My Visit to Westside Atlanta Charter School
Westside Atlanta Charter School is an APS charter school that focuses on language and literacy. It is a school with very humble beginnings, opening last fall in an empty retail space in a mixed-use building that the school then renovated into classrooms for students. Today, it is a site with two locations within a few feet of each other, teaching students in grades K-3. It is expected to expand each year until the school serves grades K-8.
According to the school’s principal, Pete Settlemeyer, kids at Westside come from Bankhead to Buckhead. It did appear to be true as it is one of the few schools I’ve seen in APS with noticeable racial diversity.
Mr. Pete, as the kids address him, has a self-described “Pete the Cat” alter ego and looks forward to the day that he can be that cool. As far as I’m concerned, he’s already cool, “…rocking in his new school shoes.”
The school kicked off its book fair earlier this month just in time for standards based report cards to go home with students, which is intended to reflect student performance on Balanced Literacy, Mathematical Inquiry, Integrated Science and Social Studies, Project-Based Learning and Design Thinking. Their classroom instruction is based on the Stanford’s d.School. The d.school’s concept design thinking involves working through a problem with empathy and ideation for solutions. In the early grades, students are expected to learn the common vocabulary so that over time they can be prepared to implement the design with fidelity.
Students in Ms. Katie Lewis’ class shared their enthusiasm for cool experiences like “no shoes for the day” (but socks are worn) and “treasure box prizes” to encourage students to earn good behavior and promote engagement. I met student ambassadors like Kelis who welcomed us to each classroom so that teachers were not interrupted during instruction.
Eager to involve parents, teachers and the community at large as they grow, Westside has developed a community perception survey which will allow parents and teachers to give feedback this fall and in the spring.
There are three big partners for the school: Brock Homes, Columbia Residential and the Atlanta Housing Authority. But I also saw a Hands on Atlanta office that looked quite inviting.