Opening Days 2016

The Follow On Support team witnessed inspirational opening days at new BES schools across the country in August. The words below will make you feel as though you were on the ground, experiencing these special moments.


ACE Preparatory Academy

Indianapolis, Indiana
Grades: K-1
Growing to: K-5
Founder and School Leader: Anna Shults, 2014 BES Fellow

The first day of kindergarten is often the most memorable day of K-12 schooling for both parents and students, second only, perhaps, to high school graduation. I witnessed this special day at ACE Preparatory Academy on August 1, 2016. Principal Anna Shults started the day by greeting students. Her smile and handshake warmly and calmly communicated to every student:

  1. This is exciting and important.
  2. With effort, you can do this.
  3. We’re here for you.

Students entered the newly-renovated building with wide eyes and curious minds. Their uniforms were pristine, with pants still creased. The building, in turn, was vibrant with color and meticulously prepared for learning.

In class, students learned the values of the school and the importance of working together on the path to college. They began academic learning, with lessons that incorporated letter identification and counting. Students saw – even on day one – that the rules and procedures of the school would help them learn more, grow more, and achieve their goals.



Apex Collegiate Academy

Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Grade: 6
Growing to: 6-12
Founder and School Leader: Eric Lewis, 2014 BES Fellow

Apex Collegiate Academy opened its doors for CLIMB (Civility, Leadership, Integrity, Mastery, and Being our Best) week on Monday, August 1, 2016 at 8:00am. 110 students arrived via bus, car, and foot. All were greeted with a firm handshake from founder and school leader Eric Lewis, and placed in a cohort named after the university attended by their homeroom teacher.

Being on the ground on day one allowed me to observe:

  1.  A team that was ALL IN- staff and faculty gave their best, led when asked, and took real-time feedback and implemented it.
  2.  A leader who gave very clear real-time feedback to teachers to reinforce the level of excellence he expected: asking Ms. X to do it again (and again) with Read Baby Read, giving Mr. X the lower volume and less words non-verbal redirection, and modeling excellence and 100 percent with Ms. X in her small group.
  3.  Students who were held to clear expectations: Boss Position, Fist of Five, Apex Dab, PETSY, Dear Reading, and Hall positions.

After two solid weeks of culture building and instruction, crisis hit Baton Rouge, with destructive flooding widespread in the city. APEX, alongside all Baton Rouge Schools, closed its doors for the full week of August 12-19.  Throughout this week the APEX team worked tenaciously to account for 100 percent of scholars and reopened on Monday, August 22, three days prior to the district re-opening of schools in Baton Rouge.

Re-opening week was a resounding success, with 100 percent of scholars accounted for and in attendance, despite over 50 percent being displaced from their homes during the recent flooding. The structure, stability, and focus on excellence is stronger than ever at Apex.


California Collegiate

Los Angeles, California
Grade: 6
Growing to: 6-12
Founder and School Leader: Sue Andres-Brown, 2014 BES Fellow

California Collegiate opened its doors for the very first time on August 8, 2016. Led by Sue Andres-Brown, the school welcomed 90 sixth graders whose families were looking for a school with only the highest expectations. Sue hired a talented and dedicated team of teachers and recruited aggressively to achieve strong student enrollment. The result? A large and vibrant community from day one.

Sue kept pushing her expectations higher during opening week, insisting that all students come prepared with homework, in correct uniform, and show respect by always making eye contact when listening to each other.


Milwaukee Excellence

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Grade: 6
Growing to: 6-12
Founder and School Leader: Maurice Thomas, 2014 BES Fellow

Milwaukee Excellence opened its doors to eager sixth-grade families on Milwaukee’s north side on August 29, 2016. Situated in a historically tumultuous part of the city, the school, led by Maurice Thomas, provides a rigorous college-preparatory option to families that have long been seeking better educational choices.

As students got off buses, walked from their homes, and were dropped off by their parents, they entered a space where every detail was designed and planned for them. TV crews, board members, and parents were all in attendance, eager to watch as students embarked on their rigorous journey to college. The day’s excitement will only be topped on the day they start college – in six short years!


Stellar Collegiate

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Grades: Pre-K-1
Growing to: K-5
Founder and School Leader: Melissa McGonegle, 2014 BES Fellow

Stellar Collegiate is proving what is possible by proudly showcasing what young scholars can do. On Monday, August 29, 2016 the school opened its doors to its inaugural class of four-year-olds. Scholars began the day by learning the names of colleges as they worked on making the letters for their own names.

School leader Melissa McGonegle has set forth a vision of structure, joy, and rigor that provides the ethical foundation and structural building blocks for students. Students work in small groups, have multiple teachers per class, and learn Spanish every day. The songs, chants, and excitement continued throughout the week, and they were joined by the “big kids” – kindergarteners and first graders – later in the week.