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One education, many options Mecklenburg County charter schools and private schools Project L.I.F.T.

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EDUCATION special feature

Local schools provide alternatives for students

by Angela Lindsay


s a product of 12 years of private school instruction, I personally can attest to the value such an education can bring. Beyond the challenging educational environment, the faculty and administrators are invested in the wellbeing of every student — mentally, physically, and, in the case of my schools, spiritually. The experience helped me grow into a well-rounded individual and also gave me a unique perspective on race relations and culture at a much younger age than most of my peers, as I often was the only African-American student in my classes. Competition was encouraged. Accountability went without saying. While I am in no way disparaging a public school education, looking back on my particular experience, I wouldn’t change a thing. Success in life begins with education, but there is more than one path to receiving it. While traditional public school-system classrooms offer a sound education, there also are many alternatives in Charlotte — statefunded public charter schools and private schools — that provide options for area families. Evelyn Mack Academy posts its mission is to “give every student the tools necessary to be successful in life.” Founder Evelyn Mack opened a tutoring center in 1989, which became a fully accredited private school in 1998. Serving students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, the school develop students academically, socially, physically, emotionally and spiritually, by promoting high morals and values, and encouraging a personal commitment to education. At Brisbane Academy, young minds are being prepared “to meet the changes and 28

Students embrace a rigorous curriculum at Bethane Mays Classical Academy. Photo courtesy of Bethane Mays.

expectations of tomorrow.” Students in prekindergarten through 12th grade receive a well-rounded education in math and science, critical thinking skills, vocabulary and reading comprehension; Brisbane also offers an afterschool enrichment program and tutoring. Founding director Geraldine Brisbane opened the licensed, nonprofit, college-preparatory school in 1992. With a student-teacher ratio of 10:1, Brisbane reports its students consistently perform more than three grade levels above state requirements.

Engaging Middle-School Minds Bethune Mays Classical Academy is named after two legendary pioneers in

American education: Mary McLeod Bethune and Benjamin Elijah Mays, Ph.D. The idea for BMCA was born when Bishop Claude Alexander of The Park Church became interested in starting a middle school after following the condition of CharlotteMecklenburg Schools. He enlisted Christina Christian, Ph.D., to conduct extensive research on end-of-grade state and local test scores. Deciding the school needed to move strategically and quickly to effectively address students’ immediate needs, the alternative middle school opened in 2010 to help combat downward academic trends and poor scholastic performances. BMCA offers a classical Christian education that aligns with North Carolina standards. “We did not want students to come into a school that deviated so significantly from the N.S. Standard Course of Study such that, if they were to return to public school or high school, they would not be as familiar with some of the concepts they would need to be familiar with in the public schools,” says Christian, a 19-year educator and head of school at BMCA. The classical, Christian education curriculum at BCMA is rigorous, based on a three-part process of training the mind: Students in the early (elementary) years absorb facts, systematically laying the foundation for advanced study; students in the middle years learn the logic behind the facts and their use; and, students in high school learn to express themselves using the facts and logic they’ve acquired. The school opened with five sixth-grade students. This year, the school is serving nearly15 students in sixth and seventh grade. In 2012, BMCA also will serve eighth-

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grade students. The school is slated to hold no more than 60-80 students, so classes are kept small. Tweens often need additional support during the middle-school years, also known as the “awkward stage,” and Christian says being able to relate to teachers is paramount for learning, as well as emotional and social support. In addition, students spend 30 minutes in Bible study on Friday mornings. BMCA also is a uniformed school and students are separated by gender in their classes to keep the focus on learning and minimize distractions. End-of-year tests for 2010 showed students were in the 83th-96th percentile in language arts and 80th-94th percentile in math.

‘No Excuses’ KIPP Charlotte (Knowledge Is Power Program) is part of a national network of 99 tuition-free, open-enrollment, collegepreparatory public charter middle schools. Some 95 percent of KIPP Charlotte students are African American and 4 percent are Latino/ Hispanic. More than 70 percent qualify for the free-and-reduced-meal program. At KIPP, classes run 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Thursday, and 7:30 a.m.-3:15 p.m. on Friday, as well as two Saturdays a month and three weeks in the summer. With one of the mottos being, “No short cuts, no excuses,” students receive about two hours of homework every night, with access to after-school tutoring. Students also have their teachers’ phone numbers for additional assistance. Open just five years, the school has an enrollment of about 330 students in fifth through eighth grade. Tiffany Flowers, co-founder of KIPP Charlotte, says the mission is “to make sure as many kids as possible have access to a college-prep education.” The school wants to close the academic achievement gap between lower- and higher-

Students at KIPP Charlotte receive after-school tutoring and have their teachers' phone numbers for additional help. Photo by Luke Stake.

income students and, according to KIPP co-founder Keith Burnam, “show that income and what neighborhood you grow up in does not have to dictate your destiny.” On average, students improve two grade levels in reading and math; the first group of students who matriculated through KIPP Charlotte had endof-grade test scores in the 90th percentile. “We’re going to push your child to be the best he or she can be. … We want our kids to grow up to be the change and also the leaders in the community who are going to bring about that change generations down the road,” says Burnam.

An Unbroken Connection Charlotte Country Day School is the city’s oldest independent day school. CCDS is not bound to any state or county educational system. In 2009, Mark Reed became CCDS’s first AfricanAmerican headmaster and the first head of a predominantly white private school in North Carolina, according to the N.C. Association of Independent Schools. More than 100 families of color are part of Charlotte Country Day.

Charlotte Country Day Headmaster Mark Reed talks with students throughout his day. Photo courtesy of CCDS.

Reed says he was drawn to CCDS’s “affirmation of community,” noting the teachers, parents and students have been “unbelievably welcoming.” He adds, “People often toss the word ‘community’ around, using it pretty loosely, but this is a pretty tight-knit community.” CCDS has an enrollment of 1,610 students in junior kindergarten through 12th grade and a graduation rate of 100 percent, with students this past year being awarded nearly $4.9 million in scholarships for academic, athletic and artistic pursuits. Reed contributes such success to the narrow student-teacher ratio, as well as the care faculty and staff show each individual student on an intellectual, emotional and physical level. Surveying college sophomores who graduated from CCDS, Reed says he learned one thing, which he feels is “pretty unique to private schools.” Consistently, he heard about the deep connection students continue to have with their teachers and coaches. “You show kids you care about them, and you can ask them to do anything, and they’ll work their tails off to do it,” he adds. At CCDS, students do not feel like they are at the same school for 14 years, as the school is split into two campuses. Students in junior kindergarten through fourth grade, as well as high school students, attend classes on the Cannon Campus. Students in fifth through eighth grade attend the Bissell Campus, which is about four miles away. “(Middle school students) get to feel like they’re going to their own campus at probably the most challenging and socially awkward time in their lives,” says Reed. While tuition is high at CCDS, rates vary, with some families paying “little to nothing” and some paying the full tuition amount, says Reed. Financial aid is available for those who need it, and, in fact, Reed explains that a portion of every student’s tuition goes toward financial aid. CCDS offers both advanced placement and International Baccalaureate courses, as well as an international studies program that allows students to travel abroad and to host students from other countries on campus. No matter the structure, all these schools have a common theme: educating the whole student. “School heads have to manage with the head and the heart,” says Reed. Christian concurs, saying, “It is so rewarding to be able to look at a child who has a need that isn’t written in the table of contents in a book and to know we have the freedom to meet that need. … We get to prepare children for their future, knowing they will need God, knowing they will need to know how to socialize and how to control their emotions. I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.” P September-October 2011 | Pride Magazine

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Mecklenburg County charter schools and private schools Adventist Christian Academy (PK-9) (704) 366-4351

Charlotte Preparatory School (PK-8) (704) 366-5994

Hickory Grove Christian School (K-12) (704) 531-4008

Ramah Christian Classical School (K-4) (704) 948-7333

Anami Montessori School (PK-12) (704) 556-0042

Charlotte Secondary School (6-8) (704) 295-0137

Holy Trinity Catholic Middle School (6-8) (704) 527-7822

Arborbrook Christian Academy (K-12) (704) 821-9952

Charlotte United Christian Academy (PK-12) (704) 537-0331

Kennedy Charter Public School (K-3; 6-12) (704) 688-2939

Renaissance Christian School of Excellence (PK-9) (704) 323-5938

Chesterbrook Academy Elementary School (PK-5) (704) 544-1788

KIPP Charlotte (5-8) (704) 537-2044

South Charlotte Baptist Academy (PK3-12) (704) 544-7323

Lake Norman Charter School (5-12) (704) 948-8600

SouthLake Christian Academy (TK-12) (704) 949-2200

Lake Norman Christian School (PK-11) (704) 987-9811

St. Gabriel Catholic School (K-5) (704) 366-2409

Manus Academy (4-12) (704) 542-6471

St. Mark Catholic School (K-8) (704) 544-2070

McKinney Academy (JK-5) (704) 895-9664

St. Matthew Catholic School (TK-5) (704) 544-2070

Metrolina Regional Scholars’ Academy (K-8) (704) 503-1112

St. Patrick Catholic School (K-5) (704) 333-3174

Back Creek Christian Academy (K-8) (704) 549-4101 Berean Junior Academy (K5-12) (704) 391-7800 Bethune Mays Academy (6-7) (704) 919-2019 Bible Baptist Christian School (K3-12) (704) 535-1694 Brisbane Academy (PK-12) (704) 598-5208 British American School of Charlotte (PK-10) (704) 341-3236 Brookstone Schools (K-5) (704) 392-6330 Cannon School (JK-12) (704) 786-8171 Carmel Christian School (K-10) (704) 849-9723 Carolina Montessori Academy (P-K) (704) 391-9570 Carolina International School (K-10) (704) 455-3847 Charlotte Catholic High School (9-12) (704) 534-1127 Charlotte Christian School (JK-12) 704-366-5657 Charlotte Country Day School (JK-12) (704) 943-4500 Charlotte Islamic Academy (K-12) (704) 537-1772 Charlotte Jewish Day School (K-5) (704) 366-4558 Charlotte Latin School (TK-12) (704) 846-7294


Chesterbrook Elementary at Birkdale (PK-5) (704) 896-6605 Christian Montessori School at Lake Norman (PK- 6) (704) 875-1801 Community Charter School (K-5) (704) 377-3180 Community School of Davidson (K-12) (704) 896-6262 Corvian Community School (K-1) (704) 960-7002 Countryside Montessori (PK-12) (704) 549-4253 Covenant Day School (TK-12th) (704) 847-2385 Christian Montessori School at Lake Norman (Infants-Grade 6) (704) 875-1801 Crossroads Charter High School (9-12) (704) 597-5100 Davidson Day School (PK-12) (704) 237-5224 Dore Academy (K-12) (704) 365-5490 Evelyn Mack Academy (PK3-12) (704) 535-8304 The Fletcher School (K-12) (704) 365-4658 Friends School of Charlotte (K-5) (704) 567-9445 Grace Covenant Academy (PK-5) (704) 892-5601

Mountain Island Charter School (TK-6) (704) 827-8840

Socrates Academy (K-7) (704) 321-1711

Sugar Creek Charter School (6-8) (704) 509-5470

Mountain Island Day School (TK-5) (704) 391-5516

Teaching Achieving Students Academy (K-5) (704) 453-9534

Northside Christian Academy (K-12) (704) 598-9665

The Epiphany School of Charlotte (3-8) (704) 644-4407

Our Lady of The Assumption Catholic School (PK-6) (704) 531-0067

The Talented Tenth Boys Academy of N.C. (K-8) (980) 939-6272

Palisades Episcopal School (JK-8) (704) 583-1825

Trinity Christian Preparatory School (7-12) (704) 569-1900

Philips Academy (6-12) (704) 365-4533 Phoenix Montessori Academy (PK-12) (704) 892-7536

Trinity Episcopal School (K-8) (704) 358-8101 United Faith Christian Academy (TK-12) (704) 541-1742

Providence Day School (TK-12) (704) 887-7510

Victory Christian Center School (K3-12) (704) 522-8566

Queen’s Grant Community School (K-8) (704) 545-0736

Walnut Grove Christian School (K-12) (704) 583-5499

Queen’s Grant Preparatory High School (9-12) (704) 573-6611

Willow Wood School (2-5) (704) 895-9200 Woodlawn School (K-12) (704) 895-8653

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