CEO: J.S Clark to open Aug. 1 as alternative
LAFAYETTE — St. Landry Parish’s newest charter school, J.S. Clark Leadership Academy, is on schedule to open Aug. 1 with 180 students and a waiting list of at least 60, school officials said Monday.
The school’s chief executive officer, Tiffanie Lewis, said she expects interest in the school to grow next year after parents learn more about the school’s approach to learning, which incorporates technology and project-based lessons.
“I think there was some hesitancy for some parents who were thinking: ‘Let’s see what they’re going to do in the first year,’ ” Lewis said. “We’re not just your ordinary charter school. ... We’re on the cutting edge of technology.”
The school, operated by the nonprofit organization Outreach Community Development Corp., opens with grades fifth through seventh and will expand each year through grade 12. It is one of 13 new charter schools set to open this fall, according to the Louisiana Department of Education’s website.
At J.S. Clark, each student will have his or her own iPad tablet and Apple televisions will enable teachers to download students’ work onto the television monitor. The technology also enables teachers to assess students’ strengths and weaknesses instantaneously, Lewis said.
The use of technology to engage students in academics drew parents such as Charles Tyler to enroll their children at J.S. Clark.
Tyler said he considered sending his son, Kendel, 11, to an accelerated program at St. Landry Alternative School.
The move would have helped Kendel advance through the fifth and sixth grade in the same year to catch up to his peers, his father said. Kendel failed the third grade and the accelerated program would help him bump up to the “right grade,” Tyler said.
After attending an informational session on the new charter school, Tyler said he felt Kendel would benefit more academically at J.S. Clark.
“I liked the longer school hours and the focus on academics,” he said.
The majority of students enrolled at J.S. Clark are zoned to attend Opelousas Junior High, Lewis said.
The junior high school has a state accountability rating of “D” for its performance score of 65.4 on a 200-point scale, according to state Department of Education data.
Parent Lillian Thierry said the school’s low performance rating did not factor into her decision to enroll her son, Tralyn, 13, at J.S. Clark.
She said with the proper support at home, she thinks children should be able to succeed no matter what school they attend.
However, Opelousas Junior High is “overpopulated” and safety was a concern for Thierry.
She said she planned to seek a transfer request from the school district for Tralyn to attend Port Barre Middle School until she learned about J.S. Clark.
“It’s like God couldn’t have sent nothing better my way. It’s a blessing. Not only to me, plenty of other parents,” said Thierry, who also enrolled her daughter, Taylor, 11, who will be in the fifth grade at J.S. Clark.
More than $100,000 in renovations are ongoing at the site on Statesman Road and should be complete by mid-July in time for a summer training for the new staff, Lewis said.
About $50,000 in repairs are needed for the road in front of the school site and the school is working with both the city and parish governments to help fund the repairs, she said.
Outreach Community Development Corp.’s applications to operate a charter school with the St. Landry Parish school system was rejected by the School Board in 2010 and 2011.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education rejected the organization’s 2010 application before approving its proposal submitted in 2011.
The organization persevered to give parents and students another choice in St. Landry Parish, Lewis said.
“It had to be done,” she said. “We’re going to impact students’ lives and the community. Our motto is: Learners today. Leaders tomorrow. We truly believe that. We want a community that’s thriving. In order to do that, we have to commit to our children and that’s what we’re doing.”
The organization also has not given up on its efforts to open a charter school in Lafayette Parish by 2014, Lewis said.
Outreach Community Development Corp.’s past two applications to operate a charter school in north Lafayette were rejected in 2010 and 2011 by the parish School Board and BESE in part over concerns about its capacity to operate two charters.