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Youngstown, OH: Autism charter school: 280 students/135 staff, $9M budget

Oct 21, 2023, Youngstown (OH) Mahoning Matters: ‘We’ve been very fortunate:’ Potential Development CEO shares school growth
CEO Paul Garchar had a front row seat to watch the twenty-year growth of Youngstown’s nonprofit charter school Potential Development.
He described how Potential Development has blossomed into their own school community for northeast Ohio students with autism from pre-K through high school graduation day. “I had the privilege of being named the CEO at Potential Development in January of 2001,” said Garchar.

"In the very beginning, we had a preschool. We were working with approximately 40 students.

Twenty-four years later, we have now 135 staff members, 280 students and our budget is quickly approaching $9 million. We’ve been very fortunate.” …

“Over the last year and a half, we have heard stories of families returning to the Youngstown area just so their son or daughter could attend Potential Development,” said Garchar.

“We’ve had families come move back to Ohio from Louisiana, from New York, from all over Pennsylvania, because they have family here and heard about our school. I don’t know a better complement to our school than to have someone specifically move to the area so that they can attend here.”


When the students enter high school, they have individualized plans with teachers and parents for what’s next after graduation.

“We have hired a transition coordinator position, she actually starts working with families and students as early as ninth grade on an individual education plan, which addresses transition after high school,” said Garchar. …

Garchar said this year there are 15 students on track to graduate from Potential Development with their high school diplomas at Stambaugh Auditorium. “In the elementary and middle school, we have some classes that are now approaching 25 to 30 students, so the graduating classes are going to get bigger and bigger, moving forward,” said Garchar.


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