We are UNIQUE. We are UTOPIAN.
IN THIS ISSUE HISTORIC
HISTORIC START TO NEW SCHOOL YEAR UAFA is making state history this academic year as the first performing arts charter school network to open an elementary school. The network is also celebrating another milestone. It is serving its largest population everâ€” an enrollment of more than 550 students in middle and elementary school. Classes began on Aug. 5 and are being held online to protect CONTINUED TO PAGE 2
its enrollment to more than 400 scholars, its largest population in history.
the health and safety of UAFA students, parents, faculty, and staff from the rising spread of COVID-19 infections across the state. UAFA, which opened in 2014, is one of the State Charter School Commission’s topperforming middle schools. More than 90 percent of students qualify for free-andreduced-price meals. UAFA Middle School has increased
UAFA Elementary School has about 150 students in kindergarten and first grade. It will eventually accommodate up to 400 scholars in grades K5. The elementary school was approved in 2019 by the Clayton County Board of Education. It is UAFA's first locally-approved school.
The unanimous approval of UAFA’s charter petition in 2019 is representative of the spirit of partnership that has existed between the Clayton school board and UAFA since Superintendent Dr. Morcease Beasley began his tenure. Before Beasley led the Clayton school district, UAFA's charter petitions to open a middle school had been rejected in 2011, 2012, and 2013. The denial
NEW PRINCIPAL, NEW ELEMENTARY SCHOOL Dr. Walton is a veteran administrator who is committed to the academic, emotional, and developmental growth of each scholar in her care at UAFA Elementary School. She has 30 years of experience as an educator in the elementary school, middle school, and college levels. Education: Dr. Walton has a Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Education from Albany State University. She earned her Master of Education degree and Educational Specialist degree in Elementary Education from Brenau University. She also holds an Educational Specialist and Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction from Argosy University. Hobbies: Dr. Walton enjoys traveling and attending sporting events.
was later over-ruled by the state in October 2013 when the Charter Schools Commission authorized UAFA as Georgia’s first state commission-charter middle school. UAFA is committed to the success of its students. The curriculum is designed to produce scholars who are well-rounded in the arts and prepared for high school. (Click here to listen to the UAFA story from our founder.)
TECH READY FOR SUCCESS
UAFA held a Back-to-School Jamboree on Aug. 1 and gave away new Chromebooks to more than 400 students. Here is what some scholars said that day:
"I am happy to get this computer. This means my mom doesn't have to spend money to buy one to help me learn online." Keina Favors 7th grader
Demitris Crespo, 10, (left) was also excited to get a laptop. His sisters Raylin Akbar, an eighth grader (center), and Keylani Moore, a seventh grader (right), also received one. "I'm a singer, and I'm excited to go to school here." Keylani Moore 7th grader
4. K-1 LEARNING HAS BEGUN Dr. Selina Walton and her K-1 faculty and staff worked tirelessly over the summer creating the ideal environment for learning at UAFA Elementary School. Hours were spent decorating classrooms, hallways, and even the school cafeteria. Paper cut-outs of smiling students, superheroes, flowers, and geometric shapes adorn the walls and are suspended from ceilings. All that is missing from the vibrant scene is the children. When the UAFA charter school network decided to move elementary school classes online for the first nine weeks of school, Walton and her team quickly switched course and used the same energy to deliver a quality virtual program for new learners. Walton developed a virtual model over the summer and trained her staff to implement it. Now teaching and learning, physical education, balletâ€”and even movie nights and pajama parties are held online. Kindergartners and first graders use tablets and Chromebooks to talk to their teachers and each other. Parents and day care providers supervising small children as they learn during the day have been given the emails and cell phone numbers of UAFA teachers. "IÂ would like to thank our teachers, staff, and parents for their support as we navigate this journey together," Walton said. "This is our new normal. Our lines of communication are open if you need anything or have concerns. I am honored to serve you as your principal." In fact, Walton and her team have already made "house calls" to day cares to assist young learners and their child care providers as they navigate the platform. In addition, Parent University sessions are also being held to help adults
who need assistance accessing course materials online and uploading homework. Core classes in reading, math, and science/social studies are held Monday through Thursday. Arts and physical education classes are also held twice each week. Fridays are fun days for projects and bonding online. Students are enjoying the new technology at their fingertips. "I pop into the core curriculum and arts classes regularly. They are smiling, learning, and having a ball," Walton said. "They love the technology. On Fridays, they have dance and movie parties, and pajama nights. We have been able to build a real sense of community despite the distance." Like UAFA Middle School, assessment drives instruction at UAFA Elementary School. The academic knowledge and skills of students in reading, English/Language Arts and math were assessed on campus in the week before classes began. The benchmark data will be evaluated against new results after students take a second round of testing during the week of Sept. 8-11. Parents are excited about the new school year. Monica Jackson enrolled her son, Aubrien, because she liked the arts and academic curriculum. "I wanted to find a good fit for my son," she said. Veronica Stanley said her brother, Walter, a first grader, enjoys electronics. She knows there will be more interaction with professional equipment in upper grades. "I like that the middle school has coding and film classes," she said. Mario Harden, a first grader, has the budding talent of a visual artist. "I like to write and draw," he said. "It's fun."Â
the work that we do and the experiences that our students are getting in the arts. We have had zero software problems thanks to the new technology that we have in place for our students. The Chromebooks are working well. Students are engaged and ready to learn."
UAFA MIDDLE BUILDING SCHOLARS At UAFA Middle School, students engage in lively academic and arts classes in single gender classrooms online. They create and collaborate with ease. Their assignments are standards-driven and rigorous. Middle school principal Dr. Ron Boykins is committed to excellence, and he says he's not going to let a virtual environment keep UAFA from offering exceptional instruction. Boykins said that teachers have already assessed each student to determine his or her strengths and challenges in English/Language Arts and math. Teaching and learning occurs on the Microsoft Teams platform. Last week, 385 students tuned in for an assembly on culture camps, careers, and college. "We are doing things that other schools across the state don't begin to touch," Boykins said. "Our instruction is solid when you look at the quality of
UAFA Middle is using the i-Ready online assessment tool to evaluate student comprehension and to develop individualized learning and diagnostic plans. "After the assessments, we realized that we have a population of students that are on grade level and are accelerated," he said. "They were in class with other students who are two and three years behind. We are using the data to realign the school." Extended blocks of learning are part of UAFA's success strategy. Middle school students receive three-hour blocks of core academic classes Monday through Thursday. Arts classes are also offered Monday through Thursday. Boys and girls learn separately to limit distractions. Homework assignments include worksheets, reading materials, and projects that can be uploaded online or videotaped. In addition, students are also required to login to iReady for three hours each week to build skills. Community bonding occurs at schoolwide assemblies and in chat rooms on Teams where a Student Center has been established to allow kids to be kids. And when they need help, they can instant message Boykins or their teachers. "They have unprecedented access to me with this technology, and they are using it to stay connected with us and each other."
How do they do it? Launching an online fine arts program takes skill and dedication.
Founding administrator Ebonne Craft, Dean of Arts, shared the secret behind the success of UAFA's online fine arts courses. Q. How do you teach so many engaging fine arts classes virtually? A. We prepared over the summer with our
instructional technology coordinator and researched interactive lessons that classes could do on the Microsoft Teams platform. Then, we trained our teachers. It was very important that we kept the rigor that we needed for each domain in fine arts. If we have a visual arts
lesson, the scholar is able to draw and sketch or paint on a canvas through an app virtually like it is actually in their hands. We didn't want to lose that engagement even though we are virtual. We are still bringing art to life for them.
Q. How will UAFA host its exciting annual student performances in a virtual world? A. We have moved them online. Last spring, we held our annual dance recital and film festival online. On Sept. 11 at 9 a.m., we will host our sixth annual variety
showcase, "Show Me What You Got!" We are inviting the community to join us to see the amazing talents of our students and teaching artists. We will provide the link on our website and social media. The show will feature performances in all areas of the arts offered at Utopian, from culinary and visual arts to music, drama, film, dance, and more. We will even have a coding and engineering video. I am so pleased with the level of talent we have this academic year. Our sixth graders came here on fire. Our seventh and eighth graders are great. Our participation and enrollment speaks volumes to our amazing teachers and staff.
6. COLLEGE HELP FOR ALUMS The Utopian Academy for the Arts Foundation has established a new college scholarship for alumni of UAFA Middle School. The inaugural UAFA Alumni Scholarship award was recently presented to graduating senior Sydney Williams, the valedictorian of the Class of 2016. Williams received a $10,000 check to help her fund her higher education. Following her years at UAFA, Williams attended Martha E. Stilwell School for the Performing Arts in Clayton County, where she won accolades as an actor, a filmmaker, and a scholar. She launched her own film production company before she graduated high school in May 2020. Williams is now a freshman at Bard College in upstate New York. She is majoring in film production and philosophy. "I love Utopian Academy and am so honored to be the first recipient of the Alumni Scholarship Award," she said. Her proud mother, Angelic Calvin is the UAFA Registrar. .
Williams was the first of her four children to graduate from Utopian, Calvin added. "I am so grateful and proud of her for her hard work and accomplishments. She never ceases to amaze me. Utopian has always been a cornerstone of support for her. The foundation scholarship has helped her to secure some materials that she needed for school." Williams also received a prestigious, full-tuition Posse Scholarship. She has already landed an internship in New York with the nonprofit Hometown Project filming celebrity messages to encourage voter participation. The UAFA Alumni Scholarship is open to graduating high school seniors. Applications will be available on the UAFA website. The Foundation will also offer scholarships to each previous eighth grade valedictorian, although the amount will vary. The other valedictorians are: senior Eric Mai of the Class of 2017, junior Aaliyah Taylor of the Class of 2018, sophomore Ami Dodd-Mungin of the Class of 2019, and freshman Kayla Harper of the Class of 2020.
STEVE HARVEY DONATES SCHOLARSHIP AWARDS King of Comedy and Emmy-Award winner Steve Harvey surprised two students with $10,00 donations to their college funds. The scholarships were presented to eighth grader Elijah Fikes, and UAFA alumnus Dawon Johnson, who is a senior this year at Martha E. Stilwell School of the Performing Arts in Clayton County. He hopes to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta. UAFA Founder and Executive
Director Dr. Artesius Miller, thanked Harvey for the gift. Miller said it is a symbol of Harvey's longstanding relationship with UAFA and his commitment to the success of its students. UAFA students have been attending Harvey's national mentoring camp for boys for nearly seven years. "We have maintained a relationship with the Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation since 2014, but I did not
know that he was doing this," Miller said. "Steve Harvey has declared his commitment to Utopian students, and I am thankful for his support. This scholarship marks the first of hopefully many more to come." Fikes was excited to receive a college scholarship as a middle school student. "It's really cool," he said.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION! We are UNIQUE. We are UTOPIAN.
PARTNERSHIPS The Atlanta Ballet is partnering with the UAFA Charter School Network this academic year to provide dance instruction at UAFA Elementary School. Classes are held online four days each week for students in grades K-1. The program is taught by Latoya Jackson.
PARENTS UAFA has active and supportive parents. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, volunteer hours have been suspended this academic year to protect the health and safety of the UAFA community. Our parents are still engaged in supporting teaching and learning online.
LEADERSHIP UAFA operates under the guidance of Board Chair Joshua Menifee, who has served the charter school network for four years. Menifee is a community development officer at the American Cancer Society. The UAFA Governing Board meets on the fourth Thursday of each month.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT LIL YACHTY
Grammy-nominated rapper Lil Yachty (Miles Parks McCollum) is partnering with UAFA this academic year as its visiting celebrity coexecutive director. Lil Yachty will appear in UAFA school promotions and make surprise visits to virtual classrooms. Let's welcome him to the UAFA family!
Watch Lil Yachty back-to-school video.
CONTI NUE TO STRI VE FOR EXCELLENCE CLASS OF 2020
Release your child's inner lion ! 2750 Forest Parkway Ellenwood, GA 30294 (470) 446-1070 utopianacademyforthearts.com To donate to Utopian Academy, send checks payable to UAFA, attention Superintendent Dr. Artesius Miller. Use the address listed above.
Utopian Academy for the Arts Newsletter