The first all-girls public charter school in Chattanooga is scheduled to open next year in a community surrounded by public housing and low-income residents.
“I can’t think of a better community to open the school up in,” said Maxine Bailey, executive director of the Young Women’s Leadership Foundation, which is sponsoring the charter school. “We’re not just offering another opportunity for parents to choose what school their child attends, but we’re making an investment in this community.”
Chattanooga Housing Authority board members approved a lease-purchase agreement this month for the school to move into the James A. Henry Family Resource Center on Grove Street. The school will be located in the Westside community, which has three public housing sites and five subsidized housing complexes.
Named the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, the school is scheduled to open July 2009 with 75 students — 50 sixth-graders and 25 ninth-graders, she said. At full capacity, the school will contain about 350 students.
It’s available to any girl in grades six and nine who are testing below proficiency in math and/or language arts or girls who are zoned for schools that have failed to make adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
By law, the school can accept only girls who meet the criteria for attending. If the school has more applications than space, it will use a lottery system to select students, officials said.
Betty Ruth Robinson, resident commissioner on the housing authority board, said she approved the agreement because the school could be beneficial to nearby residents.
“The young girls need to go to that school,” she said. “I hope it helps them move up, better their education and go on to get more.”
Ms. Bailey said she hopes the school becomes an anchor in the community, offering educational resources not only to children but also their parents, she said.
“We will emerge as an educational center,” she said. “And as the community gets comfortable with us, I hope they will engage about educational opportunities for the family, as well.”
The foundation will pay the housing authority $56,310 a year for three years with an option of a 30-month extension, said Bill Lord, the Chattanooga Housing Authority’s chief information officer. The agreement also gives the school an option to purchase the building, pending approval from the foundation’s board and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, he said.
The academy will be a year-round school with a curriculum that emphasizes science, technology, engineering and math. It will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. with tutorial opportunities available in the mornings and evenings, said Sue Anne Wells, foundation board member.
Ms. Bailey said organizers “knew that there were a number of girls falling between the cracks. So we saw this as an opportunity to partner with the Hamilton County Department of Education and make sure more of our children are making progress.”
Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...