Reimagine Elite Scholars Academy Charter School
In October 2008, in a “standing-room only” auditorium of the Clayton County Performing Arts Center, the vision of a middle and high school charter for Clayton County’s “Elite Scholars” was readily and enthusiastically received by hundreds of parents. This grand vision was fortified by a well-written charter and later approved by the Clayton County Board of Education and the Georgia State Board of Education as an LEA charter school. Elite Scholars Academy Charter School (ESACS) opened its doors in July 2009 with many promises to fulfill. Clayton County parents were seeking something different, innovative, motivational, and inspiring to lead their teens to higher achievement. ESACS proclaimed to offer that and more: 1. A small student to teacher ratio, as targeted in the Charter Petition, section 5.2.4 to be 20:1, allowing for increased individual attention to each student (p. 23). 2. A constructivist interdisciplinary curriculum, with hands-on, minds-on activities as described in Section 5 of the Charter Petition (p. 20). 3. A motivational environment that encourages higher achievement, by “setting the bar higher” with rigorous academic expectations for all students. This program encompasses a Personalized Portfolio as described in Section 5 of the Charter Petition (pp. 20, 21, 22) with emphasis on Technology, Leadership, and Community Service. 4. A mentoring and internship program, as described in the Charter Petition, section 5 (p. 26) 5. An easily accessible Joint Enrollment program with Clayton State University, open to students as early as 9th grade, as discussed under Academic Program, page 5 of the Charter Petition. 6. A global experience that would expand the students’ horizons in terms of technology, educational opportunities, and options for secondary education as discussed on pages 6 and 7 of the Charter Petition. 7. A change of focus for all students, no longer based on traditional sports offered at other high schools, but more academically challenging with the potential for exposure to new, non-traditional extracurricular activities, as described in the Charter Petition, section 5.3 (p. 32). 8. An extremely charismatic, passionate, and qualified headmaster, who was not only dedicated to each individual child and family, but to the vision of ESACS and the ESACS family. Yet, in only the 2nd year of a five year charter, our children are faced with a different scenario. Whereas the state dictates that a vital element of chartering is an autonomous governing board endowed with a material amount of decision-making authority, GA Code 20-2-2062 (12.1), AND the ESACS Charter Petition clearly states that the principal or headmaster has hiring authority for its instructional and support staff as noted in the, section 10.3.1, AND that staff will be recruited from established, nationally renowned, educational centers, including private schools, Charter Petition, section 7.3 ( pp 40, 41 ), Clayton County Board of Education has forced this charter to hire Clayton County teachers that were intended to be reduced because of budgetary constraints. This hiring took place without consideration of the vision, the goals, the Charter, nor the affected students attending ESACS. We strongly believe this has had a negative impact on the instructional quality offered to ESACS’ students and on the fulfillment of ESACS’ vision and goals. Whereas the Charter Petition describes in detail the academic rigor proposed for ESACS students via the personalized portfolio intended to foster cohesiveness between classes, there is little evidence of an integrated and progressive curriculum across subject areas. The academic rigor is no longer apparent. Instead coursework is synonymous with other Clayton County High Schools. The current administration has lost sight of the constructivist interdisciplinary curriculum, settling instead for content that the teachers are most comfortable teaching. Instead of maintaining the academic focus and expanding the extracurricular activities to non-traditional sports, the current administration has supported the development of a traditional seasonal sports program to compete with other area high schools. In the absence of the original headmaster, disciplinary issues have increased, whereas communication with parents has decreased. It is not apparent that the code of conduct is heavily enforced. The sense of school spirit and overall morale has decreased significantly among the students. We embraced the opportunity to experience the possibility of a school with all the characteristics described in the ESACS charter. In this second year of operation, there has been little progress in implementing or fulfilling the goals and the vision set forth in the charter. Under the current leadership, we have little faith that our expectations will be met because we do not see a 100% investment in the vision. Because this is a five-year charter, we do not have the luxury of recruiting and training new leadership on the ESACS vision. It is imperative that ESACS gets back on track… and quickly. As parents, we understand our rights under Title 20, (Chapter 2, Article 31) regarding the Charter Schools Act of 1998. Therefore, we, the undersigned, request that ESACS: 1. fulfill the goals and vision of the charter, 2. reinstate Dr. Grayson Walles as Headmaster, and 3. vacate all seats on the Governance Council. We, the undersigned, believe this to be for the betterment of the school, the performance of our children, and the fulfillment of the true intent of the charter.