Wesley International Academy received new life last spring when it was granted a 5-year extension to its charter. Being awarded another charter was neither easy nor predictable.
The school was in the midst of significant organizational change. Not only was it searching for a new leader, difficult decisions had to be made about breaking with its founding management company. There were many questions to be answered and the school’s future appeared in question.
Ultimately, Wesley followed the path similar to other Georgia charters and opted to move forward as an independent charter separate from outside management. Soon thereafter, the school was surprisingly faced with the most ironic challenge in its history – the decision to join a lawsuit regarding the city’s unpaid pension obligations against the very district that would rule on its charter renewal.
For any organization, issues of this sort must be met with heady leadership. Within the past 18 months, Wesley has successfully negotiated the kinds of challenges that have proven commonplace for charter schools across the country. The school now stands taller and stronger than ever.
Boasting a waiting list larger than its current student population – exceeding 730 students, gaining entrance through the school’s lottery is extremely difficult. Wesley is no longer the fledgling startup that it once was.
“We’ve been pleased with the amount of interest we’re generating, but it’s been hard to manage,” says Wesley’s Assistant Principal Dana Roberts. “But now is a perfect time to become better acquainted with the school, our staff and our way of doing things.”
Wesley is now currently accepting applications for the 2014-2015 school-year. The online application can be accessed on Wesley’s website at http://www.wesleyacademy.org/enrollment/admission-application/. Also, the final Open House for Prospective Families is scheduled Thursday, January 23, from 6 to 7:30 pm. Please call the school at 678-904-9137 and sign up to attend or RSVP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Duke Bradley, III came to Wesley as principal knowing full well that the odds of success may not be in his favor.
“It has been a test of leadership,” he says, “but all of the elements for Wesley to be successful were already in place. My goal has always been to support and advance the mission of the school. An active parent community and an incredibly focused and supportive Board of Directors has made that work more manageable.”
Although the school had a clear and demonstrable vision and strong achievement scores, Wesley needed a school leader suited for the challenges that Wesley presented. Bradley, a graduate of Morehouse College, also holds has a master’s degree from Brown University and a juris doctorate from John Marshall Law School.
In a very short while, he has been able to supplement the tremendous talent the school already had with impressive new additions. To correspond with a revamped organizational model, Bradley quickly snagged high-ranking APS district office coordinator Dr. Keisha Nalty-Hancock who directs the school’s academic program as Assistant Principal of Curriculum and Instruction.
Organizational change at the school was punctuated by increasing staff salaries through a combination of raises and bonus packages.
Wesley Board of Directors Chairman Kamau Bobb was one of the talents in place when Bradley arrived. Bobb deftly navigated the turbulent course that led to the school relocating to its current location on Memorial Drive.
Surely and steadily, Wesley is making strides. New curriculum innovations have been added like the new Accelerated Program of Study, where middle school students take Wesley’s version of AP courses spanning the core content areas of math, science, English Language Arts, and Social Studies. Both the Primary Years and Middle Year’s International Baccalaureate programmes have achieved full authorization, and the Chinese program continues to be one of the best in the Southeast. The Atlanta Business Chronicle recently recognized Wesley as having one of the best International Education programs in the state among both public and private schools.
But there is more coming. On the horizon are new partnerships that will enhance the school’s academic presence and standing in the community in addition to the school playing a central role in the hope of Jackson Cluster being designated as an Innovation cluster.
In the past year, Wesley’s place has been solidified in the Maynard Jackson High School Cluster with its move to the old Cook Elementary Building. Their presence and academic offerings will create a pipeline of students to support the IB and Chinese-language programs at the newly renovated high school.
Bradley’s recent visit three-city tour of China has also led to partnerships with schools abroad to create student cultural exchange programs. “Yes, indeed”, he says. “Things are looking up at Wesley.” “I’m looking forward to a wonderful year.”