Will Skillman Fellow.
Deion Jamison - South Carolina Teacher of the Year
Deion Jamison makes history not only as the first public charter school educator to be named State Teacher of the Year, but also as the first African American male honoree. He strives to contribute to excellence, collaboration, and diversity in his classroom. “I’m very thankful to my district family and to my Legacy Early College family for the encouragement and words of support that got me to this point,” said Jamison. “Ultimately, I’m excited for the responsibility to share all the great development in the charter school sector and advocate for the 55,000 teachers in South Carolina.”
Chi-Chi Abando - A Charter Parent & District Team Member Who Values Choice
Chi-Chi Abando first began her journey with Charter Schools when she was a single mother searching for a school for her 4-year-old daughter. Prior to enrolling her daughter at East Point Academy and becoming a team member here at the District she had no knowledge of Charter Schools. Here's Chi-Chi's "Why".
"I learned over the 6 years; Charter schools are not all the same as traditional public schools. They serve a diverse group of students (which was very important to me). If it is students with dyslexia, students interested in learning another language, to students focused on the Arts. Charter Schools gives options and choice. That is what East Point Academy Charter School has given me and my daughter. A single mom hope in giving the opportunity and access to quality and diverse education."
Molly Spearman - From Dairy Farm to Superintendent of Education
For over 18 years she served as a classroom music teacher and an assistant principal. She was elected to four terms as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives representing Saluda County and portions of Lexington County (House District 39). While there she championed education and children's issues and was named Legislator of the Year by the American Legion and the Department of Health and Environmental Control. She served on the Agriculture, Education and Ways and Means Committees.
In 1998, she became the Deputy Superintendent of Education for the South Carolina Department of Education and worked with educators, legislators, and the business community to pass the Education and Economic Development Act, the National Board Certification for teachers, and other progressive education reforms. From 2004 - 2014, she served as the Executive Director of the South Carolina Association of School Administrators, a professional organization representing over 3800 school and district leaders. Her understanding of the importance of strong school principals who support effective teachers will be a focus of her administration.
Pamela Evette - Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina
Chris sat down to talk with our Lieutenant Governor, Pamela Evette. We're so thankful for all Pamela has done for education and school choice in South Carolina, and it was an honor to have her on the show to share her "why."
Agency & High Expectations with Ian Rowe
Ian Rowe is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on education and upward mobility, family formation, and adoption. Mr. Rowe is also the co-founder of Vertex Partnership Academies, a new network of character-based International Baccalaureate high schools opening in the Bronx in 2022; the chairman of the board of Spence-Chapin, a nonprofit adoption services organization; and the cofounder of the National Summer School Initiative. He concurrently serves as a senior visiting fellow at the Woodson Center and a writer for the 1776 Unites Campaign.
Mr. Rowe has been widely published in the popular press, including in the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Examiner. He is often interviewed on talk radio programs. With his forthcoming book “Agency” (Templeton Press, May 2022), Ian Rowe seeks to inspire young people of all races to build strong families and become masters of their own destiny.
"I Want to Lead an Education Revolution" with Ellen Weaver
We had the absolute pleasure of sitting down with our newly elected South Carolina Superintendent of Education Ellen Weaver. We talk about Ellen's origin story, her "why", the benefits of school choice, and how it takes a village. You don't want to miss this one!
Forward Together - Cameron Runyan, CEO & Superintendent of Charter Institute at Erskine
Cameron Runyan is the Superintendent and Chief Executive Officer for the Charter Institute at Erskine. Prior to assuming the Superintendent role, he served as the Interim Director and worked with Erskine College to establish the Charter Institute in 2017. During Mr. Runyan’s tenure as the leader of the Charter Institute, the organization has added approximately 8,000 new students each year – a growth rate that far surpasses every other school district in South Carolina. As of the 2021/22 school year, the Charter institute’s third year enrollment of nearly 24,000 students places it in the top decile among all South Carolina school districts.
"Charters = Choice" with Chairman John Payne of the South Carolina Public Charter School District
"I chose what clothes I wore today. I choose where I live. I choose what I eat. Why should we not be able to give parents the choice of what school they send their children?"
This week on the #KidsFirstPodcast Chairman John Payne talks to us about his “why” — why he serves on our district board, and why he is an advocate for school choice. He also shares about where our district has been, where it is now, and where it’s going. We have grown significantly as a district over the past five years, and John has been an integral part of it. I am so thankful for him and all our board members for their commitment to putting #KidsFirst
The Origin Story of Kids First with Janie Neeley
You don't want to miss this first episode of the Kids First Podcast! Chris chats with his wife Janie Neeley about their "why”, the power of school choice, and the origin story of Kids First.
We're excited to learn together through this show! Thanks for coming along with us.
Trailer: Kids First Podcast
Welcome to the Kids First Podcast, where we talk to educators, school leaders, policymakers, and charter school acolytes about their stories.
We always start with “why” here…because it’s not just about a job, occupation, or field, it's about why we do what we do.
I’m your host, Chris Neeley. As the superintendent of the South Carolina Public Charter School District and the father of three amazing kids, I have seen time and time again the pain that a lack of access and choice in education can cause...but I have also seen the beauty and joy that educational autonomy can create.
So thanks for listening, and for coming along with us here at the district as we learn more about putting Kids First and why it matters.