by Kat Lindholm
On Monday, May 7, during the East Lake Neighbors Community Association monthly meeting, Drew Charter School presented to the community its plans to expand to include grades 9-12. After the presentation, the community was given the opportunity to ask questions and have its concerns addressed. Immediately following the question and answer session the ELNCA membership voted unanimously to support the expansion of Drew Charter School.
Drew Charter School has been a community school for the past 12 years. During that time, Drew Charter School has improved the educational outcomes for many of our residents. The ELNCA body has found Drew to be an inclusive and uniting entity within the East Lake community. Through the East Lake Foundation, Drew has provided all of the children in the 30317 community with educational advancement opportunities regardless of whether or not those children attended Drew Charter School. Programs such as CREW Teens and First Tee of East Lake have provided our children with the mentorship, extracurricular enrichment and the opportunity to be more worldly, preparing them for the global world that awaits them.
We believe that Drew Charter’s expansion will further advance the nurturing of education within the community. Drew has been an incubator for educational innovation for over a decade and their best practices via school partnerships will allow for the advancement of more children regardless of the school that they attend. An example of how this partnership will be beneficial is Drew Charter’s current Partnership with Maynard Jackson High School. Drew Charter works with Jackson to make the CREW Teens program more accessible to students who reside in the community. Currently graduates of the CREW Teens program have a graduation rate of 94 percent, outpacing the Atlanta Public Schools' graduation rate of 54 percent. Through partnerships a cohesive educational outcome can be achieved further contributing to a positive academic outcome for all students and the growth of our communities and all of our community schools.
'Choice further enhances the education outcome of our community's children and will draw more families to our walkable, diverse and education-rich communities.'
Currently Toomer Elementary is on a positive trajectory drawing accolades from throughout the district. Those accolades are drawing interest from parents districtwide who want their children to attend a quality APS school and would love the opportunity to opt into Toomer. According to APS, Toomer is currently only able to accept transfers in for kindergrten through 3rd grades. It is the belief of the ELNCA that the growth of Drew Charter in the lower grades will have a minimal and temporary impact on the trajectory of Toomer Elementary. It is our belief that through continued community engagement and cross-school partnerships that our communities will draw additional young families to the area, adding to our current student population and further increasing the Toomer population. Toomer and Drew Charter offer vastly different programs, educational concepts and cultures. This gives parents within our communities the option of tailoring educational choices to fit the needs of their individual child. This choice further enhances the education outcome of our community's children and will draw more families to our walkable, diverse and education-rich communities.
Coan Middle School and Jackson also are on very positive trajectories. APS intends to bring a comprehensive IB program to both schools. Coan will receive a new administration with the ability to implement positive changes. Through partnerships with the East Lake, Kirkwood and Edgewood communities, along with the Zeist Foundation, the East Lake Foundation, Drew Charter and their partners, it is our belief that Coan and Jackson will quickly become destination schools further prompting the growth of our school age population.
It is the belief of the ELNCA body that Drew is an incubator for innovation in our communities and an active partner in the education of all of our students. The growth of Drew Charter will be slow, taking a decade to reach capacity. Drew Charter’s current program and the proposed High School program are vastly different from any program being offered not only in APS but in the metro Atlanta area. The ELNCA does not view this difference as competition but as a community enhancement. We believe that children are individuals and learn best when the educational delivery system is more tailored to fit their learning styles.
We believe that every child should have the opportunity to receive a quality tailored education — not just those who can afford private school. We believe that through strong school partnerships and strong community partnerships all of our schools will quickly become destination schools. Parents will have the unique opportunity to choose the best fit for their child based on learning style and individual needs. Parents in our communities will do so with confidence knowing that regardless of the choice made that they as a parent have chosen a quality school and a thriving community for their family. It is further our belief that when parents and students choose to be a part of a school community that the culture of the school becomes a positive culture conducive to learning.
In conclusion, the ELNCA fully supports the expansion of Drew Charter School. We have found Drew Charter to be an active, engaged and positive part of our community. Its programs have proven to be an enhancement to outcome of all our children regardless of the school they attend.
Ms. Lindholm is president of the East Lake Neighbors Community Association.