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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Charter Schools Providing Options

Editor’s Note: This the first in a two part series on charter schools in the South Mountain/Laveen Areas. Part two will run in the March 2012 issue.

Over the past decade and a half, numerous charter schools have cropped up all over the South Mountain area. Four such schools include EAGLE College Prep Harmony Elementary School EAGLE College Prep Elementary School and its recently opened EAGLE College Prep Harmony Elementary School, and Sabis International. These schools may vary widely in their educational philosophies and methodologies, but they are united in their quest to provide the parents and children of South Phoenix with quality choices.

Arizona Agribusiness Equine Center High Schools
In its 14th year, AAEC, a public-funded charter high school, now has five campuses across the Valley; each school partners with a local community college with the Maricopa Community College system in order to give their students a jump-start at earning a college degree.

“Thirty percent of our high school graduates graduate with their associate’s degrees before they graduate with their high school degrees,” said EAGLE College Prep Harmony Elementary School assistant superintendent for Administrative Services at AAEC.

According to Conley, 75-80% of these students earn their bachelor’s degrees within two years of their high school graduation. Better yet, AAEC saves the average family approximately $38,000 in college tuition fees because the first two years of college credit hours are paid for by the high school.

Seventy-five percent of AAEC students come from area elementary schools and according to Conley, by the time they take their AIMS tests the second semester of their sophomore years, 89-95% of their students pass reading and writing the first time.

Conley attributes this to the school’s principal, Linda LaFontain, and her experienced and highly-educated teachers – 85% of whom have their master’s or doctorate degrees and more than five years of teaching experience.

As an agricultural charter school, AAEC does have a working farm with six horses, equine training, vet services and quite a bit of hands-on work for its students. However, graduates have gone into journalism, medicine, forensics, biosciences, biotechnology as well as veterinary medicine.

This past spring, AAEC’s graduating seniors earned $125,000 in scholarships. For more information about AAEC’s South Mountain campus, located at 20th Street & Baseline, visit online at HYPERLINK “http://aaechighschools.com/” http://aaechighschools.com/ or call 602-323-9890.
EAGLE College Prep Harmony Elementary School

Sabis International
Across the country, and even the globe, Sabis International is a private school, but in the South Mountain District of Phoenix, it’s a charter school, and tuition is free to all students. While tuition is free, the ride is not; students are expected to wear uniforms, follow the rules and meet rigorous academic expectations.

“Sabis is a college prep school,” said Kathleen Ferris, Community Outreach and Student Recruitment Coordinator for Sabis, “we give children who normally wouldn’t go to college a foundation from kindergarten through 8th grade.”

“Most of our kids,” Ferris said, “test a grade-level above.”

Students who graduate from Sabis attend local high schools, and many end up in honors and college-level courses.

According to Ferris, tutoring and testing are essential to the school’s success; by measuring the progress of each student and class and understanding their strengths and weaknesses, Sabis teachers can provide additional support immediately to those in need.
In addition to academic success, Sabis also provides students an opportunity to play sports with winning teams, including a track team that placed 2nd at state and basketball team that won the championship.

For more information about Sabis International, located at 19th Street and Roeser, visit online at HYPERLINK “http://www.sis-sabis.net” www.sis-sabis.net or call 602-305-8865.

EAGLE College Prep & EAGLE College Prep Harmony Elementary Schools
Almost five years ago, EAGLE College Prep Elementary School broke ground at 24th and South Mountain Avenues. Today, it’s highly-performing A-rated school, and in November 2011 was named by the Arizona Charter Schools Association as one of three finalists for the Best School of the Year award. EAGLE College Prep was also named best school of the year for diversity by PHOENIX Magazine in 2010.

“This success is a testimony to our team and the ability to accomplish our mission,” said Dr. Paul Kremer, Arizona Regional Executive Director for both EAGLE College Prep and EAGLE College Prep Harmony Elementary Schools.

As a college prep K-6 school (grades 7th and 8th will be added in 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 respectively), students are exposed early to the idea of attending college. To support this philosophy, EAGLE College Prep creates fun, but purposeful ways for students to embrace the promise of college: on Fridays students can wear college or university gear; classroom’s sponsor a favorite college and team by decorating with school colors, celebrating team successes and connecting with alumni groups; and students take field trips to Arizona-based colleges and universities, such as Arizona State University, University of Arizona and Grand Canyon University.
The school’s mission focuses on what it considers two essential areas: 1) academic greatness and 2) character development, and illustrates the high expectations EAGLE has of its students.

“One thing that makes us unique,” said Kremer is that we are strict out of care, concern and love for our students.”

While EAGLE College Prep has high expectations of its students both academically and personally, the school also provides ample support and opportunities for its students to hone their skills, with programs such as NEST, Nurturing Eagle Scholars Time. According to Kremer, each adult on campus has approximately 12 students they nurture year after year in NEST; helping these students to individually develop good character traits by rewarding positive behavior, helping them make good choices, and providing additional support outside of the classroom.
EAGLE College Prep has proven such a success that they have chosen to open a sister school – EAGLE College Prep Harmony Elementary School.

“Harmony is, in part, the response to a high demand for a school like ours in the community,” said Kremer.

Harmony mirrors the EAGLE College Prep model with a slight modification; it also focuses on the performing arts and offers its students piano, choral and a variety of movement (e.g. dance) classes. Harmony, like its sister school, is already at capacity and will be moving to a new campus shortly. Right now, the school serves K-2nd grades; each year it will add another grade level.

For more information on EAGLE College Prep Elementary School visit online at HYPERLINK “http://www.eagleprep.org” www.eagleprep.org or call 602.323.5400; to learn more about EAGLE College Prep Harmony Elementary School visit HYPERLINK “http://www.eagleharmony.org” www.eagleharmony.org or call 602-885-7333.

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