Two Fulton County charter schools are changing their names. Latin Grammar School and Latin College Prep will now be known as RISE Grammar School and RISE PREP Collectively, the schools will be known as The RISE Schools. RISE is short for “Reaching Innovative Solutions in Education.” Students, parents, staff members and other community stakeholders were all part of a committee that spearheaded the facelift.
School leaders say the name change and rebranding effort was needed to give the school a fresh start after the conviction of the schools’ founder, Chris Clemons.
Davion Lewis, Executive Director of The RISE Schools (pictured left), says despite shoring up financial and other school procedures, Latin Grammar and Latin College Prep found it difficult to overcome negative public perception affiliated with the names of its previous schools. Lewis says he and board members began contemplating a name change after the schools were repeatedly used as examples of what not to do during a state financial training session that occurred last spring. He also said the schools found it nearly impossible to raise any money because although numerous companies and people who were interested in the school’s mission, they were hesitant to attach their names to schools that were previously affiliated with Clemons.
In fact, despite being awarded grants from the state, Lewis said the schools were told the money
could not be released until the school was able to demonstrate that none of its employees, board members or volunteers had any affiliation with Clemons. Lewis is hopeful this change will help the school move forward and overcome that negative perception.
“This will open up opportunities that previously did not exist,” says Lewis. “There’s a lot of excitement and a lot of hope as a result of this change.”
Earlier this month, Lewis and Georgia Charter Schools Association President and CEO Tony Roberts were featured in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution story regarding the new name and other changes ahead for the Fulton County charter schools. Roberts believes the schools are moving in the right direction.
“I hope these schools are able to successfully rebrand themselves, and people will eventually forget that Chris Clemons was affiliated with them,” says Roberts.”
The school recently held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the name change. The ceremony was attended by East Point Mayor Deana Holiday Ingraham, members of the East Point City Council, Kimberly Dove with the Fulton Board of Education and Kenneth Mason from the State Board of Education.
In addition to the name change, the school also plans to make curriculum changes as it heads into its next charter term. Lewis says the school plans to take a more holistic approach. He says students will receive personalized learning with an emphasis on STEAM education at the elementary level and STEM education at the middle school level. The school’s plan to use the responsive classroom and restorative justice models to impact school culture. Lewis says the school plans to offer Latin as a foreign language for the time being but will begin evaluating its future at the school moving forward.
During its next charter term, the schools plan to look into potentially merging into operating as one school. In the meantime, they will continue to operate with two separate governing boards. Lewis also says The Rise Schools eventually hopes to serve high school students.
“My vision coming out of renewal is to have an elementary, a middle school and a high school providing a great educational option for the residents and community in the city of East Point,” says Lewis.
As part of a long-term vision, The RISE Schools recently purchased Oak Knoll Elementary School from Fulton County Schools and are making a number of security, classroom and building improvements prior to the first day of school. Lewis says the decision by the Fulton Board of Education to sell the schools the property is a sign that public trust is returning and board members are confident about the schools’ future.