Clayton County School Board approves Utopia

The Clayton County School Board meeting had many exciting things to happen during the monthly meeting held on November 4th. During the public participation portion of the Clayton County School Board meeting several people stood and voiced their concern for the school system. One story shined above the rest.


After being denied three times by the Clayton County Board of Education a local charter school can finally rejoice after being approved by the state for a five year charter plan. 


The Utopian Academy for the Arts was recently approved by the State Charter Schools Commission for a five year charter school. They were the only school to be approved by the Commission out of seven other proposed charter schools. With support from State Representative Valencia Stovall and other members of Clayton County schools, Utopian Academy founder Artesius Miller was eager to announce the approval to the Clayton County School Board despite being turned down three times by the school board.  


“It brings me great pleasure to announce that Utopian Academy of the Arts has been approved as a State Charter School Commission school” Miller said. “Since 2009 our board got together an application to present to the school district and for three years in a row we were denied and felt that we were not given a fair process. After three years of being denied it’s a beautiful thing to see that we have been given a fair opportunity. Despite not being approved by the Clayton County School Board we would like to work with them”. 


“We’re preparing our students at very early ages to exposure in the arts, all of our students will take classes with the same peers, and we’re also featuring a very unique curriculum called expeditionary learning which has shown to have a very strong track record for the schools it was implemented in” Miller said. “We are unique, we are Utopian”.


During the Executive Session Mr. Miller took time to give more insight on the new academy. 

“There were three primary things that was the driving force behind getting the school approved was number one the need, we had not been given a fair shot in the past, the second thing was we had a very strong application that was stellar, third we have a very strong board, and a very strong vision.” Miller said. “The benefits of the academy is it offers something different, we are the second charter middle school within the county, there is no admission or enrollment criteria. “We want to be able to show that students of Clayton County can exceed state standards on benchmarks, they can exceed benchmarks on assessments, and that the students of Clayton County are deserving of something different, and can excel in an environment that is very different than what the traditional school offers” Miller said. “We want to give a fair opportunity to every child because that’s what charter schools are all about, giving students and opportunity despite race, religion or geographical location”. 


After the board meeting the question “does Clayton County plan on working with the Utopian Academy” was asked.


“They are not under our authority, we wouldn’t do anything to hurt them, but we have 52,000 kids to take care of. We encouraged him [Artesius Miller] to go to the state. Because of our stretched budget we could not approve Mr. Miller, so if he can serve his kids well I wish him the best” Clayton County School Board Chairman Dr. Pam Adamson said.


 Funding for the charter school, is operated completely on state funding. The school offers a longer school year and programs of the arts such as dramatic, media, and culinary. There is enrollment available for 300 students. The new academy is set to open for the 2014-2015 school year. 

Other highlights of the school board meeting include Clayton County schools recently became fully accredited until 2018. This comes as a relief after losing their accreditation in 2008, battling with the State Board of Education, and only being on provisional accreditation for the past few years. 

“Our schools, administration, and our community completed the exhaustive process to achieve full district accreditation. Our works successfully withstood tests of site team visit last April allowing us to become fully accredited”, Director of Fine Arts and coordinator of Advanced Education Sacs Process Monica Briley said. 


Another highlight during board recognition was for the Point South Middle School group who won first place in the middle school division for the governor’s red ribbon poster board contest. Point South Middle School competed with schools across the state and won. The poster was displayed in Atlanta during Red Ribbon Week, and will now be displayed in the Clayton County School System building. 


After congratulating the winning students Chairman Adamson quoted Clayton County School System motto and said “great things are happening in Clayton County schools”.