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The Rovillus R. Rogers Elementary School has a new lease on life. It will be the Success Academy. Starting Thursday, September 5, it will once again welcome students, teachers, counselors and families. However, this time they will be in grades 5-10 not pre-K through 4. The Success Academy is an extension of each of the district’s middle schools and Jamestown High School where students can get the extra help they need to succeed academically, socially and/or emotionally.
The recently completed LEAP Summer program and the Success Academy are the beginning of a large strategic plan to support Jamestown’s students as they move through their school career into their chosen professions. Jamestown Public School Superintendent Dr. Brett Apthorpe’s initiatives were necessary to combat the losses District students were experiencing due to the 72% poverty rate and every day poor living standards. The District has an unacceptable absentee rate as well.
The goal is to help each student to achieve academic success while helping them overcome the factors which are keeping them from focusing on learning. Dr. Michael McElrath was appointed to lead the Success Academy. Dr. Apthorpe said, “Dr. McElrath has exactly the right educational background to lead the Success Academy. From being JHS’ principal to having been JPS’ Director of Middle Schools and Coordinator of School Counselors, he has a unique set of skills in both school management and child-centered learning that includes academic, social and emotional expertise that will help make the Success Academy a realization.” Dr. McElrath, who has been with the district for 20 years, has been the principal at JHS for eight years. Prior to becoming principal, he was the Director of Middle Schools and Coordinator of Guidance for K- 12. Dr. McElrath has experience in school-to-work transition programs. He was a co-writer on the GEARUP Grant, which worked with local organizations to help JPS middle school students throughout their education to graduation and was on the founding committee of the CEO Scholarship for JHS graduates. He has his master’s degree in counseling/psychology from Temple University and his Doctorate in Curriculum & Teaching from University of North Carolina Greensboro.
Along with a dedicated team of educators and support staff will be local community organizations that are highly qualified to help students to ensure they return to their classrooms ready to learn. They include Family Services, The Mental Health Association, Chautauqua Striders, The Chautauqua Center, and Prevention Works, formerly CASAC. More service agencies will be added as the school year progresses.
According to Dr. McElrath the Academy is a work in progress. More services and programs will be added as needed. “The teachers all want to be here for these students, they came from within the district.” There will be two teams of teachers. One for the 5- 6th grades and one for the 7-10th grades. The class sizes are smaller allowing for more focused attention. The upper grades will also be taught soft skills they will need to succeed in a job, with career programming being introduced in the near future. As in all schools in the District, breakfast and lunch will be served.
When asked what his biggest challenge has been to open the Success Academy, he said, “Keeping a broad view while remembering all the significant details has been a challenge.” He also pointed out he didn’t have a school secretary yet. When asked what the biggest surprise has been, he said, “How quickly it has all come together. For example, Rogers was used as a storage facility until June; the gym was full of furniture, which we have used throughout the building.” Now it’s ready for PE class. Jamestown Community Learning Council had used part of the building for their offices and have now moved to Washington Middle School. The JPS maintenance department and other non-academic departments have obviously been working hard to make the school welcoming and functional.
The phones are being plugged in, floors are being polished, classrooms are being readied, bulletin boards are getting decorated – all for Jamestown’s neediest students. The Success Academy is strategic step the District is making to prepare all of Jamestown’s students for academic and personal success.