Dream becomes reality: Clayton-Bradley Academy opens with 75 tuition students
By Matthew Stewart | (email@example.com)
A 2½-year-old dream became reality this week.
Clayton-Bradley Academy, a joint effort between the nonprofit organization Innovative Education Partnership Inc. and Clayton Homes, opened its doors Friday. The private school has 75 tuition students, in addition to 10 children who are currently being processed.
“We’ve dreamed together for almost 2½ years,” said Executive Director Pat Bradley. “We’ve had some high points. We’ve had some low points. Today is definitely a high point.”
In 2011, Blount County Schools and IEP were engaged in discussions for nearly six months about a proposed charter school. The Blount County Board of Education twice denied its charter school application, and the State Board of Education later upheld the denial.
In August 2012, IEP announced its intention to explore the feasibility of establishing a private STEM school. The nonprofit, in partnership with Clayton Homes, broke ground in February.
Clayton Homes, C2RL, Hickory Construction and Johnson Architecture Inc. worked together on the five-month construction project. Blount Excavating Inc., Interstate Mechanical Contractors Inc., and Massey Electric Company worked on the project, as well.
Clayton Homes built six 28-by-76 classroom units. Each classroom unit contains two classrooms, shared boy’s and girl’s bathroom, teacher workroom and storage area. Two units serve as an art room, library, music room and science lab.
The eco-friendly, state-of-the-art buildings are connected to an 8,590-square-foot multipurpose facility, which was constructed by Hickory Construction. The facility is serving as the school’s entryway and houses offices, health clinic, workrooms, storage and a large gym with a stage.
“We’ve got a special place,” said Clayton Homes President and CEO Kevin Clayton. “We’re at a special moment in time.”
The businessman advised founding students that they are a part of something special. “You’re going to get a top-notch, world-class education. We’ve created something great. We’ve been blessed by God to have this (school) take off so quickly. We have a responsibility to make it great. Let’s make it great!”
Excited about school
Parents and students are ready to do their part.
“The whole concept is exciting,” said Christy Lauderback, the mother of four Clayton-Bradley Academy students. “It’s hard to believe that a school like this one can be dreamed up and put into practice.”
Lauderback’s children are equally excited about it. “They had a hard time going to bed last night, but they didn’t have any trouble getting up. They got up, got ready and got into their uniforms without a hitch. They feel comfortable here. Teachers have made home visits, and they’ve toured the school several times. They were at peace, which is good for Mom.”
“It’s a dream come true,” said Kathy Kidd, the University of Tennessee Early Learning Center’s program director. “When we train teachers, we hope that they can teach this way: project-based learning, real-life experiences and an emphasis on critical thinking. We don’t want them held down by end-of-year assessments.”
She is impressed by the school’s atmosphere, as well. “They’ve got a true sense of community. It’s incredibly important, because learning occurs in relationships. You have to create relationships.”
“I really liked today,” said fourth-grader Emerson Kidd-Benthall. “I met a lot of people that I knew, and I met a lot of new people, as well.”
“It was a lot of fun,” said fourth-grader Madison Turner. “We played a lot of new games.”
The pair are excited this year about making new friends and working on several projects, such as Native American villages and stop-motion videos. They’ve never worked on similar school projects.
“I’m just excited to try something new,” Turner said.
‘Fabulous first day’
Faculty and staff were pleased with the first day of school, Bradley said in an interview following Friday’s after-school celebration.
“We had a fabulous first day,” Bradley said. “If you asked me to rate it on a scale of 1-10, it’d give it a 10+. You’d expect some tears on the first day of school, but we didn’t have any tears. We had excitement, laughing and students actually running to their classrooms. I wouldn’t change anything.”
The school’s first day was composed of many special scenes, she said. “Parents were lining up their children by the (Clayton-Bradley Academy) and taking photos for the first day of school. They caused a slight traffic jam, but I didn’t hear anyone complain. Everyone was so excited to finally be here. It was a day full of activities and wonderful memories.”
Bradley is looking forward this year to implementing project-based learning and technology as tool programs. She’s also excited about critical thinking and problem-solving opportunities, such as first- and second-graders working in the Poultry Club, third- and fourth-graders working in the farm garden, and fifth- and sixth-graders developing the school’s playground.
Educators have high expectations for their students, Bradley said in the ceremony. “We want you to dream. Hard work and persistence do make dreams come true.”