New charter school coming to WoodburyCome the fall of 2014, Woodbury could be home to a second charter school. Nikki Robbins, co-owner and founder of Footprints Academy and Peace of Mind Early Education Center, is currently in the process of developing an application, to be submitted in February, to start a new charter school. The charter school, which would house grades K-8, would be called Woodbury Leadership Academy.
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
Come the fall of 2014, Woodbury could be home to a second charter school.
Nikki Robbins, co-owner and founder of Footprints Academy and Peace of Mind Early Education Center, is currently in the process of developing an application, to be submitted in February, to start a new charter school.
The charter school, which would house grades 7-8, would be called Woodbury Leadership Academy.
Footprints Academy, which was founded in 2002, currently houses K-6 and is a private elementary school.
“For a long time people here have been pushing us to add seventh and eighth grade,” Robbins said. “We are looking at charter as a way to potentially do that.
“Starting a new school is really what it would be.”
With the charter school model, Footprints Academy would cotinue to house k-6 and Woodbury Leadership Academy would be added on to house grades 7 and 8.
Woodbury is currently home to the Math and Science Academy charter school.
Developing a charter school
Robbins said she has been thinking about adding seventh and eighth grade to Footprints Academy because it’s something parents are passionate about.
“That middle school piece is such an important piece for parents,” she said
Initially, Robbins said she was thinking of only adding the two grades to the current Footprints Academy model, but after some thought charter school seemed like the best option.
Charter schools receive public money, as well as private donations, but are not subject to some of the rules, regulations and statutes that apply to other public schools.
Instead, charter schools are expected to produce certain results set forth in each school’s charter.
Charter schools are attended by choice.
In exchange for being exempt to certain rules, charter schools receive less funding than public. Typically charter schools receive “head funds,” or a certain amount of money per student.
“There’s really a strong need in the community for a charter school I think,” she said. “It certainly opens it up to a lot more families who don’t have the tuition to attend a private school model.
“That’s really the primary reason why charter is the model to go with.”
In developing the application, Robbins reached out to former Math and Science Academy Director Paul Simone, who recently resigned from MSA to go into consulting.
Simone would be one of Woodbury Leadership Academy’s founding members.
In February, Robbins will be submitting an application to Volunteers of America, which would be the authorizer for the new charter school.
Once the application is approved, Robbins and the other board members would go to work developing the school’s charter and curriculum.
As part of developing the charter school, Robbins would have to start a nonprofit organization, which would found the school.
“After that, we will be going full speed ahead,” she said.
Room to expand
Woodbury Leadership Academy would be housed in the current Footprints Academy facility, but would have to expand to add an additional 12 classrooms.
When Footprints Academy was built, Robbins said, the plans already included a second phase so the school just has to go back to the city for approval.
With the new addition, Woodbury Leadership Academy and Footprints Academy could potentially grow to a maximum of 350 students. Footprints Academy currently has a student population of 100 students.
If the two schools should grow to its maximum, an additional 10 teachers could potentially be added.
Footprints Academy currently has a staff of 13 teachers.
The mission for Woodbury Leadership Academy is “developing students with strong leadership skills,” Robbins said.
Robbins said she decided on the model of Woodbury Leadership Academy because Footprints Academy is already incorporating leadership curriculum and this would allow staff to grow upon that.
“We’ve been able to do that a little bit here at Footprints and being able to do that on a larger scale is really exciting,” she said. “It’s really incredible to see what kids are able to do.”
Some of the ways Footprints Academy has helped foster leadership include: having students participate in school assemblies and being involved in making decisions.
“They’re so involved in all those elements that they really do take ownership of it – it’s almost a student-run school here,” Robbins said. “It’s really awesome to see the students as they are empowered to do more.
“They take ownership of the school when they have the power to make some of those decisions, so it’s really great to watch students.”
In addition to the student-leadership piece, the curriculum at Woodbury Leadership Academy will also focus on virtues-based education, character-based education and core knowledge curriculum, Robbins said.
“It will be important to us that the school is very well rounded,” she said. “All of those core elements need to be very solid.”
Robbins said she is very excited about Woodbury Leadership Academy and hopes it is everything parents hope it to be.
“The opportunity to develop a school that would provide everything that parents and students want is really an exciting possibility,” Robbins said. “It would be a really perfect model.”