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Edkey® Inc.: Catering to New Age Students with Comprehensive and High Quality Education

Edkey Inc
The Executive Headlines

In the present scenario, high-quality education has become a priority for students. When people are educated, they can significantly contribute to their families and society in various aspects and fields, thus creating a stable and stimulating community. Moreover, high-quality education creates more employment and career opportunities.

People with strong academic backgrounds tend to get better paying jobs. The higher their education and accomplishments, the better their employment options. In 1996, Edkey® Inc. was founded with the mission to meet the needs of a new age of K-12 students and provide choice to parents who sought a better and safer education for their children. Offering high-quality and comprehensive education, it is a non-profit organization empowering fulfillment of each of its schools’ missions. The organization’s services promote the improved quality of individuals as well as family life.


Meeting Specific Educational Needs


Headquartered in Mesa, Arizona, Edkey® was originally established as Sequoia Schools. Since its establishment, the organization has expanded to meet the specific educational needs of many communities across the state. Currently, it operates 28 diverse charter schools and programs. Edkey® schools offer a wide range of themes. These include Back-to-Basics, S.T.E.A.M., High-End Performing Arts, Founding Fathers, and Deaf Education. The organization serves students from rural, intercity, and suburban homes as well as the homeless. It provides a rich academic experience to general and special education students, English language learners, athletes, and artists within both traditional classrooms and online settings.

Within its diverse mission, the organization operates the Children First Foundation which raises funds to support homeless and high-needs students. “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,” states Mark Plitzuweit (CEO and President of Edkey®).


Offering Flexible Options in Education


Speaking of the company’s popular offering, Sequoia Choice Arizona Distance Learning, Edkey®’s online school, has been answering the call of families across the State of Arizona and providing flexible options in education since 1999. Sequoia Choice gained particular attention during the pandemic because it had already mastered online learning through 20+ years of experience before the first COVID case was ever reported. The school provides students with the best education possible by combining technology, certified and highly qualified teachers, and an accredited curriculum that meets the Common Core and state standards. Since it operates many state-wide programs, students are afforded personalized education, the right educational atmosphere, and the flexibility needed to be successful. Moreover, Sequoia Choice was one of the original schools authorized by the Arizona Department of Education to provide distance learning services to Arizona students in grades K-12.


Model Leader in Education


For over 28 years, Mark Plitzuweit has been a model leader in education. He, including the programs led by him, have been the recipient of multiple awards in both K-12 and Higher Education environments. In his current role as Edkey’s® leader, Mark has enabled his team to be the best versions of themselves by providing professional autonomy paired with personal accountability across all levels of the organization. Under his leadership, the organization has achieved fantastic results and progress in the aspects of increased student outcomes, fiscal stability, and student population growth.

What motivates me is watching everyone around me succeed,” affirms Mark. Being at the helm, Mark enjoys providing positive reinforcement and seeing the results of that guidance as staff ascend to higher levels and students go on to graduate and attain their goals. He emphasizes how rewarding it is to see the progress Edkey has made in fulfilling its mission while establishing fiscal stability. When Mark assumed Edkey’s ® top role in 2016, the organization was in a very unstable financial situation. The stability achieved under Mark’s direction since that time enables Edkey® to continue improving, evolving, providing jobs, educating, and perpetuating success.

Being at the company’s forefront, Mark spearheads the management team of Edkey®. That team consists of Mark, four assistant superintendents, CAO, CFO, comptroller, HR director, operations director, and special education director. As the leader, Mark ensures the hiring of the right personnel for the right position. He adds, “People must be appointed to the most suitable role for their skill set. That’s it—that’s all it takes.”

He recounts how after his hiring, he stepped in and changed the narrative of the hiring process. “First, I watched and listened; I gave people a chance to show who they were. I didn’t open a single personnel file because I wanted to form my own unbiased perspective,” remarks Mark. Once he had a firm grasp of everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, he strategically assigned them to more appropriate roles. Knowing that  replacing employees with their friends or former colleagues can create a very toxic environment Mark recounts: “I didn’t bring in my own people. I wanted to give current employees the chance to grow along with me,” says Mark.


Adhering to Its Mission


At Edkey®, employees strive to adhere to Edkey®’s mission by focusing on the following interdependent core values:


  • Transparency: Transparencyis needed in a world with so much misinformation. Edkey® aims to be very transparent in everything that happens within the organization. Although there is much information that is protected by laws and societal restraints, there is much that can and is shared, regardless of whether it presents Edkey® in a positive or negative light.
  • Integrity: Integrity of individuals within the organization is paramount to being transparent and sustaining the trust of Edkey®’s students, staff, and their families, along with each stakeholder with whom it is associated.
  • Communication: Communicating with the students, staff, and their families, along with all 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 Edkey®’s success.
  • Kindness: Kindness is at the root of all that Edkey® does. The organization strives to communicate its transparency with integrity in a kind manner.


Distinct Choice for High Quality Education


In the past few years, Edkey® has emerged as a top eductional choice for students and parents seeking an optimal education. As an educational organization, Edkey® challenges students’ minds and fosters an environment where students harbor the willingness to learn. The organization firmly upholds the belief that “choice is everything.” Just as Edkey® encourages its schools to be what their communities need, each school focuses on helping every student create a path that they need to achieve their education and career goals.

Edkey’s® instructional programs are designed to address the specific needs of each student. Moreover, Edkey® differentiates to ensure that instruction is not just delivered but also understood. “With anywhere from 5 to 28 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,” concludes Mark.


Key Takeaway:


“Teacher turnover is at epidemic proportions across the country. In my first year, we had 185 open positions—last year, there were just 30, even though we have nearly tripled the number of employees since that first year. I think our retention success is based on our model—smaller classrooms, more administrative support, and an environment conducive to growth. We don’t employ a management structure, but rather a supportive culture where teachers are given the resources they need to be effective. That’s what it’s all about. Each one of our communities is different, each has its own mission and vision. This really helps the teachers feel ownership in their work and want to stay with us.”


“Our services promote the improved quality of individual and family life.”


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