News & Events
Provost Academy South Carolina Graduation - 6/18/15
Last weekend in Columbia, South Carolina, diplomas were presented to the 157 members of the Provost Academy Class of 2015. PASC – completing its sixth year of operation - is one of South Carolina’s first online public high schools, and is a long-time partner with EdisonLearning.
NPS Open Campus – A Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy Celebrates Its First Graduates - 6/17/15
It was a jubilant day for 16 Norfolk Public Schools students, who earned their high school diplomas on June 16, 2015, after overcoming many life obstacles to complete their coursework at the new Norfolk Public Schools Open Campus – A Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy. The Open Campus program opened last September as the first of its kind in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the 16 students formed the first graduating class. The graduates’ family members, along with the many Norfolk Public Schools staff members and teachers who inspired the students throughout the program, beamed with pride and shed more than a few tears.
Norfolk’s Open Campus School graduates first class WAVY - 6/17/15
NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A unique new school in Norfolk graduated its first class this week. The Norfolk Public Schools Open Campus held graduation on Tuesday. It’s a Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy that works to end poverty, giving students a second chance.
Clink link to view photo gallery: http://wavy.com/2015/06/18/norfolks-open-campus-school-graduates-first-class/
Norfolk schools' Open Campus holds inaugural graduation ceremony
Virginian Pilot – 6/17/2015
Daun Hester, director of Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy,
hugs Jeffrey Monroe Jr. as he receives his high school diploma
during commencement Tuesday, June 16, 2015.
Josiah and Lillie Nelson belted a chorus of hallelujahs Tuesday as their granddaughter, Shylah Russell, walked across the graduation stage. They have raised Russell since she was 4 years old, after her mother died. The death had a lasting impact, Lillie Nelson said. She watched Russell struggle to pass the state exams. At Booker T. Washington High, the load was overwhelming, and Russell stopped going.
But on Tuesday, the 19-year-old earned her diploma with the other 15 members of the inaugural graduating class at Norfolk Public Schools Open Campus. The division launched the program this school year for 125 students who had dropped out or fallen behind. "I've been to a lot of graduations, but this one was very emotional and heartfelt," Nelson said. Russell wants to attend Tidewater Community College and become a nurse.
School leaders say the program is the first of its kind in the state. The division has partnered with Magic Johnson Bridgescape and EdisonLearning, which run similar programs throughout the country. The students face a host of challenges. Some are teenage parents; others are homeless or struggle academically. It's possible for them to get a GED, but at Open Campus, they earn a diploma.
Its students take only self-paced, computer-based courses needed to graduate. They also must pass state Standards of Learning exams.
Students attend classes daily at the building near Widgeon and Sewells Point roads, but they earn diplomas from their assigned high schools.
Math teacher Wes Flanagan said the scheduling provides flexibility to focus on academic weaknesses and allows for more teacher-student interaction than in a traditional classroom. Flanagan said the graduation helps dispel myths that dropouts aren't smart or motivated. Some of them have socioeconomic challenges that make a traditional classroom experience difficult, he said.
Daun Hester, the local Open Campus director who's also a state delegate representing Norfolk, handed out diplomas and hugs. She praised the students' hard work and thanked the parents for their support.
L'Tanya Simmons, a division leader who spearheaded the project, told the graduates they have inspired other students by not giving up. "In spite of all the odds and all the doubts, you're graduating," she said. "Receiving a high school diploma is only the beginning of college and career success."
Simmons said staff members worked quickly to open the program within a few weeks of the beginning of the school year. They had to renovate a former school building, hire teachers and install new technology. Now, leaders hope to expand the program.
In her commencement address, salutatorian Claris Turner fought tears while thanking supporters, including her teachers. "They told me I have potential," she said.
Turner said that the program was the best opportunity for her and that she's happy to make her family proud. "This will forever be a memory that I will tell my baby boy. Success is the key," she said. "Ma, I made it!"
MJBA Class of 2015 Receiving Diplomas - June 10, 2015
With graduation season now well underway, 157 young people have already been awarded their high school diplomas in the past few days as graduates of Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academies in Chicago, Columbus, and Durham, NC. In the coming weeks, hundreds of more students in Norfolk, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Bridgeton, NJ will join their ranks. Thom Jackson was the commencement speaker at the graduation ceremonies held yesterday in Chicago, where 95 students were presented their diplomas. Seniors will also be graduating this week from Provost Academy South Carolina.
Graduation 2015: Durham Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy
Durham Herald Sun – 6/9/15
DURHAM - Donovan Livingston, an academic adviser with the Upward Bound program at UNC-Chapel Hill, urged gradates of the Performance Learning Center and the Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy Tuesday to take time to appreciate the “baby steps” that they make.
Livingston, a Fayetteville native and UNC alum, was the guest speaker for the joint commencement exercises for the two alternative school programs housed at the Durham Performance Learning Center.
He shared with the audience that he is nearsighted in one eye and farsighted in the other and told graduates that they much approach life from a nearsighted and a farsighted perspective.
“If we only choose to focus on the big picture, we will live our lives in a perpetual state of disappointment because what we want is so very far away,” Livingston said, touting an advantage of the nearsighted view. “Instead, take the time to see the beauty in your baby steps.” He added, however, that the farsighted view also has its advantages.
“Farsighted people have the unique ability to avoid peripheral distractions and keep their sights set on much larger purposes,” Livingston said. “As you mature, your nearsightedness and farsightedness become less about how you see the world and more about how you see yourself.”
Before his speech, Livingston asked graduates to turn and to look at someone in the audience who helped them make it to graduation. “Your accomplishment is not yours alone,” Livingstone said. “You succeeded because of your own efforts and those who saw something in you that made them invest their time, their money, their energy, effort and enthusiasm in you.”
In all, 51 students received their high school diplomas during the morning ceremony at the Holton Career and Resource Center attended by more than 200 people. Twenty-two of the graduates were enrolled in the MJBA program and the remaining 29 in PLC.
Friends and family cheered the graduates, many of who had overcome challenging obstacles to earn their diplomas. Each graduate crossed the stage holding the hand of someone who was instrumental in their pursuit of a high school diploma.
After the ceremony, family, friends and graduates mingled outside the school where they took pictures, exchanged hugs and made post-graduation plans.
Timon Kirby, 20, a graduate of the Bridgescape Academy, said graduation day was a longtime coming. “It feels good,” Kirby said. “I can’t wait to see what’s next for me.” He said his immediate plan is to attend Durham Tech to study math.
Durham Public Schools Board of Education Chairwoman Heidi Carter was beaming with pride after the graduation ceremony. “This graduation is a demonstration of what a fallacy the letter grading system is,” Carter said. “This is why you can’t connect a letter grade with the actual performance and quality of the school.”
Roosevelt graduates told to make most of opportunities
NW Indiana Times – 6/7/2015
Leslie Corpus, Valedictorian, gives her speech to her fellow graduates of the Roosevelt College and Career Academy.
GARY | Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy valedictorian Leslie Corpus wants her fellow graduates to do more than reach for the stars. During the school’s commencement program Friday night, she told her classmates when they encounter an opportunity to accomplish their goals, “grab it in a choke hold and do not let go of it no matter what.”
From the beginning of the program, there was an abundance of enthusiasm. The graduates’ families and friends were on their feet and let out roars of cheers as the students walked into Roosevelt’s auditorium. Clutching their cellphones, many raised their hands to grab pictures of the graduates as they headed to their seats. Those cheers later escalated as each of the 38 graduates walked across the auditorium stage to receive their diplomas.
Coach Tony Branch, of ABC's "Secret Millionaire" fame, told the students they have limitless potential.
Branch encouraged the graduates to “fix things in life my generation didn’t fix.”
As the graduates leave high school, Branch told them to “continue to learn as we go through life” and to not be afraid of making mistakes. “With mistakes comes experience, and with experience comes wisdom,” he said.
Branch also explained the students didn’t go through their journey in high school alone. He said they had their family, teachers and school administration to assist them. In particular, Branch recognized Roosevelt Principal Donna Henry. He said Henry believes in young people and has a strong love for the student body.
Leslie Corpus, who will be attending Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, also told her classmates to never forget the “wonderful four years” they had together. Corpus said the graduates have already overcome many challenges while in high school. She said they will face more hardships in the future, but they shouldn’t be discouraged.
“You are stronger than you know,” Corpus said.
Gary, EdisonLearning forge bold, new partnership
(Gary Post Tribune) – December 4, 2014 - EdisonLearning Inc. and the Gary Community School Corp. told the State Board of Education in Indianapolis Wednesday they plan to work together to establish a systemic approach to fixing the school district’s academic and financial troubles.
Once bitter adversaries, the two are now pairing up in a public-private partnership aimed at correcting long, festering issues that have dogged the urban school district of nearly 7,000 students.
Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt literally locked arms with EdisonLearning President and CEO Thom Jackson saying they will present their detailed improvement plan at the board’s Jan. 7 meeting. “It’s a bold plan built upon the pillar of local leadership. It will require funding,” Jackson said.
In 2011, the state named EdisonLearning to serve as the turnaround operator for the Roosevelt College and Career Academy, a high school on the state’s intervention short list. Turf turmoil quickly erupted in battles over broken boilers, burst pipes, snow removal, transportation and other issues. That discord led a state turnaround committee to make a series of recommendations to the state board Wednesday.
The board postponed intervention action on Dunbar-Pulaski Middle School, pending the creation of the comprehensive plan.
State board member Tony Walker, who represents Northwest Indiana, said he was opposed to state takeovers like Roosevelt and that school districts should be allowed to select their own turnaround partner. Last summer, Jackson was elevated to his new role. From there, he and Pruitt forged a strong, working relationship.
“What a difference now between Edison and the Gary Community School Corp.,” said Walker. “I’m so excited, I could do back flips.” Walker said Gary and EdisonLearning came together on their own. “This is exactly the kind of model were hoping for.”
Pruitt hammered away at the state board to push for more funding. “Regardless of how we got here, we’re here. The onus just isn’t on me, it’s on everyone who is here. That includes putting some money in Gary to help us with financial issues.”
Pruitt told the board it’s been hit hard by a low property tax collection rate. Last year, it was 42 percent. Tax caps have also hurt, along with declining enrollment and a new state funding formula. “Don’t disenfranchise the community anymore. We have the highest number of charters, we have vouchers and every education effort that’s supposed to work put into Gary. It’s time to stop.”
Jackson said a piecemeal approach of trying to turn one school around in a troubled district doesn’t work. “You can’t just address one school when the problems are systemic,” he said.
Gary schools to tap EdisonLearning as partner
INDIANAPOLIS (NWIndiana Times) – December 4, 2014 - The Gary Community School Corp. and EdisonLearning have established a partnership to improve all schools. After an acrimonious relationship, Gary Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt and EdisonLearning CEO/President Thom Jackson told the Indiana State Board of Education, EdisonLearning would be its "external partner" to improve all struggling Gary schools, and the two would develop a plan and present it in January.
Three years ago, the State Board of Education removed Gary Roosevelt from operation by the school corporation and appointed private Tennesse-based EdisonLearning to operate the failing high school, creating conflict and confusion between the two.
The concept to use an external partner is in line with a series of recommendations approved Wednesday by the State Board of Education, which decided to create its own turnaround unit to monitor school turnarounds. The state board was set to vote on extending EdisonLearning's contract in Gary by two years and make some decisions regarding Dunbar-Pulaski, which also has had failing grades for six consecutive years.
In an emotional plea to the board, Pruitt said she and Jackson have developed a cordial relationship and intend to work together to develop a plan to improve the school district.
"It's not just the academic program," Pruitt said. "It's also the buildings and the finances. Thom Jackson and I have locked arms to do what is best for children. We're proposing that EdisonLearning serve as our external provider. We will look at our finances, buildings and grounds and academics. We want to make sure that we touch every area. We want a multi-year approach, creating a financial improvement plan, talent management and academic improvement plan."
Jackson said, "We support the approach identified by Dr. Pruitt. One of the things we've learned is that you can't tackle a problem with one school. The problems in Gary are manifold."
Gary attorney Tony Walker, a state board member, said he was happy to see the relationship between Gary and EdisonLearning has improved. "It shows the type of leadership we have in Gary with Edison Learning and Superintendent Pruitt. I’ve seen the progress at Roosevelt under Edison and I’m very excited about the prospects of both parties partnering to improve the entire school district,” he said.
The board agreed to hold off on any decision regarding EdisonLearning, Roosevelt and Dunbar-Pulaski until Pruitt comes back with a comprehensive plan at its January meeting. The school district continues to work with the U.S. Department of Education regarding its "high risk" designation. It is the only district in the state rated F.
New school gives dropouts a second chance
NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - November 3, 2014 – A new school in Norfolk is working to end poverty by giving students a second chance. The Norfolk Public Schools Open Campus – A Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy allows students to get their high school diplomas and learn life skills. The ‘open campus’ is for high school dropouts and students who are overage for their grade level.
Marquis White is a student at Open Campus. He said, “I was behind in a grade and I was trying to catch up.”
“I was saying that I was going to school, but I would go to school some days. The majority of days I didn’t go,” said Alexis Mitchell, a 19-year-old student.
“We have children who are homeless. Children who are living with friends. Some children who have nowhere to live. We’re dealing with children who need to work and need help,” Program Director Daun Hester said.
Mitchell dropped out of high school just three months before she may have graduated and two months into a pregnancy. “A lady made a left turn in front of us and cut us off. The airbag deployed at 200 miles per hour and detached my placenta and then I had a seat belt on. [The baby] was flipped, getting ready to come down the birth canal and the seat belt locked on my stomach and fractured her skull in the front,” Mitchell said.
Her daughter died after seven hours of life. “She was my biggest blessing, and I still love her to life, but I feel like I’m destined to do more, and God knew that by me having her I would have just settled, because she was my baby,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell is not settling. She is now only five and a half credits from getting her high school diploma and plans to graduate in January. “I would have done anything to get it,” Mitchell said. She is one of 125 students at Open Campus. It is the only school of its kind in the state.
Right now there is a waiting list for other students looking to attend, but officials plan to double the number of students allowed there as early as January.
Click link to view video report: http://wavy.com/2014/10/31/new-school-gives-dropouts-a-second-chance/
New Norfolk MJBA Highlight of Video Report
(October 23, 2014) “NPS Now” is a weekly program featuring news, sports, and information about Norfolk Public Schools. This week's show takes a closer look at the NPS Open Campus - A Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy.
Click here to view: http://youtu.be/WN3TXJnMkc8
New school for drop outs opens in Norfolk
NORFOLK (October 1, 2014) - A new school for high school drop outs and students who have fallen behind is opening this week. Norfolk Public Schools' "Open Campus, A Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy" is a new, alternative way to earn your high school diploma.
The program is starting with 125 students, including 100 dropouts, 20 middle school students who are behind by about two years, and five high school students behind by five or more credits. Students attend school 4 hours a day, and learn through a combination of accredited online courses and face-to-face teaching.
About $429,000 in state funding will cover most of the cost of the new school, and NPS will pay about $248,000 toward the program. This will be the first "open campus" in Virginia, but there are similar programs nationwide. Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy and EdisonLearning will work with the division to run the program. The new school is part of Norfolk schools' transformation initiative to improve student achievement. Officials hope to expand the "Open Campus" to accept more students in the future.
Click link to view video report: http://www.13newsnow.com/story/news/local/mycity/norfolk/2014/09/30/school-for-drop-outs-opens-in-norfolk/16478831/
EdisonLearning Announces Prominent Additions to Leadership Team
Jersey City, NJ (September 30, 2014) -- EdisonLearning, the leading international educational services provider, today announced the appointment of two new members of the organization’s senior leadership team.
Thom Jackson, EdisonLearning’s President and Chief Executive Officer, announced that Doug Mesecar, a former senior official with the U.S. Department of Education, has joined the organization in the role of Senior Vice President, Blended Learning Solutions. Mr. Jackson said that, “Doug Mesecar will lead us in the development of a new service delivery model, which combines our Charter School and Virtual Education divisions to create a unique and innovative Blended Learning Solution for our customers.’
“This is not only a substantive change in our service delivery model, but it will ultimately transform our entire company -- leveraging our rich history as a founder of the charter school sector, with our well received and innovative approach in virtual and alternative education to provide new, research-proven solutions for eliminating the achievement gap,” Mr. Jackson said.
Mr. Jackson simultaneously announced that Curtiss Stancil has joined the organization as Senior Vice President. “Curtiss Stancil brings more than 25 years of executive management leadership, business development, sales, operations and strategic marketing experience to our efforts,” Mr. Jackson said.
Doug Mesecar has served in senior operational and policy roles at leading education companies, the U.S. Department of Education, and in Congress. At the U.S. Department of Education, his roles included Deputy Chief of Staff of the Department, Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Innovation and Improvement, and Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development.
Mr. Mesecar also led the school services and education technology implementation for Sylvan Learning as Vice President for Contract Programs and SylvanSync; and he gained valuable experience in curriculum development and education technology as Vice President of Math and Strategic Initiatives at Scholastic Education.
Most recently, Mr. Stancil has been an equity owner and President, of CurtMont Global, an integrated services and strategic business development company. Earlier in his career, he served as Vice President, Sales for Sodexo USA, and was responsible for sales, marketing, operations and business development for colleges, universities and large urban K-12 school districts. In addition, he held various executive level sales, strategy and marketing positions with Proctor & Gamble, L’Oreal, Gibson Greetings, First Transit, GEMS Education and Carson Products.
Mr. Jackson noted that both individuals had previous tenures with EdisonLearning, “An important aspect of both Curtiss and Doug re-joining our organization is that they know the students we help to educate, they understand and are vested in both our mission and vision, and each of them has an authentic passion for disrupting education to eliminate the achievement gap.”
Paradigm shift needed in school takeovers, educators say
GARY (September 22, 2014) | Creating an educational environment where every student can succeed will take a paradigm shift to partnerships and collaboration between every stakeholder and away from all punitive actions and antagonism. The Indiana State Board of Education Committee on School Turnarounds heard that message repeatedly during a special meeting Friday at Indiana University Northwest to discuss and review the current turnaround activities at Theodore Roosevelt College & Career Academy.
Tony Walker, a Gary attorney representing the 1st Congressional District appointed by Gov. Mitchell Daniels in 2010, is a member of the three-person committee. The other two are Sarah O’Brien, an elementary school teacher in Avon who represents the 4th District, and Daniel Elsener, the president of Marian University in Indianapolis who represents the 7th District. O'Brien and Elsener were reappointed by Gov. Mike Pence in 2013.
School turnarounds began in 1999 when the Indiana General Assembly passed Public Law 221 in a bipartisan effort. Also called "the school improvement law," PL 221 gave the State Board of Education the authority to intervene in what have been labeled failing schools. It was in response to the federal No Child Left Behind mandate.
The turnaround of the historic Gary high school that opened in 1929 has been fraught with major challenges that have ended up in court, according to both Gary Community School Corp. Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt and Donna Henry, the school's principal.
One of the major issues continues to be who is responsible for maintaining and upgrading the old building, Pruitt and Henry said. Crumbling infrastructure, bathrooms in disrepair, damaged lockers and non-functioning heating/cooling equipment were among the problems found during a comprehensive building survey completed by EdisonLearning in May 2012, Henry said.
The terms "turnaround," "takeover" and "failing schools" create a negative impact in the community, said Thom Jackson, the new president and CEO of EdisonLearning Inc., which was founded 22 years ago and is one of the pioneers in charter school education in the nation.
"When you say we’re going to take you over, you already cast the school corporation as the villain," Jackson said. "The district felt indicted by our presence." He recommended that the state board of education "get the district to the table so the district feels it is a partner" and that the problems at Roosevelt be seen as a symptom of what’s also going on in the Gary education system from pre-K through middle school.
If students aren’t prepared to learn in those grades, the challenges will only be magnified when those students reach high school, Jackson said. He recommended using the model EdisonLearning uses to create new climates at the rest of the Gary public schools.
Theodore Roosevelt College & Career Academy has achieved the following benchmarks since EdisonLearning Inc. was selected in 2012 to take over the failing Gary high school, according to Principal Donna Henry:
- Graduation rate is now 54 percent, compared to 47 percent pre-turnaround
- 77 percent of graduating seniors are enrolled in two- to four-year colleges or vocational programs, compared with 60 percent previously
- ISTEP+ proficiency test outcomes have nearly doubled with an increase of 9.9 points since the turnaround
- Proficient/advanced literacy levels have increased 28 percent, from 13 percent to 41 percent.
- Student attendance is now 81 percent, compared with 67 percent pre-turnaround.
- Monthly disciplinary referrals have declined to 9.8 percent, compared to 19.3 percent.
- A full-time truancy officer has been hired who works with the courts to assist families and curtail truancy.
- Truancy referrals have declined by more than half to 32 compared to 73 at the time of the turnaround. EdisonLearning has invested more than $150,000 in building repairs to ensure successful school operations.
Gary, EdisonLearning urge state to make school turnarounds smoother
GARY (September 22, 2014) — The 2011 removal of Roosevelt High School from the Gary Community School Corp. seemed like a hostile takeover, members of a State Board of Education committee learned Friday.
“It was very clear the district felt indicted by our very presence,” said Thom Jackson, chief executive and president of EdisonLearning Inc., the education manager tapped to turn around the failing school under a 1999 state accountability measure.
Jackson and Gary School Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt told the State Board Committee on School Turnarounds that collaboration, not conflict is critical to a successful transition during a takeover. Roosevelt is one of six Indiana schools being operated by turnaround firms after posting six straight years of poor academic performance. One other Gary school, Dunbar-Pulaski Middle School, is in the turnaround pipeline, entering year six. The state is evaluating its turnaround process.
EdisonLearning began assessing Roosevelt’s needs one year prior to its operating the school in 2012. The company had to register students, obtain academic transcripts, hire teachers and staff and deal with maintenance issues. “Our biggest challenge in the first year was who’s going to pay the price of change, not that the district didn’t want change,” Jackson said.
EdisonLearning installed new lockers and lighting and painted the walls. It also installed a trophy case after awards were found in a closet. “We had a 1929 building that needed tremendous repairs — $150,000 was just a drop in the bucket,” Jackson said. “You can’t look at turnaround efforts in a vacuum. You have to give that district an opportunity at the table as well.”
Duluth Comes Together for Anti-Bullying Block Party
DULUTH (September 15, 2014) - Thursday evening, families at Duluth’s Edison Charter School Raleigh had fun at their annual anti-bullying block party. Kids danced to the music, ate cotton candy, and had a blast in the bouncy house. The goal was to bring students, parents, and teachers together to end bullying at their school.
"People need to know what bullying is - what it looks like,” said school social worker, Carrie Preiner, “and how to be an active bystander how to prevent it." About 300 people participated in the event. Students and educators take steps to prevent bullying on a daily basis, and hope the block party puts everyone on the same page.