“One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is a good education…when you listen with your heart, you know when you have a match.” With this kind of wisdom for parents, Mrs. Cathy Callahan opened Marco Island Academy’s parent information night, and with it, the enrollment period for the island’s new charter high school.
The February 3rd meeting also introduced Marco Island Academy’s principal, Chris Pellant. Pellant has an extensive background in both traditional and charter school education and administration. Pellant comes from a family of educators and has a Master’s degree in school administration from the University of Wisconsin. He is also currently pursuing a Doctorate in Education.
Marco Island Academy board chair Jane Watt said that Pellant was the board’s top choice because of his charter school experience. Pellant first got involved with the charter school concept as a parent looking for a school for his oldest daughter. It too, struggled with locating a place to grow, looking, Pellant jokes, “at even a bowling alley as a possible location,” and blossoming into an outstanding place to get an education.
It is charter schools’ often smaller class sizes and flexibility in creating innovative curriculum that continued to draw Pellant professionally. He served as a vice president of a company that provided startup support for new charter schools and served as a fiscal monitor for charter schools in the Minnesota Department of Education. Although Pellant says he did not enjoy pulling millions in funding for non-compliant schools, it’s given him a fiscal background that will serve Marco Island Academy well.
“Not all children learn the same way, but most teaching today is done by lecturing. Only 20 percent of children actually learn that way,” says Pellant. “People learn by experiencing.” Pellant believes that relevance in education comes from showing students how what they learn applies to life outside the classroom.Relationships are key. “Students need to create personal learning plans and buy into their own education.”
Pellant also believes in the benefits of smaller class sizes. “Research has shown that you get more positive social behavior, better collaboration with parents and reduced violence in schools with small class sizes.”
According to Watt, Marco Island Academy will take a maximum of 250 students the first year, enrolling freshman and sophomores to start. As the classes move up, more students can attend: 375 the second year and 500 in the third year.
Mark Haffner is a multi-media production specialist who brings another unique facet to the Academy’s curriculum. Haffner’s production company has produced visual and music pieces for NBC, Disney and rap artist P Diddy, among others. He is looking forward to exploring creative media with the Academy’s students. “Communication using visual elements and sound is becoming a bigger and bigger part of our world,” he points out.
Watt and Academy board vice chair Jody Barrett connected with Haffner at the Naples Film Festival. “We knew he would be able to reach the students who are creatively inclined,” says Watt. Students who take the multi-media elective will work directly with Haffner.
Jane Watt also happily announced key community connections that will help the Academy grow within the Marco community. The Marco Island Marriott has made the Academy a recipient of its Spirit to Serve program. Events like the recent Superbowl party hosted by the resort will donate funds to the Academy and the resort will also give space for dances and prom.
The First Baptist Church of Marco Island will allow the school to use its auditorium for parent nights and student productions.
“We will work with anyone who will work with us.” Watt pointed out that she welcomes the mutually beneficial relationships that result when a school and a community work together. “This is for you and your children.”