Las Vegas Sun

December 22, 2014

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LOOKING IN ON: EDUCATION:

100 Academy supporter says parents’ view of school matters

Enrollment steady despite principal’s firing, money woes

There are good things happening at 100 Academy of Excellence in North Las Vegas, the charter school’s supporters say, and the sudden departure of its principal doesn’t diminish that.

The school’s students take part in countywide oratorical competitions, have after-school clubs in robotics and chess, and enjoy educational field trips. In addition to 100 Black Men of Las Vegas, the school’s leading community partner, other businesses and organizations have provided support.

Student enrollment has remained steady at about 600, despite a challenging first two years of operation.

“Over 1,000 parents have decided it’s a pretty good school,” said Dennis Bakke, president and chief executive of Imagine Schools Inc., the Virginia-based company hired to run the campus. “If parents don’t like it, they will leave. If their children aren’t getting a good education, they will leave. It’s the parents who decide if it’s a good school — not us, and not the state.”

Principal Hugh Wallace was fired this month. Vickie Frazier-Williams, regional vice president of Imagine Schools Nevada, has taken over until a replacement can be found.

In interviews with the Sun, parents of 100 Academy students said they were impressed with Imagine’s curriculum, which they described as significantly more challenging than the Clark County School District’s standard fare.

Most complaints centered on the school’s management, poor communication with families and high rate of teacher turnover.

The school needs to make significant gains on standardized tests this year to avoid being classified as “needs improvement” under the federal No Child Left Behind law. Low scores for the 2007-08 academic year landed the school on the state’s “watch” list.

Before his firing, Wallace told the Nevada Education Department the school would have trouble paying about $93,000 it owes the state.

If true, it would not be the first time the school has struggled to balance its books. Last year, the School Board considered revoking the academy’s charter because it owed $185,000 to Imagine Schools for various services. The company eventually forgave the debt.

Bakke said he had no personal knowledge of 100 Academy being in debt to the Nevada Education Department. But, he added, “We pay our bills.”

•••

They want to go to school. They want to learn, graduate and have successful lives.

But first they need to find a safe place to sleep, food to eat and clothes to wear.

As of last month, the Clark County School District was serving more than 3,000 students meeting the federal definition of homeless — lacking a fixed, permanent nighttime residence.

Thousands more older students are believed to be fending for themselves, bouncing from a friend’s couch to an acquaintance’s garage or one of the county’s youth shelters.

Often, adolescents leave home to escape abuse, experts say. And many times parents are unable, or unwilling, to provide basic care.

That’s a problem that has becoming increasingly common given the rough state of the economy, said Judy Alewel, event chairwoman of Hope for the Holidays, a fundraiser Saturday to benefit homeless teenagers, many of whom are local high school students.

“People so often just write off these children as runaways, and that’s just not the case,” Alewel said.

The event, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Henderson Pavilion on Green Valley Parkway at Paseo Verde, will feature live entertainment, a silent auction, food booths and door prizes. Admission is $10, or $5 for children ages 2-12.

Last year’s event raised more than $40,000 for organizations that help homeless youth, including the School District. Clothing closets were set up at four high schools, and the campuses were given $1,000 each to cover student fees for activities such as band and athletics.

For information, or to donate items for the silent auction, call Alewel at 263-6388.

•••

Looming budget cuts will be discussed at two town hall meetings this week.

The district says it needs to cut $120 million from the budget for the next biennium, which begins in July.

The public is invited to find out more Tuesday at Western High School, 4601 W. Bonanza Road, and Wednesday at Chaparral High School, 3850 Annie Oakley Drive. Both meetings start at 6 p.m.

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