“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” – Maya Angelou

Imagine better. Imagine more. Imagine the future.

Athens City Schools invites the community to imagine the possibilities of a new landscape in elementary education in the city. It takes courage to let go of the familiar and embrace the new. It’s been written that change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end. However, progress is impossible without change, and the mission of ACS is to be  progressive.

Superintendent Trey Holladay announced in March a plan for elementary academies. Existing elementary schools in the district will transition and become themed academies serving grades K-3 beginning fall 2018.

The academy concept will look similar to today’s elementary school with the fundamental difference being the academy teaches through a specific “lens” or focus.

“Each elementary will continue teaching to the same standards. The difference is that these standards will be taught through academy specific themes,” said Holladay.

To continue the long-standing tradition of excellence, ACS must adapt to change that pushes one outside the box, outside comfort zones and into a space where intuition, creativity and the power of “and” can be experienced. This fundamental shift in thinking has the power to positively influence the way students experience school – and the world – for years to come.

Many people are asking the relevant question – why? ACS has always been a premiere school system. So why? Let us share some insight regarding the rationale behind this decision:

  1. Because public education is trending toward school choice at an ever-increasing rate. Given the changing landscape of education, it is important to the continued success of ACS that it demonstrate public schools can be the choice. Parents are looking for choices. ACS has a unique opportunity to provide the choices. To provide these choices, it requires ACS to think about public education in a different way. Academies are a way to bring choice to ACS and be the owners, makers and creators of the choices and the future.
  2. Because SPARK is an indicator for choice. SPARK Academy is the first of the new academies concept in Athens. It was the first step out of the box. The overwhelming interest in SPARK Academy by virtue of increased applications and enrollment along with the response from parents was a major indicator that parents in this community want choice. It sent a clear signal to ACS leadership that school choice was important to them.
  3. Because ACS leadership believes a rising tide lifts all boats. Dr. Holladay and his team believe that every student in ACS deserves a special, amazing and high-quality education. “I am committed, convicted and motivated to do whatever it takes to deliver the very best educational opportunities for each and every student in this district,” said Holladay. From north to south, east to west, he cares. He will continue to press forward, onward, upward and outside the box to deliver the brightest futures possible for all students.
  4. Because the academies will provide greater opportunity for parent involvement in the shaping of each academy at the neighborhood school level. Advisory Councils will be formed for each school and will have great influence on the particulars of how the academies are shaped, what options are offered and more. It opens up possibilities for partnership, collaboration, parent investment and engagement in a meaningful way.

The academy theme selections will be determined through  a collaborative and transparent process that will include teachers, parents, and community members.  A  public meeting will be held next week to provide parents the opportunity to learn about the academy concept, provide input and ask questions.

Athens Academies Parent Information Night is at Athens Intermediate School on Tuesday, April 18 at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be in the Cafetorium.

Imagine linking teachers and students with their true passions and interests. Imagine discovery, ingenuity and partnerships.

Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly. Author Trina Paulus wrote, “How does one become a butterfly? You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being  a caterpillar.”

ACS invites you to imagine the “and”, the gain, the better. Imagine the flight.

Expect butterflies.

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