A good school-service provider partnership is like a marriage, of sorts. Though there are good and not-so-good times, the partners make it work to everyone’s benefit—and sometimes, after years of working together, you can almost anticipate what your partner school will need.
“We pride ourselves on catering to the needs of each school we work with,” said Josh Chernikoff, Flex Academies founder and president.
For five years, Great Falls Elementary School in Virginia has partnered with Flex Academies for its afterschool program management.
“Schools have their unique quirks in terms of how they want things to operate,” said Jennifer Eng, Great Falls Elementary School PTA President. “There’s always a learning curve in terms of working with any new organization, between vendors, our kids, the school. You have to make everyone happy.”
Schools accommodate hundreds—even thousands—of students whose academic, social and physical needs differ. Perhaps more than some other institutions, schools are strongly focused on safety and efficiency and want things done in specific ways.
Knowing what schools and PTAs want, how their processes work, and what concerns parents have is key to a successful, long-term relationship between a school and an afterschool program manager. It’s also instrumental in the 96 percent retention rate Flex Academies has among the schools it serves.
Other reasons for that high number include the variety of activities Flex Academies offers, such as sessions in Lego architecture, art or hip-hop dancing. Many schools stay with Flex Academies because of its emphasis on safety and security; many appreciate that the company handles everything from registration to billing, to making sure students are in the right place for their afterschool activities, to the carpool line afterward.
Chernikoff knows there are other options for parents—that there are other companies, making it tempting to try something new. “But what do you gain by that?” he asks, noting that the grass is not always greener on the other side.
“Flex Academies is the premium manager of afterschool enrichment. It may cost a bit more, but our service and quality exceed expectations.”
Eng agrees and sees value in her PTA’s five-year partnership with Flex Academies. “We work together with Flex. You have your agreement, your contract, but there are little things you that go beyond a contract—things you can’t reflect on paper. Having worked with each other, we know how to collaborate and get things done.”
Enrichment Coordinator Kathleen Tayman appreciates the way Flex Academies tailors its programs to students. When the afterschool enrichment program her PTA was running at Seven Locks Elementary School in Maryland became too much for a limited number of volunteers to handle, she called Flex. One challenge in particular was easily met.
“There were a few afterschool program teachers in dance and art that the kids really loved, and we wanted to keep them,” Tayman said. “Flex did a good job of working them into their program, allowing those vendors to stay with us and work with them. And they exposed those instructors to other schools, which helped them, too.”
Principal Chris Nardi, in charge at a middle school in Bethesda, Maryland, remembers when his school contacted Flex Academies to help manage its afterschool enrichment program. “We are a school of 1,500 students, so it was an interesting endeavor for them to take on such a big school.”
Fast forward five years and Thomas Pyle Middle School still enjoys a solid relationship with Flex Academies—a longstanding partnership born of mutual understanding.
“Pyle’s program is the largest middle school enrichment program in the state,” said Chernikoff. “That in itself presented challenges, but our five-year partnership is testimony to the fact that we are doing all the right things when it comes to managing their program. We can manage the largest, the smallest, and all programs in-between.”
While any long-term partnership has its share of challenges. Flex Academies has nurtured partnerships built on mutual trust, respect, and understanding, which in turn translates to accommodating schools’ needs and challenges that are easily met when they arise.
“Schools and PTAs stay with us,” Chernikoff said, “because they know we’ve been there for them and will continue to be, through staffing changes, changing student needs, and whatever else comes along.”
To learn more about Flex Academies and their services, visit the website.