By Louise Scott
One month before a crucial deadline threatened to close its doors, the Thea Bowman Leadership Academy has received a three-year charter authorization from Education One, the Charter School Office of Trine University in Angola, IN. The Education One Board voted 3-0 in favor of chartering Thea Bowman, keeping the doors open to over 1,270 students beyond the June 30 deadline.
Under new charter laws, schools that change authorizers are required to get final approval from the Indiana School Board of Education. That vote will take place on June 1 in New Albany, IN.
Parents are relieved that the school will continue operating. Pam Stalling, president of the Parent, Student, Teacher Association (PTSA), stated the new charter gave parents an opportunity to sit at the table.
“Many of us witnessed the entire process,” said Stalling. “We now have a better understanding of what we need to do as parents to keep moving the school in a positive direction.”
Stalling, who has one Bowman graduate and two other high school students enrolled, said parents are looking for a positive and safe educational environment for their children that also offers a solid academic program.
“Trine helping us get a charter renews our energy to move forward and work even harder,” said Stalling.
Thea Bowman Leadership Academy was one of two schools in Gary to receive a Bronze Medal from U.S. News & World Report last month. The selection places Bowman in a group of elite high schools.
U.S. News evaluated more than 28,000 schools to determine the top national public high schools. Five hundred high schools received gold medals; 2,173 schools earned silver; and 3,545 took home bronze in the national rankings. Bowman was selected for its overall school performance, graduation rate and the advanced placement course curriculum. For the past four years, it has maintained a graduation rate of over 90 percent.
State Representative Robert Behning (R-Indianapolis) and State Senator Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn)—chairs of the House and Senate Education Committees—have strongly supported Bowman in receiving a new charter. Kruse also is on the Trine Board of Trustees.
Phalen Leadership Academies, named in honor of the founder’s parents George and Veronica Phalen, will serve as the main Educational Management Operator for TBLA. The company currently has two charter schools in Indianapolis and is contracted to operate two more schools through the Indianapolis Public Schools. Earl Phalen, the company’s president represented TBLA before the Indiana Charter Board last month and again before the Trine Board this week. Phalen Academies will take over managing the school right away.
“We will come aboard immediately. We need to communicate with teachers, staff and parents. We need to begin talking with everyone so they are not in limbo,” stated Phalen. “Even through its struggles, Bowman has been a strong school and a great educational option for children in Gary and surrounding communities.”
In addition to chartering Bowman, Trine has also offered additional support in the areas of school improvement, staff development and student direct admissions. The private non-profit post-secondary school offered degree programs in engineering, arts and science, business and education.
Middle and high school Principal, Sarita Stevens, believes that hard work paid off in the end.
“We teach our students the value of planning, staying positive and never quitting. The overall experience of getting a charter renewal for our school gave students and everyone in the community a perfect example of staying the course.”
She went on to say, “We are encouraged by the support from our community and all over the state. The three years gives us the stability we need to offer our students the premium educational services they deserve.”
In January, Ball State’s Office of Charter Schools issued a non-renewal letter to Thea Bowman based on “governance” issues. The former Drexel board addressed and corrected all of the compliance concerns, including voting in an entirely new school board. The new board includes: NIPSCO Executive Michael Suggs; local businessman Attorney Tony Walker; Richard Leverette, AT&T Management; journalist and talk show host, Eve Gomez; and retired high school principal, Cliff Gooden.
Thea Bowman Leadership Academy has open enrollment at both their elementary and secondary school campuses. The school has the capacity to enroll 1,450 students. The school’s website is www.theabowmanacademy.org. Parents and community stakeholders can get more information by calling: 219-944-3100 or 219-883-4826.