A new charter school that promises to give its students “a tuition-free public education in a private school environment” is coming to Brownsville.
San Antonio-based Jubilee Academic Center, Inc. will transition Livingway Christian School into Livingway Leadership Academy in time for the start of school in the fall, said John Jacobson, associate director for Jubilee’s Rio Grande Valley District.
Jubilee, a state charter school district, is opening similar charter schools in Harlingen and Kingsville. The Texas Education Agency classifies Jubilee as a “recognized” district under its academic accountability system. Jacobson said Jubilee itself transitioned from a Christian school to a charter school district about 10 years ago.
Opening the new schools is contingent upon TEA granting an amendment to Jubilee’s charter, but similar amendments have been granted to Jubilee for past expansions, Jacobson said. The school is accepting pre-enrollment applications on a first-come, first-served basis through its website www.jubileeacademiccenter.com and at Livingway Family Church and Christian School, 350 W. Ruben Torres Blvd.
Livingway Pastor Bill Moore said officials there approached Jubilee about taking over the school in the interest of providing fuller educational opportunities. The school has about 160 students currently. Jubilee will lease Livingway’s facilities.
“We see it as a win-win,” Moore said. “We’ve placed a lot of students out there at some of the best colleges in the country. This deal with Jubilee will allow us to do an even better job.”
Moore added that while a religious component won’t be part of the curriculum, “an elective chapel will still be available before and after school.”
Jacobson said the curriculum at the new school will be based on a model developed from Stephen R. Covey’s book, “The Leader in Me.”
He said that about 10 years ago, Muriel Summers, principal of A.B. Combs Elementary in Raleigh, N.C., began applying principles from Covey’s earlier book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effecive People,” to her struggling school.
Jacobson said the school went from being on the verge of closure for academic failure to becoming a model for success that other schools are now attempting to replicate.
“When you ask parents ‘what do you want from your school,’ they usually talk about life skills and leadership skills, not results on state standardized tests,” Jacobson said.
“We were just amazed,” Jacobson said of the learning environment at A.B. Combs. “These kids are just immersed in their school. They have self-control that I haven’t seen in too many high school kids. ... In these kinds of environments, teachers and kids just love to come to school. It’s a breath of fresh air.”
Livingway Leadership Academy will open with classes for 4-year-old pre-kindergarten through eighth grade and will add a class each year until all grade levels are filled. The school will have an enrollment cap of 340 students for the coming year,
Jacobson also said Jubilee will “hold the line” at a student-teacher ratio of 18-1 for the elementary grades and 22-1 for the middle school grades. He said a public forum concerning the Livingway school will be held closer to the school’s opening in the fall.
“We’re proceeding with all of the plans. ... We’re planning on having everything ready by August,” he said.