NMU approves charter school

Delaney Lovett

The NMU Board of Trustees approved plans for the creation of a new charter school set to open this fall in the Willow Run district near Ypsilanti, Mich.

South Point Scholars Charter Academy, 350 miles southeast of Marquette, was chosen by Northern Michigan University out of 15 charter schools during an open application cycle.

“South Point Scholars was best prepared and had the ability to open a new, quality charter school,” said charter schools Officer Bill Pistulka. “We determined we would take that recommendation to the Board of Trustees.”

Beginning in the fall as a K-5 school, South Point Scholars Charter Academy will add one grade each year until it reaches a K-8 level. The academy will have a capacity of about 800 students.

Construction of the building will begin in March and is scheduled to be completed by late July or early August. Finalized drawings are in place and permits are set for the construction.

During the summer months, a marketing plan will be used to advertise and recruit students to join the charter school.

“There’s a large waiting list in this area of students who are looking for a charter school,” Pistulka said. “Strategically, this location should be really good to fill the building.”

Northern will team up with National Heritage Academy, a management company that provides startup funding, hires personnel and is responsible for the construction of the school.

National Heritage uses a proven curriculum with four pillars: academic excellence, moral focus, parental partnership and student responsibility. The curriculum uses testing in the fall, winter and spring to assess growth.

Michigan universities typically have a cap of five charter schools, but the creation of “smart cap” legislation allowed for additional schools. Northern decided to take advantage of the opportunity to expand.

“With the cap lifted now, it isn’t going to be growth for the sake of growth; it’s growth with quality,” Pistulka said. “We really want to make sure our schools are going to provide … educational practices and be effective.”

The addition will bring Northern to a total of six charter schools. These public school academies are state-funded, but do not have to operate under Michigan’s local school districts.

One of these charter schools, North Star Public School Academy, is located in Marquette. NMU alum Adam Dompierre teaches high school math, English and physical education at North Star.

“We have the advantage of getting to know students over the course of their high school careers and seeing their academic and social development,” Dompierre said.

Dompierre said he would encourage education students to teach at NMU charter schools. He said that North Star is able offer more individual student attention due to smaller class sizes.

“Spending so much one-on-one time allows the teachers to learn how each student learns best, and we can adapt our teaching to reflect that,” Dompierre said.

For more information about NMU charter schools, visit webb.nmu.edu/CharterSchools.