1. I’m interested in the idea of schools being bridges to their communities. What role do or should schools play in bridging gaps in their communities?
Schools play a vital role in being bridges in the community. Schools bring people together from diverse backgrounds to work together, celebrate one another and learn from one another.
2. I want the readers to learn more about challenges that are unique to Beloit. What are some of the most significant challenges facing students in Beloit?
At The Lincoln Academy, we look at challenges as opportunities to grow. Our biggest opportunity right now is to continue to establish a strong culture of high expectations for education and to help our scholars achieve grade-level standards. TLA is new to the Beloit community and there are still some misunderstandings of what a charter school is all about. We continue to find opportunities to share knowledge about TLA and charter schools.
3. What reforms would you like to see happen at the state or local level?
Equity in school funding for charter schools is a priority. Charter schools do not get the same state per pupil allocation as other public schools. Also, independent charter schools do not have the same opportunities to apply for several state grant awards that could be very beneficial to our scholars. I would add that educator licensing flexibility would be very beneficial as we have a teacher shortage in the state.
4. What do you want other educators or community members to learn from your experience helping build TLA?
I wish I had the recipe for success. However, starting a new school in any city or town is a heavy lift and success can look different depending on the community you serve. Although, there are some things I have learned and would be happy to share. I think the first and foremost important thing is to work with that community to find out what their needs are. Talk with the people. Talk with the business owners and community leaders. Talk with the parents and children. Find out what they would like to see in a school. Then, make sure you develop a strong vision and values to support your school. We developed our three pillars from talking with the community: Academic Rigor, Character Development and Career Exploration. Live your values every day. Next, ensure you hire the right people. This is the most important thing you can do. Do you have people who put children first, have a growth mindset, work hard and are passionate about what they do? Next, plan how you will reach your goals. At TLA we focus a lot on coaching of staff and professional development. We all get coached and work hard to ensure we can be our best selves. In turn, this equates to being our best for our scholars. Work hard and find the joy in what you do. We appreciate our staff and are thankful for having such an amazing team to work with!
5. On a positive note! Why are you optimistic about the future?
We are seeing promise already in some of our social and academic growth. The work is hard, but it is possible. Our scholars are amazing and they are already showing what gifts they have to offer the Beloit community. As we raise the bar of expectations, they will rise to meet that bar. Stay tuned…TLA will continue to shine!