Word-of-mouth leads to historic enrollment numbers at Ivy Prep
With a 400 percent increase in potential enrollment, a superintendent with an Atlanta education legislative background and a fresh principal—it’s easy to see why members of Ivy Preparatory Academy Kirkwood School for Girls say the school is leading the way in innovation.
“We’re doing some awesome things at our school,” said Alisha Morgan, superintendent at Ivy Prep for the past 18 months.
Ivy Prep—located at 1807 Memorial Drive in Atlanta—recently celebrated receiving nearly 1,000 applications for enrollment at their DeKalb and Gwinnett county locations. Morgan and Principal Charcia Nichols called the number “historic.”
“We received four times more applications this year than we received last year,” said Jacob Cole, chief of staff.
Morgan—who arrived at Ivy Prep following a 12-year state legislative career—said that, when she arrived, there was a 90 percent turnover rate at the school. She said the facility was not clean, teachers left every other day and the school even had problems making payroll.
Under her leadership, 90 percent now represents the amount of teachers who wish to remain at Ivy Prep. Morgan said teacher, staff and student morale has also greatly improved, enough so that her daughter is an enrolled student.
“We’ve totally revamped our recruitment, hiring and retention and compensation model for teachers—it’s pretty innovative,” Morgan said.
While many traditional school districts will offer teachers jobs on the spot at career fairs or job expos, Morgan and Nichols said Ivy Prep will host potential hires for in-class interviews judged not only by school officials but also students.
In addition, Ivy Prep offers each teacher $500 for supplies.
“We’ve completely flipped the script,” Morgan said. “It shows our potential hires that this is what they can expect at Ivy Prep: they can expect to get feedback, they can expect to get coached, and that we want them to be receptive of that feedback and bettering their classrooms.”
Morgan said tough decisions, such as closing the academy’s high school campus and laying-off employees, represented a big turnaround. Inviting parents into classrooms, College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI) workshops and letting them know exactly how much students’ grades are affected by certain tests, has given the Ivy Prep community a much-wanted transparency.
For Ivy Prep, such decisions are paying dividends, with the latest coming in the school’s historic enrollment.
“Without those decisions, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” Morgan said. “It’s word-of-mouth, marketing and having something to market. It’s changes being made, people seeing what we’re doing and what works for kids. It’s parents saying they don’t want what traditional districts are offering and saying ‘I want what Ivy Prep is offering.’”
Nichols, who has been with Ivy Prep for about one year, credited the school’s focus on instruction. She said the focus extends to supporting, appreciating and developing teachers and giving them the tools needed to help children succeed.
One such tool includes a newly built science lab.
“This is the type of activity we want to see,” Nichols said. “It makes kids excited about science. To see them using microscopes and using science, it’s become one of students’ favorite classes.”
Nichols said another tool has been educating parents on the typical school day, what is expected and how they can help. Others include literacy nights, math nights or performance nights—anything to engage the community and let them know what’s going on at Ivy Prep.
“[On March 29,] we actually had a 4th grade meeting with 60 parents just about the Georgia Milestones, percentage and content weights,” Nichols said. “We’re telling parents what type of questions will be on the tests, how many minutes they have. Helping them understand and breaking things down is big for parents, because they often don’t know.”
Nichols said the overall goal is to earn Blue Ribbon School distinction and STEM certification.
“Parents approach me and say, ‘Word on the street is Ivy Prep is doing great things,’” Nichols said.
Parent liaison Jeannie McCree said parents have been impressed with Nichols and Morgan and what they have brought to the community.
“They work very well together; parents are very pleased with that they’re seeing,” McCree said. “They’re excited about the future. The house is always packed. Mothers are asking, fathers are asking what they can do. We’re on the move.”
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