ATLANTA – More Georgia children will soon have access to a high-quality public school thanks to a vote by the State Charter Schools Commission of Georgia. On Wednesday, the SCSC approved five public charter schools participating in Georgia Charter Schools Association’s Charter Incubator program, a competitive and rigorous, year-long training process that recruits and trains top talent to start public charter schools in Georgia. DeKalb Brilliance Academy, Liberation Academy, Miles Ahead Charter School, Peace Academy and ZEST Preparatory Academy were among a group of only six new start-up charter school petitioners the SCSC decided to authorize for the 2022-2023 school year.
Wednesday’s vote marks the third year in a row the State Charter Schools Commission approved the majority of GCSA’s Charter Incubator candidates. In addition to the approval of these schools, the SCSC approved Northwest Classical Academy (NCA) in November of 2020. NCA is a replication of Atlanta Classical Academy in Atlanta. GCSA supported Northwest Classical’s replication efforts through petition review and board development.
“The pandemic has highlighted the importance of excellent public schools that successfully meet the needs of students and local communities,” said Tony Roberts, GCSA President and CEO. “We’re grateful for the opportunities these new schools will bring to Georgia’s children and the confidence the State Charter Schools Commission continues to place in the ability of GCSA Charter Incubator candidates to open and sustain successful schools.”
“We are proud of our leaders’ perseverance this year in the face of extreme challenges in founding schools given the pandemic,” said Aarti Sharma, GCSA’s Vice President of New School Development. “We are excited about the hope these schools represent for Georgia’s children in the near future. Collectively, these schools will serve more than 3,200 students in the metro-Atlanta area at scale, changing access to a quality education for our state!”
DeKalb Brilliance Academy, Liberation Academy, Miles Ahead Charter School, Peace Academy and ZEST Preparatory Academy received state approval after participating in Georgia Charter Schools Association’s Charter Incubator program. GCSA’s Charter Incubator assists and supports school founding teams throughout the entire charter petition process and provides coaching and professional development to school leaders and governing boards during their first two years of operation.
DeKalb Brilliance Academy
DeKalb Brilliance Academy will empower students to be leaders in any field they choose. The public charter school will combine relevant academics, social-emotional learning, and an innovative focus on entrepreneurship. Through Entrepreneurial Project-based Learning, students learn not only from their peers and teachers, but directly from members of the community – scientists, lawyers, engineers, designers, and more – through monthly coaching in team-based, semester-long projects. The school plans to open in the fall of 2022 in South DeKalb County with grades K-2, adding a grade each year up to the 8th grade.
“Our founding team has been honored to design DeKalb Brilliance Academy with input from nearly 1,000 community members. DeKalb Brilliance Academy answers our community’s call for a school that cultivates our students’ brilliance; their inherent strengths, talents, and ideas,” said Courtney Jackson, Founding Board Chair of DeKalb Brilliance Academy. “Our model expands who we define as educators so that teachers, students, families, and community experts are working together to empower students to design a better and more equitable future. We are grateful to both GCSA and the SCSC for their continued partnership to make the dream of our school into a reality deserving of our families and students.”
Liberation Academy will be a middle school that serves grades 5-8 in Southeast Atlanta. With a focus on rigorous academics, culturally relevant approaches, and computer science, Liberation Academy will provide a learning experience rooted in engaging and empowering students to think critically about their world.
“Receiving authorization from the State Charter Schools Commission is a tremendous honor for me and the board of directors,” said Brian King, Founder of Liberation Academy. “A good education should not be an exclusive right. We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with the SCSC and GCSA to bring a quality school to families in Atlanta. The support of GCSA and Aarti Sharma, GCSA’s Vice President of New Development, has been invaluable throughout the last 1.5 years.”
Miles Ahead Charter School
Miles Ahead Charter School is a tuition-free, public school focused on preparing students for the 21st century through a whole child approach to education. Located in southern Cobb County, Miles Ahead (MACS) will open its doors to all Kindergarten through Third Grade students, and will continue to add a class of students annually until it reaches Eighth Grade. By focusing on digital citizenship, character education, STEM, coding, and so much more, we are committed to teaching with joy and learning with rigor.
“With the support of GCSA and the Incubator program, Miles Ahead wrote a successful charter petition, developed a community-based Board of Directors, and established an innovative and impactful academic design for Georgia’s students, said Kolt Bloxson, Founder of Miles Ahead Charter School. “The entire Miles Ahead Crew looks forward to continuing to grow with the expertise of GCSA and the support of our partners at the SCSC.
We’re thankful for SCSC authorization, and we are elated to start advancing our unique mission for Georgia’s students. Miles Ahead Charter School was established to educate and prepare K-8 students for the 21st century through a whole child approach to teaching and learning. By focusing on digital citizenship, character education, and deeper learning structures, we have established a place where students can grow and learn with joy and rigor. With the support of the MACS Board, our volunteers, partners, and enrolled families, we look forward to opening our doors August 2022.”
Peace Academy Charter School
PEACE Academy Charter School is a K-8 statewide attendance zoned school located in Southeast Atlanta. PEACE is committed to maintaining an Afrocentric foundation, a rigorous & inclusive academic program grounded in problem-based learning, and strong community partnerships. In the fall of 2022, the public charter school will welcome students in grades K through 3rd.
“We understand the excellence it takes to engage in the undertaking of opening a school and the responsibility that we have agreed to share in partnership with our students and families. Our Afrocentric foundation will help students continue to build a strong sense of self and see themselves as critical leaders in their community. The founding of PEACE has truly been a community effort,” said Ebony Payne-Brown, Founder and School Leader of Peace Academy. “We could not have reached this point without the support of the GSCA Incubator, Aarti Sharma, GCSA’s Vice President of New School Development, our cohort peers, and our community partners. It is an honor to be given this opportunity and we look forward to working with our families to build a loving, self-aware, inclusive community of excellence at PEACE.”
ZEST Preparatory Academy
ZEST Preparatory Academy will be a K-5 community school that serves the children and families of Douglas County by providing another quality K-5 educational option. The school will specifically focus on literacy development and producing the next generation of leaders, beginning in kindergarten, through an academically rigorous, supportive, and joyful learning environment that develops the leader inside every student for lifelong educational achievement and community service. The Board of Directors values instilling the qualities and characteristics in our youth that will empower them to pursue higher education and positions of leadership. The school plans to open in the fall of 2022 with grades K-3 and add a grade each year up to the 5th grade.
“We are excited and honored to have the opportunity to bring a school focused on leadership to the Douglas County community. Our model is designed to hone the skills of our young leaders, so they are prepared to take a seat at the table of opportunity through scholarship and service,” said Monique Carruthers, ZEST Preparatory Academy’s Founder. “ZEST Preparatory Academy is grateful to have partnered with the Georgia Charter School Association (GCSA). The GCSA Charter Incubator program was instrumental in helping our team bring this vision to fruition through coaching, development, and ongoing support. We are eager to continue to work alongside GCSA as we launch a school for Georgia’s future leaders.”
About the GCSA Charter Incubator
Georgia Charter Schools Association is a nonprofit membership organization that believes students of all backgrounds deserve greater access to excellent educational opportunities. The goal of Georgia Charter Schools Association’s Charter Incubator is to increase the number of high-performing charter schools throughout Georgia by recruiting top talent; training and supporting applicants during the charter petition process; and coaching and developing school leaders and their governing boards on charter school operations and governance.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.