Fulton Leadership Academy opened in 2010 as Georgia’s first single-gender public charter school for boys. The school is authorized by the State Charter Schools Commission and serves students in grades 6-12 in Fulton and Clayton counties as well as the city of Atlanta south of I-20.
The school was founded by Superintendent Richardean Golden Anderson. As part of its mission, Fulton Leadership Academy seeks to provide a rigorous academic environment that equips students for college and future careers and empowers them to become productive civic leaders. The school currently has a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) focus and a thematic approach that integrates experiences in aeronautics.
Nash Alexander the III became principal of Fulton Leadership Academy prior to the start of the current school year.
“We’re an all-boys charter school that works to provide exceptional instruction to our students,” says Alexander. “We focus on serving young men of color but are open to all.”
Before serving as the school’s principal, Alexander had more than two-and-a-half decades of experience as a traditional public school educator, including leading high schools and middle schools in the city of Atlanta and Clayton County.
Since arriving, Alexander has worked to place a greater emphasis on aviation in the school’s curriculum. Previously, the school partnered with organizations and discussed aviation, but it was not an integral part of the school’s curriculum. Starting next year, FLA high school students will be able to choose three aviation pathways: Pilot, Aerospace Engineering and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drones). The school also plans to add components of the aviation curriculum to middle school students.
The free curriculum for the pathways will be supplied by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. Alexander says he’s working to incorporate aviation on a greater level because that’s what school founders intended and research has shown that aviation is engaging to male students. He says aviation will go from being a theme at Fulton Leadership Academy to a true focus.
“My hope is that as we implement this aviation curriculum that students will immerse themselves and just be excited about the learning that is taking place,” says Alexander. “I want them to learn and fall in love with the math, computer coding and design that’s part of the curriculum. They don’t have to go into a career in aviation, but I hope they learn skills or are introduced to an aspect of aviation that excites them, and they can use in their future professions.”
The school also plans to open a new computer lab with Apple computers in the upcoming school year to provide students with additional hands-on learning opportunities. The majority of the funding for the lab came from private donations.
Under Alexander’s leadership, the school is focusing on steady academic and enrollment growth. To make this a reality, the school has hired an instructional coach to assist teachers and is placing more emphasis on data-driven instruction. Alexander also says he’s worked hard to hire quality teachers.
Alexander also hopes to continue the school’s strong graduation rate. In 2017, the school’s first graduating class had a 96 percent graduation rate. Last year, 100 percent of the school’s seniors graduated.
Alexander first heard about Fulton Leadership Academy at his church. His initial visit was to see how the church could partner with FLA. However, once school administrators learned about his experience and educational background, they quickly began to consider him as a candidate for school principal.
“I had known about the school in the community. However, once I visited Fulton Leadership Academy, I learned what a great and hidden jewel it is,” says Nash. “We’ve got to let more people know that we’re here to offer young men of color an experience like none other. There is a true brotherhood here, not only among students but faculty as well.”
That brotherhood is one of the things that appeals to Junior Kedar Saleem. Saleem entered Fulton Leadership Academy as a shy student after being homeschooled. He’s now a school leader.
“Fulton Leadership Academy has played a large part in assisting me as a communicator,” says Saleem. “It’s a smaller school where you get a chance to know everybody. I’ve really benefited from the relationships.”
Saleem recently received a grant from the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation that allowed him to host an event to help inform more in the community about child hunger. He also oversaw a volunteer effort to put together 50 bags of healthy snacks for an organization that works with homeless youth.
Alexander believes Fulton Leadership Academy is the unique position to benefit more male students of color like Saleem. He says faculty can offer students not only academic but life lessons as well.
“Fulton Leadership Academy has to be here so these young men know they have value,” says Alexander. “My hope is that these scholars take the principles they learn here to transform our community. I want them to go to college and return here to give back.”