After months of uncertainty, Timothy L. Johnson Academy will indeed remain a chartered school.
Trine University's Education One granted a three-year charter to the academy Monday afternoon after the academy's board voted unanimously to approve the many administrative and academic changes that Trine oversight will bring.
Ball State University did not renew the K-8 academy's charter earlier this year due to low test performance — only 41 percent of the academy's students passed their ISTEP language and math tests. In April, the East Allen County Schools board refused to be its chartering organization.
This paved the way for the Angola-based Trine University and Education One, a separate arm within the institution that works specifically with chartering.
“Our goal is to raise the bar across the entire school,” Michael Bock, Trine University senior vice president, said.
David Wood, Education One managing director of education, read through standards for the academy if his organization were to charter the school, which serves about 300 students.
Perhaps the biggest changes Trine mandated is to move the academy to a year-round calendar, a change that will start in the fall with the 2013-14 school year and aim to increase learning retention and student achievement.
Other organizational goals include reducing the size of classes and adding staffing, building time into the school day for teachers and administrators to meet and plan, implementing regular professional development programs for teachers and increasing teacher/classroom accountability by instituting weekly classroom visits by administrators to ensure what needs to be taught is being taught.
Academically, Wood said he would like to see a minimum of 75 percent of students enrolled in a music program and an art program by Year 3 of the chartering.
He also wants more resources dedicated to math and science manipulatives for interactive, engaging education in those fields. Finally, he wants to see increased technology use by students in the form of iPads or similar products in no fewer than 80 percent of classrooms.
Wood also noted he intends to take an active role in the school, something school leadership and teachers noted was not the case with Ball State University.
“It's our goal as an authorizer to ensure you're doing things in a manner that you're supposed to be doing,” Wood said. “The only way for us to do that effectively is to be here on a regular basis, in the school and at all of your board meetings.”
Nearly 100 students, parents, teachers, staff and community members gathered Monday at East Allen County Schools' Village Elementary School, in which the academy operates. Many took the opportunity to speak during the public comment hearing before the board's meeting. Most spoke about the family atmosphere that the academy fosters and the distinctive need for a charter school for the community if its students are ever to fully actualize their dreams.
Said one mother, “I thank God for the school. The teachers are always there for me, anything I need.”
Said a recent graduate headed to Bishop Luers High School, “This school is probably the reason why I'm making it there.”
A grandmother said, “Without Timothy L. Johnson Academy here, the community would be lost.”
After the meeting, academy teacher Carrie Drudge expressed relief over the agreement between the academy and Trine. Though she has no children of her own, she said it's easy for her to say she has 300. She knows all of the students. They know her.
“All the changes are for the good,” Drudge said. “They'll make our school a better place. Some will be easy. Some will be tough just to get everyone on board.”
Though when the board announced the affirmation of Trine's standards and the approval of the new charter, cheers and applause from the audience suggested a general consensus of satisfaction.
Fourth-grade teacher Tametris Marsh has taught at the academy for four years. She said she is happy with the future changes and believes they are necessary.
“I think we can accomplish those goals,” she said “but it's going to take a lot of hard work.”