At the S.C. Public Charter School District, we know our teachers and leaders work tirelessly to ensure our students are reaching their personal goals and academic aspirations. We know the work isn’t always easy, but we appreciate the commitment and the consistent drive to better the educational outcomes for students and families. We love to spotlight leaders, educators, support staff and volunteers who exemplify excellence in their schools, classrooms and communities. Stacy Paris of East Point Academy does just that. As East Point’s Testing and ESOL Coordinator, we spoke with her recently about her journey with East Point Academy and we’re excited to share what we’ve learned about her vision to put #KidsFirst.
IN YOUR OWN WORDS, WHY AND FOR WHOM WAS EAST POINT CREATED?
I joined the East Point Academy team in 2013. I’ve served in various roles and have had the privilege to watch the school grow and change. We’ve grown into a big, beautiful community that works hard to meet the needs of its students. From the facilities to the curriculum and programs we are constantly making strides toward excellence. East Point was created to give students a broader knowledge base in terms of language and the world marketplace while also helping students balance the arts. We provide the chance to develop a well-rounded human as well as excellent scholars.
YOU CHOSE TO PURSUE THE CHARTER ROUTE – WHY?
One of the things I love about the charter world is that we are giving students all the things we are required to give but we also get to give them a lot more. For example, a second language, immersion with the arts as well as sports programs. It is very exciting that we offer new opportunities for our students and can change these opportunities as the needs of our students change.
WHY IS EAST POINT SUCH AN IMPORTANT CHOICE FOR YOUR COMMUNITY?
Well, in our area, we are the only school to offer Chinese as a primary language, but we are also small enough for personal instruction and small class sizes, which I think is appealing to parents. We have a strong sense of community with our parents, teachers and students. It really does feel more like a family rather than a school environment with open communication for each of our stakeholders to know that if there is an issue, it will be addressed.
IN WHAT WAYS HAVE YOUR SCHOOL LEADERS BEEN SUPPORTIVE OF YOUR ROLE AT EAST POINT?
In my role, I try to provide my school leaders with the resources and information they need to be well informed and developed without overloading them. My school leaders understand that what I do is important, and it helps to drive the instruction in terms of results from testing. They also understand that proper testing coordination is important for East Point’s accountability to the district, the S.C. Department of Education and the state of South Carolina.
WHAT INITIATIVES ARE YOU TAKING TO ENSURE TESTING IS ACCESSIBLE, EQUITABLE AND HIGH QUALITY FOR ALL STUDENTS AT EAST POINT?
We provide devices for our students so that it’s not a “new” experience when our students sit down for online testing, which is also conducted in a familiar classroom setting. Working with other members of the East Point team, I also make sure to communicate to parents the details of our testing information through many different channels so all parties, including students and teachers, can interact and engage with questions or concerns. We also include accessibility tools built into the testing materials to provide access and equity to all groups of students, but especially to our special education population.
WHAT ARE SOME HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR ROLE?
One of the greatest highlights of my role at East Point is having the opportunity to work alongside the team at the South Carolina Public Charter School District. If there are questions that members of the team can’t answer, they point me in the right direction, and I just appreciate that support so much. Personally, I know my effort is not wasted because this is data that we use on many different levels. What I do is useful, it is meaningful, and it touches every student in the building.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT AT EAST POINT?
I’ve done a little bit of everything during my time here. I have taught in the classroom, worked in curriculum and have written grants; just to name a few. Other than being a student or parent, I’ve been able to experience almost every aspect of being involved with East Point Academy. There has been something great about each role I have undertaken during my time with the school, but the people have been the game-changer for me. It’s awesome to want to come to work because you work with great people.
WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUR GREATEST CHALLENGE HAS BEEN?
ESOL has been a learning curve for me, but I have a huge heart for student populations that have needs – whatever they may be. For me, this is a group worth fighting for and I want to do well by them. With testing, my greatest challenge has been ensuring access to the internet during the pandemic and getting our off-campus students on campus to test.
WHY DO YOU THINK SCHOOL CHOICE IS IMPORTANT FOR THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA?
Choice in the ability to have your child’s needs met is always important. We all have different needs as parents, educators and students and we need to have different avenues to meet these needs, whether they are academic, emotional or physical. I think of the charter world and the school choice movement as problem solving champions and it is our goal to be a solution for students.
IF YOU HAD WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT FOR YOUR STUDENTS, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
First, the ability to test does not determine your future ability to be successful in life. Instead, this takes hard work, problem solving and people skills. Second, be kind to others and to yourself. Truly, I love our motto of Be Nice-Work Hard. We say it everyday to our students. It serves as a reminder for the adults that hear it too. If we go through life doing those two things we are surely on the path to success.