MONTGOMERY — Representatives of a planned private school met with local community members and civic leaders this week to provide details on the school.
Montgomery Preparatory Academy, scheduled to debut on Aug. 22, is expected to attract students in grades 6-12 for both onsite and virtual instruction. It will be MLMPWI's first non-profit school, officials say. Through My Life My Power World Inc., MPA is a Cognia global corporate accredited school system, as well as having Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) accreditation, school officials said.
On March 17, the West Virginia Department of Education received a notice of intent to operate a nonpublic school in Montgomery from MLMPI (My Life My Power International) Preparatory Academy School System of Miami, Fla., according to an email from Christy Day, director of the WVDE Office of Communications. "There is no formal vetting required by state law beyond an on-site evaluation (in-person or virtual) by the accrediting organization if/when they submit for WVDE recognition of accreditation in accordance with WVBE Policy 2330," Day wrote. "Accreditation is not required of any nonpublic school to operate as an exemption (k) or (b) school (§18-8-1)."
Daniel Puder, founder and CEO of My Life My Power® World Inc., said during a visit to Montgomery this past week he feels the school's model is the wave of the future in education circles.
"I believe that school has two real purposes," Puder said Tuesday. "One is learning how to learn. Everything we learn today in every single book that we read is going to be on our cellphone. You can Google everything there is.
"My goal is to help kids learn processes and systems, so when they get out of school and go to college or trade school or get a career or job, then they have the ability to go in and think and learn a process and become successful."
"The second part of it is building a network and relationships," he added.
Puder said a minimum of 50 students is the goal for first-year enrollment in Montgomery, with a possible goal of 150 students eventually.
MPA representatives were slated to hold meetings last week with community and civic leaders. Officials were also in town to continue with paperwork and other tasks to get the school up and running, as well as exploring staff alignment.
The MLMPI schools, based in south Florida, usually offer a 1 to 20 teacher to student ratio, maybe a little less depending on certain factors, said Puder. They also offer tutors and other support staff.
Misty McCune will serve as the dean of students in Montgomery, as well as acting as a student advisor. "Misty will be overseeing and running our campus," said Puder. There will also be support staff. "If we have 50 students, we could have anywhere from three to six staff depending, but we could also have another 20 to 30 volunteers."
"Misty obviously knows the community around here, she's in the community with Mark (Ryan), as well as the mayor (Greg Ingram) and some other people," he said. "We want to show them what I believe is possible with what we've done.
"With more flexible schedules, definitely with economic development that Mark and some other people are bringing to the city" and with the school's entrepreneurship courses, progress should be made, Puder said. And, "If a kid works in the morning, we can do an afternoon (school session for them)." It's "more flexible based on their needs than the traditional campuses."
While teaching students the importance of networking, Puder says the goal is multi-faceted. "Every student that graduates will have an opportunity to make a LinkedIn account, will have a resume, will have budgeting, will have basic skill sets where they can go out and they can utilize those things to build relationships and network. With a traditional school, you go class to class; you have one teacher teaching you the content. With us, you have digital-based learning on the content, so we're spending one-on-one time ... to get to know every kid."
Guillermo Queris, who works with compliance and scholarship for the company, said, "Initially, we just had to make an intent to introduce our organization and they just have to approve. Luckily we were already a pre-existing organization in Florida. We still have to register our private school in the state of West Virginia, which we're just waiting for that specific time." A business license must also be obtained.
"We will be applying for individual accreditation as soon as the doors open," said Puder. "By the end of the year we should have that. So, any kid that graduates with us, they can go into the military, they can go into colleges and universities, they can go to trade schools."
"Having the mayor come down and actually see what we've created, I look at it as the future of what education should be: project-based learning with content, with real life scenarios," said Puder. "If you graduate high school today without understanding how to balance a checkbook or do a budget, without having a resume or a LinkedIn account, without knowing how to get what you want in a career ... or how to research the basic fundamentals, and do it as debt-free as possible," students have a step up, he said.
A Montgomery contingent, led by Ingram, visited Florida last fall to watch five schools in action. "Their model is a little bit different, but they're not 50 out of 50," Ingram said in an interview earlier this year. "It's a pretty good program.
"They're more of an individualized, one-one-one student (scenario), to find out what they want to do in life and they go after that career for them. And when I say that, they teach them what goes along with that career."
He said he interviewed some of the Miami students, and "they absolutely love the program."
"It's a little more flexible model, and it works with families real well, and again, it's individualized," the mayor said. "I think this school is going to give parents an option; it's going to be an option that works. And it gives their kids tools to get a job."
"(Fayette County Schools) will not be involved in this at all, thank God," Ingram added. "That's coming from a mayor that's been on the wrong end of their stick for a long time."
McCune grew up in the area, attending school in East Bank and Smithers. "I have a son who was the first child in West Virginia to undergo this program," she said. He has shown solid improvement in the classroom and "he's excited to get up and get all his programs, and that's just virtually (from a Florida campus)," she said. "Bringing this in is very exciting because now he's actually getting a bricks-and-mortar" site and will socially interact with children his own age, she noted.
"My initial reason that I invested was my relationship with Daniel," said investor J. D'Alba, president of Sun Fresh Water LLC. "He's very transparent, he's very candid, and he has integrity. I believe in breaking problems down to their simplest core, and the basic core of the My Life My Power program is significance breeds success. ... "
"The concept of helping others, helping your community, being part and contributing not only to yourself, to your family, to your extended family, to the entire community is a core value that is invaluable to building a strong family, a strong community, a strong nation."
Mark Ryan is director of business development and vice-president for Ranger Scientific, which donated the east wing of the company's building (which formerly housed Montgomery public schools) at 550 5th Ave. for the academy.
Through community participation, "We're set on developing multiple endowments to support underprivileged kids whose parents are in financial need for the sole purpose of supplementing scholarships so that we can reach as many families as possible," said Ryan. "Those efforts are under way, as well as the full scholarships."
Tuition cost is one of the main things parents express concern about, McCune said. With the various partners and benefactors, she said, "It's important to let families know they are working so hard to put the kids above the costs."
Scholarship applications will be accepted until May 15. According to Queris, potential eligibility is "based on whether a student completed 45 active days (in the previous year) of attendance at a public school," in addition to having a West Virginia student ID.
Minus possible withholdings such as scholarship aid, tuition cost will be $4,298 per year.
A registration fee of around $350 is required, but Puder said that will be waived in the first year. "It's a whole different scenario here, because we have a donated building, which cuts a lot of our costs," he said. "We're really working to make it financially feasible for parents." He said he expects about 90 percent of students to be on scholarship in the first year.
"I was one of those that was a little cynical," said McCune. "We've had a lot of people make a lot of promises in this area and they come in and, just as quickly, they leave. These guys aren't intending to do that. They're really putting down roots here and are determined to stay here and make a difference."
Enrollment is currently being accepted. For more on the school, financial aid and scholarships and what Montgomery Preparatory Academy offers students, visit www.montgomerypa.org. Information on the Hope Scholarship can be obtained at www.hopescholarshipwv.com.
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