By Wendell P. Simpson
From the ashes of a failed educational endeavor, a phoenix of academic excellence has arisen to glorious heights.
On Friday, June 18, the Global Leadership Academy Charter School (GLA) celebrated the ground breaking of its new $11 million facility at 4601 Girard Avenue in West Philadelphia. The gala was attended by a bevy of Philly’s academicians and concerned citizens, including State Senator Anthony H. Williams.
“Sen. Williams has been supportive of school choice even when charters weren’t so acceptable,” said Dawn Chavous, Williams’ Chief of Staff. “And the senator is a supporter of Dr. Booker and her distinguished career as a educator.”
Three years ago, GLA CEO Naomi Johnson Booker took over a school with a record of abject failure and an $800,000 budget deficit. In the intervening years, the school has evolved into a stellar institution with an AYP approval rating, a $2 million fund balance and a mile long waiting list of students and parents looking to avail themselves of the school’s superlative academic environment.
The school has also recently been inducted into the National Elementary Honor Society. Dr. Booker credits a coalition of exceptional students, concerned parents and committed staff and board members for the turn around.
“Our collective of parents, students and a brilliant staff have made tremendous strides toward our goal of academic excellence,” said Booker during the ground breaking ceremony, “and today is major step toward the culmination of our goals.”
The goal is sublime—but certainly attainable given the talent assembled around the GLA brain trust. Dr. Booker’s resume is a litany of educational prosperity: she managed 15 schools as a Philadelphia School District area superintendent; her years as a principle at a failing Clymer School saw a significant turnaround in academic achievement; as a Regional Vice President for Curriculum and Instruction for a charter school management firm operating in Pennsylvania, Washington, and Delaware, Dr. Booker developed strategies for administration and staff development as well as schemes to for financial improvements.
The rest of her staff is just as impressive with a experience in disciplines as varied as finances, program development, administration and academics.
GLA is a K-8 school currently contained in two campuses, one in West Philadelphia, the other located in Northeast Philly. The school’s motto, “Preparing Future Leaders of Tomorrow” has become a sacred text. In addition to classroom academics, GLA students will also be availed the opportunity to travel, locally and abroad, and to participate in off- campus activities such as the Civil Air Patrol program, a precursor to future involvement in aeronautics.
An essential component of the GLA syllabus is a hardy disciplinary regimen.
“Our approach is global,” said Booker, “hence, the name. Our students are exposed to international ideas. We are cognizant that, 25 years form now, they will be the leaders
“We want to create future leaders and productive citizens,” said Booker. “Young people are going to confront a plethora of new issues and new challenges that will test their skills and abilities. We are providing our students with the tools to meet those challenges head on, with vigor, confidence and efficacy.”
“It takes a village,” said Lorenzo Hough, President of the GLA Board of Trustees, echoing a time honored tradition of coalition and ecumenical-ism. “We have developed within our school a culture that will build scholasticism and future leadership. That happens only through the efforts of the excellent team we’ve built. And Dr. Booker—well, she’s a game changer.”
Hough is also quite cognizant of the importance of technological acumen in training good future leaders—and he subscribes to the notion that the future is forged in the halls of academia today.
“We are a flat world,” Hough says metaphorically. “Through technology, we instill a foundation for excellence. We instill expectations now…”