Leflore Legacy Academy

Leflore Legacy Academy, a charter school located at 500 W. Washington St., is tentatively set to open Aug. 3. It will enroll up to 120 sixth graders.

Leflore Legacy Academy has been steadily making progress as it prepares to open for the 2020-2021 school year.

The charter school’s first day is tentatively set for Aug. 3. It is enrolling up to 120 students who will be in sixth grade by the 2020-2021 school year, said Dr. Tamala Boyd Shaw, the head of the school.

“This is almost surreal, and I’m really, really excited to serve families in the Greenwood-Leflore area,” Shaw said.

Classes, which will average 17 students, will be held in a building at 500 W. Washington St. The school will lease the building from its owner, First Baptist Church.

“We certainly want a location that’s easily accessible for the majority of the students and families that we will serve,” Shaw said.

The school will provide transportation, but parents also may drop their children off, Shaw said.

Before the first day of classes, Shaw said, students will go through a “Legacy Leadership  Summit” from July 27-31 to learn leadership skills, get acclimated to the expectations of the school and get exposed to initial college preparatory activities.

The school will have a rigorous college preparatory curriculum, with an academic model that will include small-group instruction, social-emotional learning, peer meditation and learning mindfulness-based skills, according to an August recommendation report by the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board. The state agency approved the charter school’s application last September.

Student enrollment has been open since late last month. Those eligible must reside within the boundaries of a school district that had a state accountability rating of a “C” or lower at the time the Leflore Legacy Academy was approved by the authorizer board. Those eligible for enrollment include students living in the Greenwood Leflore Consolidated School District as well as adjacent school districts.

The deadline for priority enrollment is Jan. 30. If more than 120 students are enrolled by that date, then a lottery will be held, Shaw said.

Charter schools are like public schools in that they also receive tax money, but they differ in that they’re run by private nonprofit organizations outside the purview of the local school district as well as the state’s  Board of Education.

Leflore Legacy Academy is run by the nonprofit Mississippi Delta Academies. Shaw serves as the organization’s founder and executive director.

Shaw said she occasionally receives calls from parents who think charter schools charge tuition. However, like public schools, charter schools are free to attend and can’t discriminate based on factors such as race, religion or gender.

“This is free and public for all,” Shaw said.

Because student enrollment is continuous, Shaw said she wouldn’t look at the enrollment count until Jan. 30.

The school will later expand to serve students in grades 6 to 8. Shaw said that once the first  sixth graders graduate, she’d like to open a charter high school through Mississippi Delta Academies.

The school is also recruiting employees for a staff of about 20. Those roles, according to the recommendation report, include core subject teachers, a special education teacher, a college and career counselor, and a director of curriculum and instruction, among other positions. Shaw said she hopes to hire the  first staff member in mid-February.

The school has two boards — a governing board and an advisory board.

The advisory board, which has three members, is composed of people from the community. Shaw said it will provide recommendations and tips on how the school is run to the governing board. The four-member governing board will actually make decisions on how the school is operated.

Shaw previously brought her proposal to the authorizer board in 2018, and her application made the final cut but was rejected.

She said she remains supportive of the public school district but said the charter school will provide an alternative.

“We just want the public to know this is an opportunity for parents to seek the option of having equitable education regardless of their socioeconomic status,” Shaw said.  

Steve Fortenberry, a member of the school’s founding and governing boards, shared a similar sentiment.

“I will continue to support and wish the best of the current public school system, but I also think new institutions have the ability to start fresh, with a clean slate, and often that newness allows for more creativity and energy and focus,” he said.

Fortenberry and the five other members of the founding board  helped with the school’s application and interview process. He said he decided to get involved with Leflore Legacy Academy after he heard Shaw make “a passionate pitch about the need for a new public school option for the community.”

Informational sessions about the school are held each Tuesday from 3-5:30 p.m. at the Greenwood-Leflore Public Library.

Additionally, questions can be emailed to info@leflorelegacyacademy.org. To learn more or enroll  a student, visit leflorelegacyacademy.org/.

Contact Gerard Edic at 581-7239 or gedic@gwcommonwealth.com.

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