A longtime Oklahoma City private school has closed (citing severe financial setbacks that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic), a new public charter school will offer free education in its place.
The W.K. Jackson Leadership Academy is now enrolling pre-kindergarten through third grade for its first school year this fall.
Authorized under Rose State College, the charter school will operate in an education center attached to the St. John Missionary Baptist Church, 5700 N. Kelley Ave.
The prominent northeast quadrant church has housed St. John Christian Heritage Academy since 1989, but the private elementary school will close this year.
The new charter school’s executive director, Gloria Anderson, said the academy plans to add more grade levels in the future. Officials have a longterm goal of, eventually, establishing a middle and high school.
“The level of education that was provided here, I think we will be able to provide that to more students in the community,” said Mrs. Anderson, a longtime public school principal.
Although administrators hope the student body will grow, they intend to maintain a small-community environment with individualized attention for students and required parental involvement.
Leroy Kirk, a member of the academy’s school board, called it “public school with a personal touch.”
The namesake of the charter school is former St. John pastor, the late Rev. Walter K. Jackson.
Mr. Kirk said Rev. Jackson was an “outstanding community leader.”
Rev. Jackson, who died at 89 in 2003, was a well-known civil rights advocate who led a 1969 sanitation workers strike in Oklahoma City.
“If we could meet his expectations in education, we would be honored,” Mr. Kirk commented.
Mr. Kirk, a member of St. John Baptist, said some in the church community are disappointed to see the private school disappear, but others are excited about the new school’s future.
The charter school is centered on STEM — science, technology, engineering and math. It will implement a highly structured school day, even for the youngest grades, Dr. Anderson noted.
The academy incorporates instructional methods from Advancement Via Individual Determination — a college-readiness system known in public schools as AVID.
The academy’s education is also inspired by the Marva Collins Way, Dr. Anderson said.
Marva Collins was a renowned African-American American educator who opened a successful private school on Chicago’s south side.
Her methods garnered her national renown, as her students thrived under accelerated learning that incorporated literary classics, critical thinking and reading phonics.
Dr. Anderson said high expectations are a cornerstone of the leadership academy.
“We want to create that whole culture that they want to come to school, they’re excited about coming to school and parents feel safe about them coming to the school,” she said.