Keeping Calm and Carrying On, I decided I should change gears and reach out to schools that have been recommended by my many mentors. These schools are local (Augusta, GA) and successful. The key is to learn from them.
I called Heritage Academy and spoke with their executive director Linda Tucciarone, I requested a meeting, to go over basic logistics, and a tour of the school. She suggested I visit in January as December is a very busy month for them.
“Heritage Academy is an independent school offering a quality Christ-centered education to children of diverse economic, racial and ethnic backgrounds, empowering them to become a positive influence for Christ in this community and around the world.”
Almost everyone I have talked to in the local education and business fields have suggested I visit Heritage Academy.
Founders began planning their school in 1999 and, housed in a small church, opened their doors in 2001 with 10 kindergarten students. In 17 years they have grown to have their own remodeled 2 story building with 240 students. 86% of their proceeds come from fundraising and local donors, this way they are able to offer slide pay scale tuition that underprivileged families can afford.
Ms. Tucciarone offered to have a conversation now, on the phone, if I would like, and I excitedly accepted her offer.
She asked me what kind of school I was thinking about opening, and I explained my philosophy. She asked about the population I was planning on serving and I explained that diversity was key, but the children from low socioeconomic backgrounds were the ones with which I really wanted to work. She asked me several questions about my understanding of the area’s circumstances and was very honest with her opinions about my vision, her main concern being the student’s need for structure and guidance rather than letting them figure it out for themselves.
Through our conversation I realized I need to refine my presentation and communication skills to better convey the philosophies and purposes of my vision.
I cannot express enough how meaningful this phone conversation was to me. I learned about the state of the private school sector, that schools are closing and it is not necessarily the right time to open a school. We discussed the needs of marginalized students and that the perception of the school is very important. She stressed local donors and support are a must, and are easier if you can build sponsors through relationships in the community. She recommended I get involved with private schools and “earn my stripes.”
Ms. Tucciarone’s honesty and integrity shone through the entire conversation. No-nonsense and wise from experience, she shared her opinion and advice freely. For this I thank her. Supportive and encouraging, I could tell she has taught and mentored many people. Her approach and authority about the subject matter made me want to absorb everything she said and request more.
I will definitely reach out again in January, as she suggested, to have another conversation and visit the school. I will work on her advice, and work toward becoming the best person I can be for the foundation of a new school. Even though some of her comments were disheartening, I don’t feel disheartened. I do believe there is a place in Augusta for my philosophy, and collaborating with people in the community will help get me where I need to be.