Speaker: New charter school will increase local options for education

Virginia Perry, Arkansas Regional Director for Responsive Education Solutions, briefed members of the West Pine Bluff Rotary Club on Thursday on the progress being made toward opening a new open-enrollment charter school in Pine Bluff.

Quest Middle School in Pine Bluff, along with Premier High School in Little Rock and Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy in Bentonville, was approved by the Arkansas State Board of Education at a Nov. 1, 2012, meeting. Quest is scheduled to open in August 2013, according to Perry.

“The school will be located in the old U.S. Census building on Blake Street and will originally include students in the fifth through the eighth grades,” Perry said. “Our first-year enrollment cap is 220 students and we plan to add one grade per year until we reach the 12th grade.”

Perry said the new middle school will offer open enrollment and as a public charter school will be funded through state and federal public education dollars.

“We will have an open-enrollment registration period from Feb. 4 through March 1 at the UAPB Business Incubator on Main Street Monday through Friday between the hours of 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.,” Perry said. “We will receive state funding based on school enrollment and will also be eligible for federal funds.”

Perry said that Responsive Education decided to bring a charter school to Pine Bluff because of the need for education options and support from the community.

“First of all there was a need because the academic performance in area schools was not good at all,” Perry said. “Folks in the community expressed a desire to see a charter middle school here. Larry Freeman was instrumental in getting a Quest Middle School here.

“I think kids deserve a good educational option and with Common Core state standards in place it is important that students are as prepared as they can be,” Perry said.

“Our mission is to provide hope to our students utilizing a classical liberal arts curriculum,” Perry said. “We are focused on educational attainment and character development. We accomplish this in part through small class sizes. There are a great many benefits to this. I firmly believe that every person on campus should know the name of every student on campus.”

Perry said the task of selecting instructors for the new school is more involved that simply reading resumes.

“Teaching is a calling and you have to have the heart as well as the credentials to be an effective instructor,” Perry said. “In some cases we have to teach kids how to study and we will do that. We work to make learning and understanding math enjoyable. We do everything that we can to equip students with all of the tools that they need to compete not just on a national level but globally.”

Perry said the school will teach students the Latin origins of many words in the English language because it will assist them in taking standardized tests.

“We want to teach the kids how to think critically and analytically,” Perry said.

Perry said that while Responsive Education Solutions was founded and is headquartered in Lewisville, Texas, Responsive Education of Arkansas has been created to service the three new charter schools in the state.