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Ivy Prep Leaders Return From National Tour Of Charter Schools

Ivy Preparatory Academy school leaders recently returned from a national Best Practices Tour of charter schools in the Northeast that use innovation and a no-excuses mantra to boost student achievement.

The professional development trip, funded by the Partnership For Developing Teachers Grant, was organized by the Ivy Prep Foundation to help enhance the curriculum and culture of Ivy Prep’s schools in Gwinnett and DeKalb counties, which serve nearly 1,000 students.

“Some of our school leaders have never seen charter school environments outside of Ivy,” said Nina Gilbert, founder of Ivy Prep Schools. “There are schools that are doing some phenomenal things nationally and locally. As we undergo a very comprehensive school improvement campaign, we wanted to take a look at best practices and innovation at some of the highest-performing urban charter schools in the country.’’

More than a dozen educators went on the tour including Gilbert; Mrs. Victoria Wiley, executive director of Ivy Prep Schools; the administrators at Ivy Prep Gwinnett; the principal of Ivy Prep Kirkwood School for Girls; and Jacob Cole, Ivy Prep’s director of communications.

The group traveled to Boys Latin High School in Philadelphia, Pa., a single-gender middle and high school campus with a rigorous college preparatory curriculum that prepares young men for leadership and success in higher education. The school, founded in 2007, requires the academic study Latin for four years – a foreign language that promotes the study of government, art and a love of language. Among the innovations offered at the school is a summer session for freshmen that allows them to study for five weeks over the summer to boost their academic skills.

The tour also stopped at Mastery Charter Schools, a network of K-12 schools serving more than 10,500 students in Philadelphia and Camden, N.J. Mastery follows a set of core values throughout its organization from the classrooms to the superintendent’s office that focus on student achievement, customer service, fairness, determination, joy, humor, honesty, open communication, continuous improvement and team work.

Following the Philadelphia stops, the group then traveled to Washington D.C. where they visited Achievement Prep, the highest performing charter school in the nation’s capitol. Achievement Prep outperforms its neighborhood schools by 40 points on standardized tests using the manta, “Good is not good enough – GREAT is good enough.” The school is focused on raising student achievement and challenges staff, parents and students to live up to high expectations.

School leaders later visited SEED, the country’s only boarding charter school, also in Washington, D.C.

At each stop, Ivy Prep administrators went into classrooms and met students and teachers. They also talked to principals about the curriculum, budget and community support for the school. Ivy Prep administrators looked for ideas they may duplicate in the school network.

“I’m looking for new ways of doing things,” said Joy Treadwell, principal of Ivy Prep Gwinnett. “We don’t have all of the answers. If everyone in your circle is thinking like you, you don’t always get that innovation everyone is looking for. Trips like this are important for everyone because it allows us to connect to the charter school movement and examine what people are doing across the country to make a difference in student achievement.”

Ivy Prep school leaders went on a similar tour before the school opened to students in 2008 and borrowed some of the ideas they saw in classrooms.

“There were schools that had models and strategies that we wanted to replicate,” Gilbert said.

Professional development will continue as Ivy Prep enhances its programs. Wiley said school leaders were inspired by what they saw in the Northeast.

“Our best practice trip was truly transformational to us a leaders,” Wiley said. “The schools we visited were so welcoming and accommodating, and we plan to partner with each of them in the future. The leaders and I, plan to implement some of the best practices immediately. We are truly grateful for Dr. Gilbert for planning and leading the tour. ”

Ivy Concert Master: A Conversation With “King of Strings” Ken Ford

The foundation that supports Ivy Preparatory Academy, the state’s first single-gender public charter school is hosting a benefit concert on Thursday, Dec. 4, at the Defoor Centre featuring Atlanta’s “King of Strings” Ken Ford.

The jazz violinist, who has shared the stage with R&B greats Jill Scott and India Irie, will share his talents in a special concert to support educational programs at Ivy Preparatory Academy Schools Network. Tickets for the event at1710 Defoor Avenue in Atlanta cost $55 per person.

Ford is a respected jazz artist who has made a national career in music as a virtuoso of the electric violin. He honed his soulful string playing in metro Atlanta where he grew up as a young musician. Ford’s parents discovered that he could play keyboard by ear when he was in elementary school. At age nine, he began to study the violin and play the classics. He is a founding member of the DeKalb Youth Pop Orchestra and a graduate of Decatur’s Towers High School. Ford later joined the African American Philharmonic Orchestra where he played with Grammy Award-winning artist Barry White and was promoted to the title of Concert Master.

But it was Ford’s desire to play popular songs heard on the radio that would eventually propel his career as a solo artist. His string renditions of R&B and jazz hits pushed him to expand his repertoire beyond the classics and develop new techniques that would attract younger and more diverse audiences to violin concerts. During his solo career, Ford has shared billing with a host of award winning R& B artists including Chaka Khan, Will Downing and Frankie Beverly.

Ford took time out of his busy rehearsal schedule to share his story with Ivy Prep Academy:

Q: Why did you choose to play violin?
A: In the fourth grade, the teacher passed out pictures of instruments. We were supposed to circle the one you wanted to play. Back in the day you had to choose something. The first thing I selected was the upright base. I had already experimented with the horn and with the drums. My parents always bought me instruments anytime I had a birthday. After I had picked the bass, I changed my mind at the last minute. That thing was huge, and my parents had a Volkswagen Bug. I decided to get the miniature version of the bass and played the violin instead.

Q: Why did you stick with the violin and show that it could be a versatile instrument used to play classical and popular music?
A: I grew up in a family that was into music. My dad was a deejay. I was at the old school parties. I was helping my dad with the records. One day I was going through the records and I came across this guy with no shirt on and an Afro. He was holding a violin. It was Noel Pointer. I was like, ‘Oh, my God! Wow!’ I put on the record. I knew right at that moment that I wanted to do that. It was really hearing someone else doing something different with the violin that excited me. I enjoyed playing classical music. When I found out that you could play the stuff that is on the radio, too, that is really what made me stick with it. The first song I learned to play is Stevie Wonder’s “Where were you when I needed you.”’ I still play that song.

Q: Would you like to see more minorities consider playing string instruments like the violin?
A: It’s happening. There is a movement. There are more and more black violinists popping up, and they are playing what they want to play. All you have to do is search electric violin on YouTube. You will be surprised how many entries come up. Some are playing hip-hop.

Q: What is it that you love about music?
A: Music is a part of me. It’s my bread and butter because I love it. Music tells a story.
It is almost like listening to a conversation. You can come up with something different even though there are millions of songs out there. Music is life. It is universal. You can play a piece of music for someone in Australia and they can still move to it here. Music is very spiritual to me as well.

Q: Tell me about The Ken Ford Foundation.
A: Before the Foundation started I would get invited to come and play at schools. I would talk to the kids about music… Later, we launched a nonprofit. Everyone has that window in the back of his or her minds. By opening that window to music appreciation, it is one of those things that can help academics.

Tickets still available

The Ivy Prep Foundation benefit concert “A Night of Jazz featuring Ken Ford” will help to expand educational opportunities for students at Ivy Prep. Ivy Prep receives only state and federal funds for the education of students. Ivy Prep schools operate on about half of the budget of traditional public schools. Ivy Prep, however, is still required to produce results in student achievement that surpass local schools funded at a higher level.

Ivy Prep Schools provide educational choice to a diverse group of students including those in middle-income households and those in neighborhoods burdened with crime, poverty, and low expectations for kids. Ivy Prep’s mission is to prepare scholars to succeed at the colleges and universities of their choice.

Ivy Prep Schools in Gwinnett and DeKalb have extended days, an extended year, and double daily doses of math, language arts and other core classes. The charter school network educates nearly 1,000 students in metro Atlanta. Ivy Prep’s flagship school for girls is in Gwinnett County. Ivy Prep also operates two schools in DeKalb County, Ivy Prep Kirkwood School for Girls and Ivy Prep Young Men’s Leadership Academy.

Ivy Prep Academy has a proven record of narrowing the achievement gap between students of different socio-economic backgrounds. In 2012, Ivy Prep Gwinnett was the only public middle and high school in to be named a “rewards school” for high-test performance among minority and low-income students.

For more information on Ken Ford, visit

Ivy Prep Gwinnett Beta Club Members Invited To National Competition

Four Ivy Preparatory Academy Gwinnett scholars have been invited to represent the state of Georgia at the national Beta Club Convention in Nashville, Tenn. this summer after winning second place in a state Quiz Bowl competition.

The scholars, Jedidah Titus, Mackenzie Williams, Shama Khan and Janai Kameka, won the honor by defeating 75 teams participating in the Jeopardy-style Quiz Bowl contest at the state Beta Club Convention late last month. The Quiz Bowl contestants answered trivia about books, solved math problems and aced questions on social studies and science in the race against time. The game tested their mastery of the academic curriculum and their ability to work as a group.

“They had to hit a buzzer to be the first to get bonus questions,” Linda Desmond, a faculty sponsor for Beta Club explained. “The girls were ecstatic when they won. We are so proud of them. This is really a big deal. They will be representing the state at nationals.”

The Ivy Prep team entered the Quiz Bowl’s final round ranked among the top four teams in the state. The girls won 85-0 against their three competitors. Team Ivy was narrowly defeated in the championship against River Trail Middle School in Alpharetta, which placed first in the event. Both teams received plaques and invitations to nationals.

“I am very excited,” said Williams, a member of the winning team at Ivy Prep. “We studied hard to prepare for the Quiz Bowl and to learn to answer questions as quick as possible. It has been a great experience.”

The Quiz Bowl winners were among 36 Ivy Prep scholars who attended the state conference in Macon. The annual convention exposes students in grades 4-12 to activities that develop their leadership skills, push them to excel academically, and inspire them to volunteer in their communities. Ivy Prep Gwinnett allows girls in grades 7 and 8 to attend the convention.

Ivy Prep students represented themselves and the school well in Macon, Desmond said. “They all acted incredibly professional and respectful. It was a really a good trip for everyone.”

For many Ivy scholars, the conference was their first academic overnight trip away from home. Faculty sponsors said the girls spent several weeks preparing to compete in events. Some helped to make the banner for Ivy Prep in an art competition. Others competed in a Living Literature contest recreating a scene from a book. The rest competed in Quiz Bowl.

“The theme of the conference was ‘ Beta is Rocking the Country,’ ” said Hannah Bolar, a seventh grader. “We decided to do a pun on that. We drew a portrait of Bon Jovi in a rocking chair writing a song near a map of the United States.”

Ivy scholars who participated in the Living Literature competition chose to recreate the knife-throwing scene from the fiction adventure book “Divergent” by Veronica Roth. In the scene, the book’s heroine faces a test of bravery as she faces a knife-thrower in a precision demonstration for the new recruits of Erudite.

“We had so much to set up,” said Alyssa Wray, a seventh grader. “We had to make the background. We had to get our poses right and stand very still. You had to stay in one position for an hour.”

Another Ivy Prep student ran for office and gained experience competing against her peers campaigning on a state level.

Faculty co-sponsor Rebecca Enright gathered ideas to help students launch a Beta Club community service project after winter holiday break. Desmond said the club also will accept new members. Invitations to join Beta Club will be sent to scholars with at least a 3.5 grade point average who have demonstrated good behavior at school.

Ivy Prep Academy Gets Home Court Advantage With Start Of Basketball Season

Team Ivy returns Friday to tip off this basketball season with a home court advantage. For the first time, Ivy Preparatory Academy will host home basketball games at the Kirkwood campus in Atlanta.

The move will allow girls’ and boys’ basketball teams to build a loyal fan base in the community. It will also attract students and families to Ivy Prep from across metro Atlanta to attend games at the Kirkwood campus at 1807 Memorial Drive.

“We have redone the floors and repainted; we have risers and a new score clock,” said Terrence Waller, Athletic Director for Ivy Prep. “Having a gym for home games will be exciting for players. It will build a sense of pride for the school and community.”

Ivy Prep’s first home game is Friday against KIPP Strive. The girl’s team plays at 6:15 p.m. followed by the boys’ team at 7:15 p.m. All but one of the basketball games this season will be played in the home gym. Renovations to the gym were made with the support of Cooper-Global Chauffeured Transportation and other funding.

In addition to new gym equipment, the basketball season is also beginning with new leadership in the ranks. Waller has hired seasoned coaches to oversee basketball so that he can focus on expanding the sports program at Ivy Prep. The athletic director is planning to launch competitive tennis, soccer and baseball to increase the menu of sports available for students.

“As long as we keep having great coaches, I really want to use my time supervising and working in the back office,” Waller said. “Part of being a good leader is delegating. Our coaches are on board with building the sports programs. They take their jobs very seriously.”

The new coach for Team Ivy Gwinnett Girl’s Basketball (Gwinnett Monarchs) is Warren Wade who replaces Waller as head coach. The assistant coach for the Gwinnett Monarchs is Walt Edwards. The cheerleading coach is Nichole Wysinger.

Waller said Wade is rebuilding the Monarchs with a mix of new talent after the loss of its tournament-winning starting line up. The team lost several upperclassmen who left for high school after back-to-back tournament appearances. “I expect him to come in and tear up the ground and build a new foundation,” Waller said.

Last season, the Monarchs made it to the tournament finals for the third year in a row. They were defeated in the LukeSports Girls’ Championship tournament by the Atlanta Lady Vikings, the team they had beaten the year before to win the championship 51-36. Many of the members of the tournament-winning team are now playing high school basketball on the varsity and junior varsity level.

“The program is producing young ladies and young men who want to continue playing basketball and are having success on the court,” he said. “We are taking kids to the next level.”

Waller said that their work ethic will pave the way for more Ivy Prep basketball players to follow in their footsteps. He has invited alumni of Ivy Prep’s girls and boys basketball teams to return for home games to cheer on the new players.

This year’s Monarchs are: Lauren Edwards; Mya Matthews; Raijene Murphy; Madison Doss; Elana Taylor; Kyler Woods; Londe Hall; Jade Gordon; Janet Fasesin; Karlynn Kerry; Kenia Calderon; Taylin Williams; Alex Pearson; Daijah Figgures and Jasmine Weathersby-Alexander. Atlernates are Amara Noble and Jahayla Curry-Williams.

This year’s Kirkwood Knights are: Kenneth Johnson; Titus Hand; Justin Jackson; Jovon Howard; Tywun Daniel; Syrus Kee; Noah Evans; Javion Leek; Christopher Culbreath; Franc Spears; Travarous Alexander; Cameron Florence; Mohamad Diallo and Jimari Monro.

The Knights of Ivy Prep Kirkwood are ready for another ambitious season. The young team is building on lessons learned during their first year on the court, which ended without a victory. Waller said the Knights are focused on training and expertly executing new plays designed to bring home victories for Ivy Prep.

The head coach of the Knights is Bryan Spencer. The assistant coaches are Frank Lee and Devin Emory. The cheerleading coach is Kelsea Shull. Her assistant is Kayla Eubanks.

“The young men are doing incredibly well under the leadership of Coach Spencer,” Waller said. “He has a background in coaching Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Basketball and college basketball. He is showing the young men some things that NBA players are learning. I expect them to be able to pull off a win this year, and more importantly, create a bond amongst themselves as players.”

Mid-Year High School Enrollment (NOW ENROLLING)

For parents interested in enrolling in grades K-8 across our three schools, enrollment is currently open (pending seat availability). However, we are only able to open enrollment for our high school program for a limited time. If you are interested in our high school program for your son or daughter in high school, please click here to start the process.

Note: Ivy Preparatory Academy at Gwinnett serves all-girls in grades 6-12. Ivy Preparatory Academy at Kirkwood serves boys and girls in single-gender classrooms in grades K-9. Our Kirkwood campus will expand to K-10 for the 2015-2016 school year.

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Ivy Prep Leaders Celebrate “New Chapter” And Accomplishment For All Three Schools

Ivy Preparatory Academy Schools administrators and board members celebrated the launch of an innovative expansion at the Kirkwood campus with a ribbon cutting ceremony recently.

The event marked the next chapter for Ivy Prep Kirkwood as a landowner of the strip mall that houses the public charter school and a landlord to businesses leasing property in the building.

Ivy Prep raised $13.7 million through the sale of revenue bonds to purchase the site and make the school a landmark in DeKalb County. Officials with the State Charter Schools Commission said the bond deal is the “first of its kind” for a state- approved charter school.

Scholars representing Ivy Prep Kirkwood School for Girls and Ivy Prep Young Men’s Leadership Academy welcomed the audience of supporters with the school song, motto and creed. Members of the State Charter Schools Commission, the Georgia Charter Schools Association, the Parkview Civic Association, and the DeKalb County government were among those in attendance of the ribbon cutting.

“We are gathered here today to celebrate a momentous occasion for Ivy Prep Academy,” said Mrs. Victoria Wiley, executive director of Ivy Preparatory Academy Schools network. “Even though Ivy Prep Kirkwood School for Girls has purchased this building, this is an accomplishment for all three schools.

“This moment is a fresh start – a new beginning. As we cut this ribbon we are showing our community, that we are here to stay,” Wiley said. “We are making a commitment to our parents and our Parkview neighbors. I couldn’t be more proud to serve this organization and our scholars.”

The bond deal took two years to complete from the idea stage to the approval stage. Ivy Prep partnered with the DeKalb County Development Authority to seek a bond issue to finance the purchase of the 100,000 square-foot strip mall. The campus, which is at capacity with about 800 students, will soon expand. Ivy Prep received $650,000 from the bond to develop more than 15,000 square feet of space on campus into classrooms and separate the single-gender schools at Kirkwood, which currently share an entrance, a cafeteria, and a playground.

Construction will begin in late January.

“There is an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child,” Christopher Kunney, chairman of the board of IPA told the audience. “This endeavor shows what it means to have a village who truly invests in our children. You are our future. We are happy to serve you and to be able to provide more classroom space for you to learn and grow in and be successful.”
Kirkwood scholars are excited about the getting new classrooms. They say the expansion is needed because some classes are being held outside of the building due to space restrictions.

“The chance to expand is huge; I believe that this will give the school a better chance to suit all of our needs,” said Nicholas Oliver, a freshman at Ivy Prep Kirkwood’s new high school. “We have some high school classes at the YMCA because we could not be accommodated here with all of the students here. We will be able to attract more students to Kirkwood, and we will have more classrooms for the high school.”

Ivy Prep is the first charter school to buy a building that has a built-in cash stream of existing commercial tenants. The purchase takes a new approach to providing adequate classroom space to charter school students that could revitalize communities and breathe new life into struggling strip malls.

Gregg Stevens, counsel for the State Charter Schools Commission said: “Ivy Prep will be able to rent out their facilities and use the rent they receive to pay back the bond. Having your own facility really sends a message that you are part of a community and you deserve to be there.”

Wiley and Kunney recognized all who supported the effort to buy the Kirkwood building from staff to Hamlin Capital Management, which purchased the bonds and Baird, the underwriter for the bond deal.

Kendra Shipmon, principal of Ivy Prep Kirkwood School for Girls, was praised for co-facilitating the project.
“She was my backing through this whole process,” Wiley told Shipmon. “I truly appreciate all of your hard work.”
Wiley also thanked Kunney for his support. “He has been at the forefront of this project from the beginning. I thank you for your guidance. I appreciate you taking time way from your own family to make this happen for our family.”

Shipmon she feels “honored” to work at Ivy Prep Kirkwood. “It’s an amazing task we have here and an amazing opportunity to change the lives of scholars.”

Shipmon said tenants of the strip mall LIV Fitness, Pizza Hut and Kirkwood Family Medicine, a Grady health care facility will remain in the plaza and forge partnerships with the school. Administrators said they would like to see Pizza Hut deliveries include school enrollment flyers and Ivy Prep parents sending their children to the clinic for physicals.

Following the ceremony, new board member Bruce Taylor looked over proposed architectural drawings of the expanded campus. He was impressed by what he saw. “This allows us to get even more kids into an excellent educational program.”

Gwinnett Scholars Visit Air Traffic Tower For Lesson On Communication

Fifteen Ivy Preparatory Academy scholars visited the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport recently to observe the importance of effective communications in the offices of a federal air traffic control tower.

The field trip to the Federal Aviation Administration ended an enrichment unit on the dynamics of good communication
that gave students tips on expressing themselves whether they are interviewing for a job, speaking in a classroom, or
working in a group. Scholars who excelled in the lessons were invited to the airport for a behind-the-scenes look at
communications on the job for air traffic controllers.

“When we thought about a place where effective communication is key and critical, we decided to take them
to see the airportʼs air traffic control tower,” said Joy Treadwell, principal of Ivy Prep Gwinnett. “These are life-
saving jobs. Air traffic controllers communicate with pilots and help them to take off and land safely. We talked about the communication tools and the language they use.”

Scholars toured the tower, which is the largest in North America. From their view nearly 400 feet above the airport,
they could see the Atlanta skyline, planes flying, and luggage moving on carts.

“The view was stunning,” said Jedidah Titus, a seventh grader at Ivy Prep. “You could see so many airplanes. We learned that communication was extremely vital for the safety of planes and their passengers. When pilots fly to a destination, they talk to air traffic control in every city on the way to that destination.”

Scholars observed the work of air traffic controllers and talked to employees about their jobs, including a female manager.

“They got to see that very few women work as air traffic controllers,” Treadwell said. “They asked the women that were
there what it is like working in a male-dominated career.”

The experience made seventh grader Asia Aaron begin to rethink her decision to be a veterinarian.

“It was awesome,” she said. “I loved seeing the planes up close. People were busy talking to pilots. It was exciting. It really made an impact on me.”

Emma Fruge, an eighth grader, said she enjoyed being around the planes so much that she hoped she could “fit it in her career” if possible. Fruge wants to be a fashion designer. “I asked about flight attendants and how much the make,” she said. “They earn about $40,000 and get to fly to great places.”

The enrichment study for all scholars at Ivy Prep Gwinnett will continue with lessons on leadership and civic engagement next. The program is supported by curriculum from Stanford Universityʼs Youth Engaged in Leadership and Learning (YELL), which trains students to become community leaders.

“This enrichment program is a personal passion of mine,” Treadwell said. “It allows us to create a shared vision of what leadership looks like and to also focus on values.”

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