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IPA Network Staff Soars to New Heights at Stone Mountain and Back-to-School Workshops

Ivy Prep Academy Network teachers and faculty have returned to work ready to tackle the challenges of the new school year from climbing Stone Mountain to helping students prepare for the new state exam.

Staff returned early to ready classrooms for the first day of school. New scholars report to campus on Aug. 4 and returning students come back on Aug. 11.

The charter school network employs about 90 teachers and support staff including those who work in administrative offices. Approximately 30 new employees joined the staff for the 2014-15 school year. Most were hired to replace vacancies or fill growth positions.

This will be the first school year that IPAʼs high school program is offered at both the Gwinnett and DeKalb campuses. It will more than double in size to include 100 students – and a momentous occasion.

“The big event is our mission has been realized – we are having our first graduating class!” Victoria Wiley, executive director of IPA Network Schools said. “We are really excited about this.”

Eleven scholars from the Gwinnett campus are on schedule to be part of IPAʼs first graduating senior class. The scholars will meet regularly with their success coach and counselor to stay on track to graduate, find a college, and meet financial aid deadlines. IPA Networkʼs first graduation will be held at 1 p.m. on May 23 at a location to be determined.

Ivy Prepʼs mission is to prepare scholars to succeed at the colleges and universities of their choice. Staff returned to IPA eager to help scholars fulfill that mission, but first they had to conquer Stone Mountain. On a balmy Monday morning, dozens of IPA employees climbed the mountain together to show team spirit and a commitment to overcoming any obstacle in the way of student success. One of the biggest obstacles teachers will face in the classroom this year, is preparing scholars to exceed standards on a new state exam. The Georgia Department of Education will administer a new state standardized test called the Milestone, which will be more closely aligned with the Common Core Standards Curriculum. The new exam will be more challenging, and it will replace the Georgia Criterion Referenced-Competency Test. Teachers will be trained to prepare students for the exam.

“This year will be the year we will work toward learning everything we can about the Milestone so we will be on point with that,” A. Clifton Myles, IPA Director of Academic Affairs and principal of Ivy Prepʼs Young Menʼs Leadership Academy told staff during a workshop. “There is no longer a CRCT.”

New teachers attended a special orientation held in mid-July that was designed to introduce them to the culture and curriculum of IPA. Workshop sessions were led by Nina Gilbert, co-founder of IPA, Wiley, IPAʼs executive director, and school principals. Following the presentations, the new teachers were quizzed on the Ivy Prep motto. The first three to answer won a prize. “You can write it, text it, type it, or email it,” Kendra Shipmon, principal of Kirkwoodʼs School for Girls told new staff.

Donny Walker, middle grades social studies teacher; LaShovia Turner, a third grade teacher; and Kayla Eubanks, a special education teacher won the motto quiz. The three were given beanbag chairs for the classrooms.

Walker, a former DeKalb County Schools teacher, said she is a “native” of the Kirkwood neighborhood. “I live within walking distance,” said Walker. “I have always been a big fan of charter schools. I like the autonomy that the schools have in deciding what is best for their students.”

Turner, also a former DeKalb Schools teacher, comes to Kirkwood with 12 years of experience. She said she “stumbled” across the campus during a car trip to the neighborhood and entered her kids in the lottery. “I had been looking for a charter school for my kids as well as myself,” she said. “I read Ivy Prep’s mission and values and felt that they are in line with my beliefs. I like the push for kids to think of college at a young age.”

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