What is a charter school?
A Charter school is special public school that is allowed to be more innovative, but still held accountable for student achievement. A charter school promotes a partnership between parents, teachers and students to create an environment in which parents can be more involved, teachers are given the freedom to innovate and students are provided the structure they need to learn.
If my child attends Excellence, will their grades be recognized by the state?
Yes. A charter school is not a private or parochial school, it is a public school that is funded and paid for by the taxpayers of the state.
Is the Excellence Academy an alternative school?
No. Excellence is a school of choice. Parents have the option of sending their children to Excellence, they are now zoned to attend or forced to attend as an alternative. All students zoned to attend Monroe City Schools in the 6-8th grades are eligible to apply with the full understanding that the Excellence Academy is an intensive arts oriented charter. That means that all applicants must have an interest in music, drama, dance or other visual or performing arts. In addition, all Excellence parents are required to contribute 16 hours of support services to the school per year.
What is the big difference between Excellence and other middle schools in the city?
Excellence Academy is a middle school that focuses on promotion of the arts. Students interested in the arts at Excellence often receive as many as 8 hours a week of performing arts instruction, during the regular school day. Promotion of the arts is not “extra-curricular” it is part of the school’s regular curriculum.
If it is a performing arts school does that mean nothing else is taught?
The scholars at Excellence study the same core subjects as all other middle school students. Our scholars must pass the same state assessment tests and meet all academic standards for middle school students in the state. Instead of sports, however, the school focuses on performing arts. The school has a basketball team for girls, 6th and a combined 7th and 8th grade team.
Where is the school located?
The school operates from a 45,000 sq/foot facility at 811 Washington Street.
Does this facility meet zoning, fire and other regulations for schools?
The facility site meets all zoning, fire and safety regulations.
Does the Excellence Academy observe the same schedule as other city schools?
No. The academy follows its own schedule including school opening and closing dates. We are required to insure 177 days of instruction.
What role does the Monroe City School Board have in Excellence Academy affairs?
Excellence Academy was set up or “authorized” by the Monroe City School System. It was given a special mission: 1) Provide a performing arts program that gives an opportunity for at-risk youth to become involved in the arts in greater numbers; and 2) To increase the number of students going to the ninth grade who are on or above grade level. To accomplish this five year mission the system allows the charter school to operate almost autonomously. It reports its activities to the school board quarterly and gives the system access to student data and occasional, prearranged, site visits. Other than that, the school board makes no decisions for the Charter School, but it is subject to the fiscal oversight of the school board. After three years, the city school board will decide whether the school is meeting its targets and plans. At that time it will decide whether to continue through the 5th year or close it down at the end of the 4th year.
Are the Charter School’s finances handled by the Monroe City school board?
No. The City School district forwards all funds from the State Minimum Foundation, Title 1 and other eligible revenue sources due to the Excellence Academy and the school is responsible for handling, reporting and distribution of its own funds.
Is the school audited separately from the school district?
Yes. The state law requires an annual audit.
What was the result of its last audit?
The school received an unqualified audit report. That means everything was in order with no findings of weaknesses in its management.
Who are the members of the Excellence Academy School Board?
The board members are: Robert Allen Tanzy, Sr., Brian Reed, Mrs. Brenda Wade, Dr. Ed Biersmith, Mrs. Emma Jones and Jacqueline Johnson. All board members have taken the mandatory board training classes required by the state.
What is the Executive Director’s function at Excellence?
The Executive Director is Roosevelt Wright, Jr.. He provides oversight to insure that the school operates within the terms of its operating agreement, obeys state laws, remains fiscally sound, and complies with all state and local laws. He has been authorized by the Board of Directors of Tab-N-Action, Inc. (the school’s charter organization) to represent its interests in matters regarding the fiscal integrity of the charter school. However, he does not hire and fire staff or decide educational matters for the school. He does not receive any compensation; he is a volunteer.
What about test scores; are Excellence Academy’s scores counted with the city system? How did Excellence Do?
The Excellence School Performance Score for the 2014-15 school year was 49. It was number 2 of the district’s four middle school. As a type 1 charter Excellence Academy’s test scores are counted as part of the city school system’s report because Excellence is a Monroe City School.
Where does the money come from to pay teachers and staff?
This year state law provides $9,740 per student (the amount fluctuates regularly) to the Charter from state and local tax proceeds. Out of that the school pays its teachers, insurance, building maintenance, food service, bus transportation, custodial and clerical services and all other costs of operating the school.
Does the charter teachers the same as other city teachers?
Teachers at Excellence earn $55,000 a year, plus benefits. All teachers earn the same salary, regardless of year’s experience or degrees earned.
If I decide to teach at Excellence can I keep my state retirement?
The Monroe City School Board will not allow the charter to participate in the State Retirement program, however, teachers are provided with an IRA to which the charter contributes. State Retirements can be rolled into the IRA to continue savings accruals.
I hear that teachers at Excellence are required to make home visits, is that true?
Yes. Twice each year, teachers and paraprofessionals in teams, visit the homes of our scholars to talk with parents concerning their child’s progress toward completion of individual learning plans. They talk with parents about student progress and problems as well as give an overview of what the individual student will tackle in the coming weeks. The goal is for every student to receive a home visit at least twice in the school year. The school pays transportation mileage for the use of personal vehicles.
How are teachers at the Excellence Academy evaluated?
The team leader evaluates each teacher using standard evaluation tools: student progress, classroom decorum, etc. At least once a year the team leader will formally evaluate each teach. However, teachers are given the opportunity to privately evaluate the principal. The faculty evaluation of the principal becomes a part of the Excellence School Board’s annual evaluation of the principal’s performance.
Is bus transportation available?
Bus transportation is available for all students who live within the City of Monroe.
What is the school’s curriculum?
The school follows the curriculum of the Louisiana Department of Education because; while the school is given freedom to innovate, it is still a public school. It follows the Common-Core curriculum.
How does the Individual Learn Plan at Excellence Work?
Each Excellence student follows a learning path designed to allow them to progress at their own pace rather than be held back or push to move forward before they have mastered a skill. Similar to an IEP for Special Education students, the ILP charts the course for a student’s three years at Excellence. It is designed to get each student to high school on grade level.
To facilitate the Individual Learning plans of each student, Excellence teachers provide individual instruction for students rather than whole class instruction. It is a major difference between the Excellence teaching model and that of mainstream classroom instruction.
What about textbooks?
The school uses Digital Notebooks or Ipads, virtual classrooms and technology provided by the International Academy of Science-Accellus. The Accellus program’s virtual school concept is used instead of textbooks. The Acellus units as well I-pads are provided for student use in-school, but are not taken home. The school also uses: The Actively Learning Reading Library, IXL, and Gizmo science labs, all of which are digital. In short, the school uses digital textbooks and curriculum materials.
Does the School have a library?
The school’s library is contained on Kindle Digital units. Students check out a Kindle for home use for advanced reading. Each Kindle contains the entire school library. Students choose the reading material of their choice from the middle school age titles loaded on the Kindle units.
What about school supplies?
School supplies such as paper, notebooks, and pens are supplied by the school at no charge. Not supplied is a set of the over-the-head earphones. There is no back to school supply list for Excellence Academy scholars other than the school uniform.
My child doesn’t like uniforms, are uniforms required?
School uniforms are required of both students AND staff. The various components of the uniform consist of: Red Blazer, red vest, white shirt or blouse, red tie, kakhis, red Polo shirt, Short sleeve Tan-T-Shirt longsleeve, T-Shirt, Red hoodie, and Travel T-shirts. Beginning in 2016-17 all uniforms are provided free of charge to new students.
What is the student schedule?
Each student receives 100 minutes per day instruction in core subjects. A typical day contains three core subjects and a Performing or Visual Arts Class. The school uses a block schedule. Students who study Social Studies in the first semester, study Science in the second semester and vice versa.
Will 6th Graders Study together? How do they apply?
Sixth grade students study all core subjects together in the 6th grade wing. The core subjects are: Math, Science, Social Studies and English-Language Arts. However, 6th graders will share performing arts classes such as: dance, visual art, or drama with 7th and 8th graders.
I like to watch my child in class, so I volunteer, is this O.K?
Parents are welcomed at Excellence. Parents who want to observe a class can do so by making arrangements with the office or can privately monitor their student’s actions by means of cameras in each room. While parents are welcomed, prior approval is required.
Will the School Call Me?
Parents can expect regular automated calls from the school to get updates on activities and absentees. The school will make personal calls to parents to announce student achievements or problems. Parents should see that the school has an active phone number. Parents with email will receive school emails or text messages.
Can students use Cell Phones?
Louisiana law prohibits students from using cell phones on buses or school grounds thirty minutes before school begins and 30 minutes after school ends. Students can bring cellphones to school, but the principal must give permission to use them (not even a teacher). Students who repeatedly break cell phone rules that spelled out in the student handbook may have their phones confiscated until the end of the school year.
What are the school day opening and closing times?
The typical school day begins at 7:30 a.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m.