The Success Academy Prepares To Open Its Doors In September
Dr. Mike McElrath, incoming JPS Success Academy Principal, recently welcomed the first round of teacher hires for a tour of the building located at the former Rogers Elementary School building. The district provided Jamestown teachers the opportunity to move to the Success Academy and become a part of the new initiative to help children. The first round of teacher hires included: Bobbi Jo Carlson (Special Education), Sebastian DiNapoli (Science), Tari Geisler (Grade 5), Debbie Oakes (English as a New Language), Cathy Sadowski (Math), Mike Tuccio (Social Studies) and Jason Williams (English Language Arts).
“It was an easy decision to apply,” said Williams. “A colleague and I had talked for years about how our district needed a program just like this and how it would be a dream job to help build a program that focuses on the needs of the whole child and how I’ve always had a knack of helping students who need a little extra TLC and who might need to learn in their own way instead of in a traditional setting. Then, when I heard Dr. Apthorpe announce a program that sounded just like the ‘dream facility’ we had talked about, I knew I had to be a part of this adventure. It is so important to have somewhere like the Success Academy, as students need to get the skills they require in a place that turns the pressure down for them. My role at the Success Academy is going to be the role I’ve always played for my students. I’ll be an ear that listens. I’m going to teach my classes in unconventional ways to engage students and I’m going to do my best to make people smile and forget their troubles, even for a little while.”
Beginning in September, the JPS Success Academy will be a safe haven for Jamestown children grades 5 to 12 that may need a helping hand, with community agencies in-house to support them. In the 2020-21 school year, the Success Academy will also provide Career and Technical Education (CTE) curriculum for Jamestown High School students. There are many different CTE pathways that students can take and the district is currently working with the New York State Department of Education to approve curriculum.
District administrators are also finalizing plans with local agencies that will be housed in the Success Academy beginning in September to directly support children. The partnerships between the Success Academy staff and the local agencies will be an important part of the Academy’s experience.
“The Success Academy is a natural fit for me,” said Carlson. “In my current role as a special educator, I make it a priority to attend to my students’ needs before launching into the day’s lesson plan. Research tells us that students cannot learn if their basic needs are not being met. If a student is in trauma, they can’t possibly attend to a lesson. I take the time to listen to my students when they need to talk or simply take a walk with them when they need a cool down. Often times the lesson can resume shortly if I invest the time in validating a student’s feelings rather than insisting on plugging through a lesson. My students know I care. The tenants of the Success Academy align perfectly with my personal teaching philosophy. The Success Academy seeks to fill that need for our students.”
With over 1,700 JPS students who are chronically absent due to a multitude of reasons, the Success Academy staff and local agencies will work together to give some of these students the helping hand they need, both in the classroom and in life, with the goal to get kids in school, learning and thriving.
“From the first moment I heard Dr. Apthorpe’s vision of the Success Academy, I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” said DiNapoli. “Throughout my 15 years of teaching I have always been drawn to the students that have challenges. These students, who may have experienced some type of trauma in their life, need to be approached with extra patience, care and love. My classroom has always been seen as a safe place for such students. I could be the best, most engaging teacher in the world but if my students have unresolved trauma, they can’t learn. One of the roles of the Success Academy will be to help heal these students so their brains are ready to learn.”