Thurgood Marshall Leadership Academy believes it has possibly found a new home and the kind of leader the school and the neighborhood need.
The charter school founded by the Fort Wayne Urban League plans to hold a news conference Monday to introduce the school's new principal, Nicole Chisley. Chisley was scheduled to be available during a job fair Wednesday, but was unable to make it because of scheduling conflicts.
Chisley most recently served as the principal at Pacers Academy High School, an alternative high school for credit recovery within the Metropolitan School District of Pike Township in Indianapolis.
Chisley holds a bachelor's in secondary education from Indiana University and a master's in administration and supervision for kindergarten through 12th grade from Butler University. Chisley is also bilingual in Spanish, according to her resume.
She started her career as a sixth- and seventh-grade social studies teacher at Meridian Middle School, in MSD Perry Township.
The nationwide search for a leader began months ago and provided 20 applicants for the school's management company, American Quality Schools, to choose from who fit the desired criteria. AQS narrowed the candidates to two finalists, who were interviewed by the local school board.
Urban League CEO Jonathan Ray said both candidates met the board's standards, but ultimately one decided to go in a different direction, leaving Chisley to take the job.
“She's a hard worker,” he said. “She wishes to get started right away.”
Chisley will begin interviews Monday with candidates for open positions at the school including teachers, teacher's assistants, cafeteria workers and janitors.
Ray said Chisley is well-versed in curriculum and will be a strong mentor for teachers.
Board president Will Clark also said Chisley is an effective leader.
“Everyone in the building will know exactly what their job is, and she will make sure they fulfill that job,” he said.
Chisley taught for seven years before accepting a full-time administrative position as the dean of girls at Southport High School, also in Perry Township in Indianapolis, where she remained for three years. For the next five years, Chisley served as the assistant principal of two different high schools in Indianapolis before accepting the principal position at Pacers Academy in 2008.
Ray said he believes Chisley will work closely with the parents in the neighborhood and will be able to relate easily to them.
“She's the type of person that doesn't wait around to be told what to do. Whatever she needs to do to get the job done is what she'll do,” Clark said.
And Ray agreed, saying that is exactly the type of leader the school needs.
School to be located across street from Urban League
Ray said the school is in the final stages of negotiations with Zion Lutheran Church to rent space that was formerly the church's school, at 2313 Hanna St. He said the intention is to have a purchase agreement down the road as part of the three-year lease.
“That may very well be a home for Thurgood Marshall Leadership Academy, but that's a board decision,” he said.
Currently, 165 students from all grade levels have applied to attend the school when it opens in the fall, said Jamie Garwood, Fort Wayne Urban League's programming director. The number of students from Fort Wayne Community and East Allen County school districts is split almost right down the middle.
The school has also received applications from students who previously attended private schools and other charter schools, Garwood said.
Thurgood Marshall is set to open with a total of 225 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, despite setbacks with the building's location.
The school originally hoped to purchase the former Village Woods Middle School, but problems with financing the purchase and renovation of the building couldn't be resolved in time.