Education

Macon Charter Academy will be ready by August, co-founder says

A skeleton of two-by-fours sits atop a concrete foundation at 151 Madison St., in the Pleasant Hill neighborhood.

Construction crews are working long hours to finish building what will become the new Macon Charter Academy, Bibb County’s second charter school.

Monya Rutland, one of the school’s co-founders, said she’s confident the school will be ready by August for the 900 or so students who’ll be attending. Despite the work remaining, the contractor in charge of construction has previous experience building schools and has “never missed a deadline,” she said.

The main campus building will be two stories and will hold all classrooms -- kindergarten through eighth-grade. Two other buildings, also being worked on, include a gymnasium, which will get a kitchen addition, as well as a fine arts building, which will include an auditorium.

The new charter school has touted itself as an “IB candidate school.” On its website, the school says it “offers two International Baccalaureate programs consisting of the Primary Years Program for grades K-5 and the Middle Years Program for grades 6-8.”

The International Baccalaureate organization says, however, that it cannot verify Macon Charter Academy -- or any school -- as an “IB candidate school.” It can only confirm schools that have been authorized to offer the IB program.

A school cannot offer the IB program and won’t receive official IB status until it has been through the entire candidate phase and been authorized by the IB Organization, which generally takes two to three years.

“What they’re advertising is incorrect,” Colleen Duffy, an associate manager for IB, said of the new school.

Rutland countered, “Keep in mind, as a candidate school, we’re going to follow all of IB’s guidelines. ... The curriculum is going to follow IB guidelines as we work to become approved for the program.”

She compared the candidate school status to the “pre-IB program” at Central High School, which -- technically -- doesn’t exist, even though the term is used for ninth and 10th grades at Central.

Rutland said MCA is “not about misleading” anyone, adding that the school’s partnership with parents is essential.

“The way we’re going to implement the mission and make things happen is through our partnerships with the parents,” she said. “If you don’t have the relationship with the parents, it’s kind of all for naught.”

Rutland said that is key for students academically and in all discipline-related matters. “We aren’t going to have any discipline problems,” Rutland said. “The parents may have discipline problems, but we aren’t going to have any.”

If a school sets the expectations high, she said, students will rise to meet it.

HIRES TO BE MADE

MCA has also made strides in hiring essential personnel, including their “school leader” and “deputy school leader” (akin to principal and assistant principal, respectively), but Rutland said the school is still in the process of hiring teachers and other staff.

They still have one open position for each grade from kindergarten to fifth, and two open position for sixth grade.

“We want teachers that have an enthusiasm for teaching,” she said, adding that they are vetting teachers to ensure that they have a “genuine passion” for educating every child.

The new school leader, Ronald Boykins, is “the man with the plan,” Rutland said, because of his track record of high achievement in low performing school districts.

Boykins has spent time leading schools in Atlanta and Clayton County. His most recent stint was superintendent at a charter school in Roosevelt, New York.

MCA’s deputy leader will be Tahisha Edwards, who is IB certified and has served as an assistant principal at an IB elementary school in DeKalb, according to MCA.

For the school in New York, Boykins said he was tasked with a mandate to show dramatic improvements -- or the state was poised to shut it down. He said he was able to turn the school around.

Boykins also spent time as principal of E.W. Oliver Elementary School in the Clayton County school system, where he started a math competition known as MathFest.

He said he resigned from Oliver because the school district wanted to take a more “cookie-cutter approach” toward educating its students.

But those same out-of-the-box teaching methods are one reason that Rutland wanted him to lead MCA.

Rutland said Boykins “has a solid record of student achievement,” especially in low-performing school districts like Bibb, and she is excited about the possibilities that Boykins will bring to the table.

“In about two years, this is going to be the most talked about, ... the most requested school south of Atlanta,” he said.

To contact writer David Schick, call 744-4382.

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