Finalists selected to lead new charter school

rheaton@beaufortgazette.comDecember 25, 2012 

  • If you go:

    Bridges Preparatory School will host an informational session about the Paideia methodology that will be used at the school.

    The session, at 6 p.m. Jan. 8 at the Boys & Girls Club of the Beaufort Area, will answer questions about the method, based on 12 principles of student-centered learning. The principles include teaching students to be good citizens and the notion that schools should aim to prepare students for lifelong learning.

    To attend, email info@bridgesprepartoryschool.org. The event is free and open to the public.

A new charter school in Beaufort County could have a principal by the end of January.

Organizers of Bridges Preparatory School, a charter school expected to open in the fall of 2013, have selected three finalists for the head of school position and plan to hear presentations from them in early January.

The three finalists, selected from a field of about 25 applicants, have all been principals in the past. They are former Florence County educator Melesia Walden; Barbara Baxter, who has been an administrator at schools in Beaufort and Jasper counties; and former Beaufort Academy headmaster Emeriel Hubbard .

Walden, who lives on Folly Beach, retired as human resources director for Florence School District 3 in 2011. She then worked for a year training first-year teachers as a consultant for the district.

She's been the principal of two elementary schools in that district -- Olanta Elementary and Main Street Elementary -- and said she applied for the position because she missed "the education environment."

"As a principal, you always have the opportunity to make changes to something that's already there," she said. "But to start from the ground up and build a school community ... that's a principal's dream."

Baxter previously was a principal at Hardeeville Elementary School, and an assistant principal at Hilton Head Island Elementary. She most recently was a principal at a charter school in the Bronx, but left that position and moved back to Bluffton in 2010.

Baxter said she was drawn to Bridges Prep by the Paideia methodology. She says she has read a lot about those methods, which focus on adapting curriculum to each students' needs and encourage students to be life-long learners and good citizens.

She also is eager help give the community a school with kindergarten through 12th grade. Bridges Prep will initially serve kindergartners through sixth-graders, but one grade will be added each year.

Hubbard, who lives on Callawassie Island, has been a principal at charter and private schools in South Carolina and Georgia. He most recently was the principal at the sixth- through ninth-grade Palmetto Scholars Academy in North Charleston, which, like Bridges Prep, is in the S.C. Public Charter School District. He also was the headmaster of St. Andrews, a private school in Savannah.

Hubbard said he's always enjoyed building new programs at schools from the ground up, and sees beginning from scratch at Bridges Prep as an extension of that.

Charlie Calvert, the chairman of the school's search committee, said the school hopes theyname a principal by mid-January.

Once a head of school is selected, the school will begin hiring for 20 or so other positions at the school, including teachers, assistants, counselors and other staff.

The school plans to enroll 360 students from kindergarten through sixth grade. The student body will grow as grades are added each year.

About 250 students have applied, Calvert said. Applications for enrollment will be accepted through Jan. 15, and a lottery will be held if there are more applicants than spots available.

Though the school will be in or around Beaufort, a location has not been chosen, Calvert said.

Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/IPBG_Rachel.

Related content:

New Beaufort County school Bridges Prep OK'd by state charter district; July 12, 2012

Proposed charter school could open in fall 2013; March 5, 2012

Charter school committee plans K-12 school; Nov. 22, 2011

National Paideia Center

Bridges Preparatory School

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