Community Newspapers talks with J.R.E. Lee Academy for International Education Charter School Principal Vera Hirsch

Language Arts Instructor Ms. Anna Harris and class

CN: How is the semester unfolding so far?
We are doing very well although the program is not anticipating huge growth as of yet. The school will eventually become a Kindergarten through 8th grade school. This year we have our thirteen sixth graders and next year they will move into seventh grade and we will add kindergarten, first and second grade as well. We will then grow by one grade each year until we become a K-8 over a period of four years.

CN: How many teachers are present?
We have three rotating teachers at the school which affords us great flexibility. We do block scheduling so for example Language Arts classes are offered every other day in two hour blocks until they make five hours for the week. Each teacher is a specialist in their particular area of expertise. So rather than having one teacher all day teaching a variety of subjects, the children benefit from a teacher specialist in the various core courses although they are not physically at the school every day but rather rotating with Hialeah and the Miami Gardens school as well.

CN: What is your schedule like?
I also spend the week going back and forth between all three schools. Miami Springs is our largest school with over 110 students so I am usually there for arrival and dismissal daily but I manage to be at J.R.E. Lee Academy two to three days per week. When I was principal of Hammocks Middle School I had over 2500 students. So while I did not travel then it was a tremendous responsibility with that number of kids so to me it is not a big deal to juggle the three campuses. When I get tired I get energized by the kids because we are starting something so new and terrific. We anticipate hiring an assistant principal soon. Administrative Assistant Juan Pompareyes and Support Specialist Gloria Simmons (who is a 34 year resident of South Miami) are at J.R.E.Lee fulltime all week.

CN: How do you feel the community is responding to your presence so far?
I think we have turned around some of the negativity. It is hard to tell because I am such a positive person. The best evidence of how we will turn things around is with more and more kids and when people see we have taken every child that applies. This is not the case with all schools although those are the claims. We will have to prove to the community that we are here to stay. Our recruiting efforts are really starting now at area pre-schools and church schools. We will take more children this year if there are kids that come in. We will build our bench. While we are not allowed to deny students that come from outside of South Miami we are specifically targeting South Miami students. We anticipate more mail outs to the area, personalized home visits, open houses for parents to drop in without an appointment to observe, and as we get closer to January those efforts will intensify.

For information contact J.R.E. Lee Academy for International Education Charter School at 786-268-4744.

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