Dear Atlanta Classical Families,
Greetings to all of you! I hope you are off to a fruitful and enjoyable summer.
On Friday, June 16, our board of directors formally announced changes in board and school leadership—Mr. Kirby officially transitioned to board chair, and with Dr. Moore’s departure, I was appointed as principal. I would like to take this opportunity to publicly express my appreciation to Dr. Moore for his leadership and wisdom over the past three years. His expertise in classical education helped lay the cornerstone of our school—it will be our solid foundation as we move forward.
As we contemplate our school’s fourth year, I would like to share a few thoughts and details. In the next paragraphs, I will discuss our mission and vision, update you on personnel changes, provide you with an overview of our school’s organizational structure for next year, offer some thoughts about the role of our Parent Teacher Community Association (PTCA), and close with what I believe ought to be our focus areas in the near to medium-term future.
The most important guiding principle for our school is our mission. Originally conceived by our founding board of directors, it reminds us of why we exist as a school: The mission of Atlanta Classical Academy is to develop students in mind and character through a classical, content-rich curriculum that emphasizes the principles of virtuous living, traditional learning, and civic responsibility. This deeply purposeful statement hangs prominently in our front office and serves as a daily reminder for all of us committed to the long-term well-being of our students. While most of you are familiar with our mission, our vision has yet to be formally announced. By its nature, a vision is aspirational—it should lift our eyes out of the day-to-day work of the school and help inspire us to think of where we would like to go. Our vision was crafted in collaboration between the board of directors and administration in a series of strategic planning sessions held during the past school year. Our vision is to be a nationally regarded K- 12 classical school and serve as a local and national incubator for the growth and promotion of classical education. Our vision is supposed to stretch us to achieve something high and elevated—to be nationally regarded in K-12 classical education— and to promote classical education both locally and nationally. Together, the mission and vision help define why we exist and where we would like to be in the future.
Without a doubt, the most important resource in achieving both our mission and our vision is our employees. It is therefore important that I provide you with an update on several personnel changes. As we close out our third year as a school, several of our faculty and staff are heading out to serve in other ways and at other locations. In the Upper School, Mr. Go, Ms. Marcellino, Dr. Pettus, and Mr. Schreck are moving on to new opportunities, while in the Elementary School, Ms. Cousino, Ms. MacPhee, and Mrs. Wallach will be teaching at other locations. In addition, Mrs. Halliburton, Ms. Martin, and Mr. Wallach are also departing. In our staff offices, Mr. Tidwell will no longer be with us as business manager and Mrs. Eagleson will turn over the reins to the resource room. I want to take this opportunity to thank all departing employees for their hard work and dedication to the mission of Atlanta Classical Academy!
Several of our faculty and staff members are shifting over to new roles. Mrs. Lancaster-Thomas will be with us part-time as our 7th grade literature teacher, Ms. Flynn has assumed the role of Resource Room Manager, Mrs. Boyd will transition to the position of Riggs Phonics & Literacy expert, and Mrs. Busse will serve as our new Business Manager. Mrs. Carlson will transition to a broad portfolio including School Mint, enrollment, testing and compliance, and college coordination and outreach.
It is my pleasure to welcome the following new members to the team: Mrs. Amy Renn (Special Education), Mrs. Amber Vestal (Teacher Assistant), Mr. Will Johnson (Upper School Boys Athletic Program Manager), Ms. Klara Holscher (3rd grade), Mr. Conner Barfield (4th grade), Mr. Andrew Baxter (4th grade), Ms. Clare Williams (5th grade), Mr. Taylor Bettencourt (6th grade), Dr. Sam Negus (U.S. History), Mr. Samuel Clausen (Upper School Mathematics), Mrs. Sarah Dollacker (Composition/College Advisor), Mr. Allen Hoffman (Upper School History/Latin), and Ms. Brittany Arrington (Biology). Finally, Ms. Melissa Faux will take over as Registrar at the beginning of the new school year. We are currently narrowing our selections for Upper School Girls Athletic Program Manager and our third 1st Grade teacher and anticipate announcing those decisions very soon. We look forward to welcoming our new employees during our in-house summer training in the beginning of August.
We will launch the new school year with a slightly adjusted organizational structure. While we can discuss this topic more fully during our town hall planned for Tuesday, August 29, here are a few introductory thoughts. The structure reflects the five major functional areas of the school: academics, student services, operations, athletics, and fine arts.
Academics are at the center of our efforts, and the focus ought to be what Dr. Moore has called the vital triangle between excellent teachers, attentive students, and good books. This year we are introducing the role of faculty chairs to increase collaboration among teachers, promote horizontal and vertical curriculum planning, and actively foster ways to help all students thrive. The following individuals have graciously agreed to serve in the role of faculty chair: Mr. Andrew (Upper School Humanities), Mrs. Huff (Upper School Mathematics & Science), Mr. Nugent (Middle School), Mr. Holt (Upper Elementary 3-6), and Mrs. Cousar (Lower Elementary K-2).
Regarding student services, many of you have already met Mr. Greer, our new Dean of Students. His chief vocation is to help students flourish and mature in all areas. The Dean of Students is a critical leader—the steward and protector of the school’s culture and its virtues: courage, courtesy, honesty, perseverance, self-government, and service. The school’s culture should always be an elevated and lofty thing—a striving toward Aristotle’s building of good habits and virtues. Mr. Greer will directly oversee our Student Services Team, school discipline, the nurse’s office, and college advising and outreach.
A school cannot function without well-executed operations to support everyday needs and requirements. Mr. Richter is charged with these responsibilities as our newly appointed Director of Operations. He has played an integral and vital role in school operations since our startup in 2014 and possesses the key inside knowledge to take on the following portfolio: the front office, the business office, development functions, emergency preparedness and drills, the registrar, enrollment, standardized testing and compliance, the resource room, facilities management, information technology and communications, cafeteria operations, and day-to-day support for special events.
Athletics are a natural and essential component of developing students in mind and character. In addition, competitive sports are a terrific venue to hone character and build physical prowess. As General MacArthur once famously said, on the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds of future victory. An inscription prominently featured at Hillsdale College says it this way: the fields of competition should inspire and elevate the minds and characters of those who compete—and incidentally, also of those who watch. The trials and challenges of athletics are good for us—virtus tentamine gaudet—strength rejoices in the challenge! Our athletic department continues to grow and mature as we define its role in our K-12 school. Mr. Dunlap will serve as our athletic coordinator, primarily overseeing the K-6 Physical Education curriculum. He will also manage comprehensive logistical support for our two new upper school athletic positions, our Upper School Boys and Upper School Girls Athletic Program Managers.
The fifth major component of the school is fine arts. Our school pledge challenges us to “love the beautiful.” The arts are an integral part of shaping human character and point toward the loftiest of human achievements. To create a flourishing and enduring fine arts program, we are appointing a Fine Arts Director—Mr. Bryan Franklin. He will not only champion the core and elective fine arts classes in our curriculum, but will also guide the launch of our formal after-school fine arts program, to include our applied arts classes. Think of the after-school fine arts program as a companion to our after-school competitive sports program. Just like athletes require training and competition to become successful, our emerging artists also require practice, mentoring and performances to sharpen their skills. Mr. Franklin will bring that after-school program to life and will engage all of us with regular, monthly fine arts events.
Switching gears, I would like to offer a few observations about our Parent Teacher Community Association (PTCA). The PTCA was created by the board of directors to support the school’s mission—with the intent of helping the school flourish both in and beyond the classroom. The PTCA serves as our focal point for marshalling parent volunteerism. The PTCA and the administration have a collaborative relationship; the PTCA co-chairs have the ear of the administration and can carry parent inputs and concerns to the administration. The administration selects the PTCA co- chairs based on their loyalty to the school’s mission and their connection to—and involvement with—school activities. Of note, the PTCA is not an extension of the administration. Rather, it is a partner with the administration and the primary voice of the parents in advancing the school’s mission.
I would like to offer our appreciation and gratitude to Mrs. Bateman for her three years of dedicated service as one of our PTCA co-chairs. Her faithful, behind-the- scenes work enabled us to grow from a one-year startup to a more established school. As her term ends, it gives me great pleasure to announce that Mrs. Joy Harty has agreed to serve alongside Mr. Joe Santifer in the role of PTCA co-chair. Mrs. Harty is no stranger to the school, and has loyally labored throughout the past year to produce The Chronicle for us. Mr. Santifer and Mrs. Harty will soon communicate their vision for the PTCA going forward.
Finally, I would like to close this letter with a few thoughts about the upcoming school year. Although we are only three years young, we have conquered many hurdles in getting to this point. I am grateful for the board’s hard work in bringing our school to life, for Dr. Moore’s wisdom and guidance in establishing our academic philosophy and curriculum, for the incredible faculty and staff that have committed themselves to the “Atlanta miracle,” for the all the parents that entrust us with their “treasures,” for our 93% re-enrollment rate and 1,100+ strong wait list, for the school property that we can now call our own, and for the students who have shown perseverance, courage, and self-government in tackling the academic program set before them. We have many things to improve on and areas to grow in—from facilities to athletic and fine arts programs to communications and outreach. But we are off to a great start!
Over the next academic year, we will begin to transition from a “start-up” to a “maturing” school and focus on several major areas. In conjunction with your inputs and the Mission Support Team, we will develop a school improvement plan and work toward achieving accreditation status by Summer 2018. In collaboration with our board of directors, we will spearhead a strategy for our re-charter in 2019. We will begin conversations with universities and colleges near and far to tell them about the Atlanta Classical Academy story and why our students deserve their attention. We will actively work to mentor, support and empower our talented faculty and staff. And most important of all, we will continue to pour our efforts into growing citizens of virtue and knowledge!
With respect and appreciation,
S. P. Lambert