Dear Ivy Prep Parent:
Ivy Preparatory Academies has a rich history of serving public school scholars with innovative programs. We are Georgia’s first single-gender public charter school and have been a beacon for education reform and advocacy.
We fought to open our doors in 2008 after our charter petition was denied three times by the local school district. Our parents and scholars rallied publicly for the passage of the Georgia Charter Schools Amendment on their own time. In fact, one of our children became the poster child for the movement when she gave a televised testimony in her green dress jacket about the need for more school choice in her neighborhood. The ad helped scores of Georgians with and without children understand that the future of thousands of students trapped in failing public schools was in jeopardy if they didn’t vote to expand school options in Georgia.
Ivy Prep pushes to change laws; we do not work behind the scenes to circumvent them. That is why we, as governing board members of Ivy Prep, take issue with the serious allegations made against our school on ajc.com Thursday Oct. 8, 2015, by a community activist and “supporter” who does not have children at IPA. The op-ed contained erroneous information. We would like to set the record straight.
Our decision to close the high school program at our three campuses was made with careful consideration of the impact on our scholars and staff. We simply couldn’t afford to offer a high quality competitive high school when we are funded at half of the rate of traditional public schools. We were not meeting our mission to thoroughly equip high school scholars to succeed at the colleges and universities of their choice. Our students were under-performing compared to their peers as they grew frustrated taking the majority of their core subjects online instead of face-to-face with a caring teacher. Our average SAT score was 1203, which is more than 200 points below the national average of 1490 and the state average of 1450.
The suggestion to close high school for the 2015-16 school year was initially recommended during a public board meeting in March before the school’s new executive director, Alisha T. Morgan was hired. That pivotal meeting last spring had low parent turnout.
Soon after Ms. Morgan became the new Ivy Prep Executive Director, she continued research on the effectiveness of the high school model by meeting with parents and students to discuss grades and rate their satisfaction with the program. When it became apparent that the delivery model was not educating children in a matter that met our high expectations, it became necessary to treat the situation as an emergency.
Upon receiving notification from the Ivy Prep Executive Director, the governing board directed the schools’ leadership in partnership with the board’s Academic Standards Committee to conduct a formal assessment of the high school program. The study results, along with feedback from stakeholders, validated Ms. Morgan’s concerns and ultimately led the board to make the difficult decision to recommend closing Ivy’s High School. During a regularly scheduled meeting of the board that was posted on our website, a vote was taken to do what was in the best interests of students.
We regret that our swift action may have upset our parents and scholars, but we stand behind our decision to close high school. We were not meeting the academic needs of the 90 students that we were entrusted to educate. Any delay on the closure could have negatively impacted the ability of our seniors to have the time necessary to meet graduation requirements at their home schools. We recognize the gravity of this decision and its impact on our scholars and their families. Our hearts go out to those scholars who had aspirations of becoming the second class of Ivy Prep high school graduates.
We sincerely apologize to those who may feel disenfranchised by our decision. We as administrators and board members are called on to lead and look at the big picture. Most of our parents and staff understand our decision and appreciate our intent. We are committed to supporting the transition of our scholars and are working diligently to identify high school programs that will effectively prepare them academically to enter the college and university of their choice.
Administrators and staff held three meetings with high school families to discuss transition plans and share confidential student data that showed that most high school scholars were falling below standards in their core academic classes. We will continue to support our high school students throughout the academic year by offering them tutoring, SAT prep, and college tours.
Less than one-third of Ivy Prep’s eighth graders choose to stay with us for high school because we cannot offer them a traditional experience with sports teams and a large faculty. Most scholars, including the teen that became the poster child for the Georgia Charter School Amendment movement, leave Ivy Prep after middle school. The foundation they receive as Ivy Prep scholars serves them well. They have made successful transitions to the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology; DeKalb School of the Arts; Holy Innocent’s Episcopal School; Wesleyan Academy; and a host of high-performing traditional public schools. We also have some who have received six-figure scholarships to attend elite boarding schools such as Philips Academy. We want our current high school students to have the same opportunities. Some of our scholars have withdrawn to attend Arabia Mountain High, an environmental engineering magnet program that opened their doors to partner with us when admissions for the year had ended.
Ivy Prep will continue to move ahead with our efforts to prepare students for college by focusing on what we do best – offering a rigorous elementary and middle school program. We have a demonstrated record of high-achievement in that area. We will regroup and deliver the best K- 8 academic program possible.
Since 2008, our parents have worked with us hand-in-hand to make Ivy Prep a high-quality single-gender public charter school. The majority of our current parents and the parents of our successful alumni still support us. We encourage them and the community to come to our board meetings and volunteer to help us to prepare our scholars to be competitive for college and careers. We have exciting projects ahead. We must work together and do what is in the best interests of our students to get the job done.
The Governing Board of Ivy Preparatory Academies