Willow Charter Academy in Lafayette names first principal

Melissa Jones Clarke has been named principal of Willow Charter Academy, the National Heritage Academies charter school that will open in the former Albertsons on Evangeline Thruway in August.

Jones Clarke helped open an NHA charter school in Atlanta in 2010 and as its founding principal saw its fall-to-winter student achievement improve by 13.5 percent, according to an NHA news release.

Willow Charter Academy will open to grades kindergarten to five in August. Informational sessions about the school are planned at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 18, at the Clifton Chenier Center. The application period for the school closes March 31.

Jones Clarke has more than 19 years of experience as an educator and earned her bachelor’s degree in education from Ohio University and a master’s degree in educational leadership and administration from National Louis University in Chicago. She is pursuing her doctorate in urban education and educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University in Florida.

“Our school culture will embrace each scholar and support them by holding them to high expectations for achievement,” Jones Clarke said in a news release.

“Our dedicated staff will focus on using rigorous instructional strategies each day that challenge our scholars to achieve. Willow Charter Academy will embrace and welcome the involvement of our parents and other community members as we all work together to prepare our scholars for academic success.”

Willow Charter is one of three charter schools that will open in Lafayette Parish for the 2014-15 school year.

Another charter management company, Charter Schools USA, will open two K-6 schools in August: Lafayette Renaissance Charter Academy and Acadiana Renaissance Charter Academy. Applications for those two schools were set to close this week, but the application period has been extended to March 31.