Director Update: April 2018

April 25th, 2018
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Dear parents and families of New Century Academy:

Spring and warm weather is finally here! I’d like to take this opportunity to celebrate the success of our school year. I will speak to you about some of our successes and some of our challenges. I will also take time to share our future plans and possibilities.

New Century Academy started this journey 16 years ago with the hopes of providing an educational environment that made students the center of their own learning. The vision for the school included students working together with their peers, teachers, family members and community to solve problems and discover confidence and ownership in their learning. This included the development of a Project Based Curriculum combined with the traditional methods of education.

Throughout New Century Academy’s existence this approach has evolved and changed with the leadership, teaching and learning styles of our students. This student involvement and choice in the learning model has always been a staple of our program. This choice extends to the enrollment of all our students as we are a public school of choice. This means that all students are open enrolling, by choice, from their home districts. We celebrate the choice families make each year to entrust our staff and programming with the education of their children.

I would like to take a few moments to reflect on the successes we’ve had this year and the plans for the future. It has been a busy year to say the least. At the close of last year we were presented with an opportunity from the ownership of our then building on 5th avenue, which we’ve occupied since 2008. That opportunity involved a well-known facility on School Road. Did you read that? ON SCHOOL ROAD! It had long been a frustration of mine that we always, from our inception, seemed to be tucked behind the industrial areas of town. From our first building on the Hutchinson Technology campus to our most recent building just down the road from 3M and the Household Hazardous Waste facility. Although these were good neighbors, it always felt like we were somewhere we didn’t belong. It felt isolated and although the building itself was sufficient, the opportunity to grow and expand was limited. I believe students never quite felt like they owned the space. This obscurity was made clear to me over the course of the last couple of years as Director. As I worked through the community more and more about the opportunity New Century Academy could make available to students, I observed three misconceptions by citizens who have lived in the community for decades. First, that we were a private school and charged tuition. Secondly, that we were a school but people were not sure of where we were located as they had spent very little time driving down 5th avenue. And third, that some citizens had no idea we even existed.

I’m not sure what more motivation we needed than what I’ve just explained. The opportunity to have a Public Charter School of choice located on School Road, right in the middle of the education sector of the community – was a no-brainer. The school board and staff took immediate action to explore our options and decide a course of action. Through the months of April, May and June we worked tirelessly to explore our options. Finally, we made the decision to move and realize the potential. This new location allows us 10,000 more square feet, a full regulation gymnasium, additional science lab space, property and much more.

I would like to thank staff, students and families for their patience this year as we worked through the series of construction phases. We recently finished the interior phase of construction and have only one item remaining pertaining to the exterior of the building. Although this process has had its challenges, the overall scope of the project has been a success and students and staff have enjoyed their new home.

There have been several new opportunities this year at New Century Academy. Our new home has allowed us additional space to expand our activities. We were very proud to host our first ever home basketball competition! We look forward to future basketball games as well as volleyball in the fall. This new gym space allowed us to add a rock climbing wall and stage with a connected shower room. This will allow for increased activity opportunities for students within their physical education classes and future performing arts. With the help of our Activities Director Josh Krych, we have continued our archery program and added a trap shooting team. Students are very excited about these opportunities and we all look forward to watching them compete. Next school year we will be competing in 6 man football and are very excited to offer this activity.

Another highlight is the cafeteria space and kitchen which provides unique sitting areas and, with the help of our amazing food service director, unique opportunities to learn food service job skills and provide a service back to the school. I believe those of us who have eaten the food would all agree that it is amazing! In addition, students are realizing new job skill learning through our coffee shop, office and maintenance work study program. During second semester, students and staff have been working in our new science lab and I’ve heard many compliments on the design and equipment available for learning. I can honestly say that students and staff have embraced our new building and feel a larger sense of ownership in our new home.

The school has also realized new programming and the addition of several new staff members. We hired a new math teacher, Mrs. Stansbury, and a new instructional coach for students, Ms. Mumford. These efforts centered around our declining performance in the area of math. Both of these individuals have been great additions and have worked hard with students to help them improve. It will take some time to reach our goals and I feel very confident that the teaching and learning in this department will make that happen. In the area of reading, Mrs. Haugen continues to be influential in our continuous improvement and her efforts along with the students resulted in an increase in our academic performance. Mrs. Haugen, along with teachers and support staff across the curriculum, will continue to find ways to collaborate and combine our efforts in reading to help students realize their full potential.

Another first for New Century Academy was the addition of a music teacher who specializes in band and orchestra. Mr. Carvell has done an amazing job in cultivating interest and starting our first band! I have been very pleased to see the interest and talent of our students in this area. Again, this will take time to develop this program and I’m confident this will be an area of interest for our students as we move forward.

All of our teachers and support staff work hard each day to create a welcoming environment that supports students mental health, confidence, sense of belonging and progress toward the purpose of secondary education which is a well-rounded person, able to graduate and move into the community as a contributing member.

I would like to share my gratitude for taking the time to read this update and for all that you do to support us during the year. This is the time to celebrate a year that is coming to a close, and expectations of a new year rapidly approaching. Our staff eagerly anticipates the challenges, growth, successes, lessons learned, and triumphs that will occur in the next school year. We look forward to serving families and students for many years to come. Thank you.

Jason Becker, Director

Kathy Prellwitz, School Board Chair

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