Bernard Wright thinks the educational system doesn’t meet many children’s needs and wants to prove his point by opening a school of his own. “I don’t know if the public schools in the area are providing students what they need,” says Wright. “A private, small school that is more hands on and has a smaller setting can provide better services.”
Whether he can pull it off, though, depends on whether he can finish renovating a former school building on Northwest Seventh Avenue in Liberty City, acquire equipment, hire teachers and recruit enough students by Aug. 19, the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year. Wright thinks he can.
“Within only the first week of open registration we have enrolled about 20 students,” says Wright. “We expect to have 60 to 80 students enrolled by the beginning of the school year, but whether we have 5, 10, or 20 students by Aug. 19 we will open on that date.”
Wright’s not an educator; he has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Grambling State University in Louisiana and worked for 22 years as a child abuse investigator and juvenile probation officer.
But he’s already been involved in opening Grace Christian Preparatory on Southwest 216th Street and Center of a Life Academy on Northwest First Avenue. And he’s confident enough to pay the cost of renovation and equipment from his own pocket.
Wright hoped to open B. Wright Leadership Academy in North Miami last year. But when plans to lease space from Oasis Church fell through, Wright headed for 6102 NW Seventh Ave., owned by the Martin Luther King Economic Development Corp.
The school will go from grades Pre-K through 8th and the curriculum will include performing arts and a technology program.
Yearly tuition is set to be around $5,000.
But the academy plans to work with eligible students to obtain financial aid, including McKay scholarships, a state program that enables students with disabilities to attend private schools and another state program, “Step Up for Students” that helps low-income students.
Renovations inside the building will not begin until June. But Wright does not seem to be worried about time because he doesn’t think a whole lot needs to be done.
“The architect will work on planning space division to create more classrooms this week,” says Wright. “Other than that we will change the carpets and the floors. It will probably take less that a week to finish all that.”
The process of recruiting teachers and staff has already begun, but actual hiring will take place toward the end of June. “We are looking for teachers to have a bachelor’s degree and at least three years of teaching experience,” says Wright. “Three people that meet these requirements have already sent us their resume.”
Wright hopes area companies, organizations and even acquaintances will contribute to the school. He says he’s already working with Hands 2 Help, a local organization that will come in Fridays to give girls dance lessons. And he hopes Boy Scout, Girl Scout and community leaders will come in to teach responsibility and character development.
Students with disabilities will be enrolled in a pull-out program, which removes students from their regular classrooms for one or more hours a week to provide them with enriched activities, depending on their Individualized Education Program.
The school plans to hire staff that will meet the needs of these students. “We will have the adequate staff, whether occupational therapists or behavioral therapists, to work with our disability children,” says Sophia Roberts, the school’s registration coordinator.
Wright says the school will follow a curriculum similar to Miami-Dade schools and work with the national Common Core curriculum standards. Rather than the FCAT, though, it will use the Terranova, another standardized achievement test.
The school will emphasize learning by doing and Wright plans field trips to factories, zoos and marine biology centers as students learn about them.
“We want to get these kids while they are young and set a good, positive foundation,” says Wright. “Our goal is to expose them to different things.”
Contact Paola Molini at firstname.lastname@example.org