Alpha Charter School supports local students

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Alpha Charter School in downtown Garland has 118 students and is growing every day. The charter of the school is as an alternative education facility and they serve at-risk students who go there for a variety of reasons. Some are there as a condition of probation, some have learning disabilities, some simply do better in a smaller classroom setting. Whatever the reason, the school’s focus is to support students who are unable to function in a regular school setting. Alpha Charter is family-oriented and parents often choose it for their children because they get more one-on-one instruction.

According to Superintendent Anthony Jefferson, a charter school is a public school but does not have as many guidelines to follow. They are required, however, to meet the requirements for state testing. Teachers do not have to be certified, but the majority of Alpha Charter’s educators are.

The teachers enjoy the smaller classroom size and feel that it helps the students. “You’re able to give the students more attention than when you have 30 kids in your classroom,” said Angelica Thomas, social studies teacher.” “These kids need someplace where they can get an education and the smaller classroom helps them. We give them more attention and more opportunity.”

Teacher Mike Keveney agrees. “I’ve had students come who have dropped out for various reasons…they were just kind of cast aside,” he said. “Here we can work with the kids, get them caught up and they finish school.”

This is Jefferson’s first year at the school and one of the first things he did was give the teachers a raise to bring them to a comparable level to Garland Independent School District. “Teachers are professionals and they should be treated as such and paid as such,” he said. Jefferson believes that if you treat teachers well, they will always do what is best for the students.

The school’s rating with the state had dropped, and one of the first things Jefferson needed to do was correct that. An acceptable rating has now been met. He also brought back cafeteria services which had been discontinued, and the kids enjoy being able to eat on campus. The building is being renovated and Inwood Bank donated furniture for the lobby.

In the past, the school participated in sports, but the program had been dropped. Jefferson is now working with the UIL to bring the it back. “Being involved in extra-curricular activities is important because it makes the students feel a part of something,” he said. “We want to make sure all our kids are involved in some sort of activity.”

The school runs on a traditional schedule with all the same subjects, including electives, offered at GISD high schools. They will soon establish dual credit courses. The main difference is that the average class size is 10-12 so students get more help and attention.

Alpha Charter has another facility in downtown Garland that houses grades six and seven. The goal for next year is to have students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, which is how it was in years past.
There are some areas, such as dress code, where the school is not as strict as GISD. “We’re not as strict on dress,” Jefferson said. “Our goal is to get them here and get them educated. We are serious about making sure that students are academically and socially successful.”

Jefferson has 23 years’ experience in education that began in the classroom at Dallas Independent School District. His experience also includes coaching, serving as assistant principal and principal, and serving as dean at a private school.

“Education is a calling. You have to really love what you do, to do this job,” Jefferson said.
Several students expressed what they like about attending Alpha Charter School:

“I like the teachers and other students,” Zoe said. “The teachers care about what they’re doing and they have fun.”

“I like that they work at my pace,” said Brodney. “They don’t go too fast or too slow and there are less distractions in the small classes.”

“The small classrooms make it easier to do the work,” Brianna said. “And I like the teachers and students.”

“I’ve been able to get caught up on my work because of the computer work here,” Terranicka said.

The school originally opened as International Christian Center in 1972. Dr. Charles York started working there in 1974 and according to Charles York, Jr., the elder York wanted to offer a private school setting that parents did not have to pay for. It became Alpha Christian Academy in 1984 and was changed to a charter school in 2001.

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