A new charter school has been proposed to operate in Red River Parish. It would be under the direction of Crystal Cummins. This school year Cummins operated a home school co-op called Catfish Bend Academy out of her home on the Catfish Bend Road in south Red River Parish.
The news release from the group said the group “has several board members, and will be looking for more board members. At present, board members are: Hardrick Rivers, Mary Adkins, PhD; Katie Murray, and Debbie Williams.
School Director Cummins (pictured above) told The Journal they made application to the Red River Parish School Board recently. Cummins says they have been notified by the school board that a third party reviewed their application and recommended the board deny it.
The school board, at the May meeting announced a special called meeting will be held Monday, June 4th at the board office. Superintendent Alison Hughes confirmed the purpose of the meeting was to consider a charter school application. Cummins says she has not been informed by the board that the meeting would be held June 4th.
Here is the media release issued this past weekend by the charter school group.
Advantage Charter Academy has applied to the Red River School Board to open a K – 8 Charter School in Red River Parish. If the Red River School Board approves the Charter School, this means that families in Red River Parish could soon have another public school option. The charter school would be open to all students in the parish from grades K – 8 and would be funded by state and local sources, which means families would not need to contribute any tuition. In the event that more students want to attend than the school has seats available, enrollment will be decided via a public lottery. There will be no special qualifications necessary to apply.
According to Crystal Cummins, the Advantage Charter Academy school director, opening a charter school in Red River Parish would be “An incredible opportunity to greatly increase the educational opportunities for students of the parish.” Currently, a number of local children attend public schools out of the parish, attend private school, or elect to homeschool. Mrs. Cummins hopes an alternate, public school option in Coushatta would draw many of these families back into the district. She also believes school choice will empower families currently in the district to become more involved in the school system and may even help bolster the local economy.
Advantage Charter Academy will use a different approach than the current public schools by utilizing a Montessori – style education methodology which is characterized by multi-age classrooms, hands-on experiential learning, and individualized instruction. Montessori based instruction helps students understand concrete concepts using specially selected tools and manipulatives. This methodology helps students understand more complex, abstract concepts. In Montessori classrooms, students seldom sit at a desk and passively listen to a teacher, rather students take an active role in their learning and exercise personal responsibility in selecting jobs (specific learning tasks) to do throughout the school day and are afforded a great deal of flexibility to move about the classroom. Montessori classrooms have low student to teacher ratios, and students are encouraged to cooperate together, think critically, and solve problems.
Traci Schmidley, who currently uses Montessori instruction in her home and will teach at Advantage Charter Academy, has seen the tremendous success of her own children and students who use the Montessori curriculum. Many of her students are working multiple grade levels ahead of their peers who attend traditional schools. According to Mrs. Schmidley, “The Montessori method is not just about achieving high performance standards but is also about teaching our children to love the process of learning. The Montessori materials make concepts come alive and students can immediately touch and see the tangible results of their efforts.”
Charter schools that are authorized by the local school board, are granted permission to make their own decisions in terms of budgeting, staffing, curriculum, etc, but are also held to high accountability standards. The students will be tested at the end of each school year by the state standardized tests. Then, the school is given a school grade of A-F. Test scores earned by Advantage Charter Academy students will count towards the parish’s overall performance scores and could bring a real bolster to the parish as well.
Although charter schools are increasing rapidly across the state, there are still relatively few charter schools in northwest Louisiana. Most of the top 15 schools in the state of Louisiana are charter schools.
Therefore, it is important that if you would like to see another public school option in Red River Parish for grade K – 8 that you get involved. Contact your elected school board representatives, and the superintendent’s office, and let the district know you would like to see Advantage Charter Academy open in Coushatta. You can visit Advantage Charter Academy Facebook page, like it, share it, and add your name to the growing list of parents who would like to see school choice in Red River Parish.