The University of West Alabama in Livingston, the county seat of Sumter County, faced a dilemma. It was becoming increasingly difficult to recruit faculty to come to their school. The reason? The local school system..
College professors value education for their children. After all, a good education is why they have their job.
But when they looked at the Sumter County public schools they saw a system of five schools with only one rated a C, the others were D rated. And the private school was on its last leg.
So UWA’s Board of Trustees tasked President Ken Tucker with looking for a solution. This was in 2016. An initial committee became a task force in January 2017. They zeroed in on creating a charter school as the best solution. The next step was getting community input and feedback. Focus groups met with local stakeholders. Surveys helped determine local priorities. School safety and teacher quality were two of the top priorities.
J. J. Wedgeworth is head of school for University Charter. She has been part of the effort from the beginning. “It was crucial that we listen to local voices,” she says. “This had to be a community effort, not a university effort.”
Once the decision was made to apply to the state for a charter, a goal was set to have $300,000 in the bank by the time the application was submitted. They had pledges for more than $350,000 before applying.
The school opened in 2018 with 321 pre-K through eighth grade students. They added the ninth grade this year and have a total of 427 students. The student body is about 52 percent African-American and 45 percent white. All teachers are certified.
Being located on the university campus is a huge plus as professors are readily available to teach things such as music, drama, robotics, etc.
While no doubt their are critics of this school, I am not one of them. They are meeting a need and they are not cutting corners. They are not answering to a charter management organization whose bottom line is profit.
This is the standard the state charter commission should never waver from. Unfortunately, this has not been the case in the past, let’s pray that with new members now on the commission, it will be the case in the future.