New charter school targets August 2023 opening

Published 2:42 pm Tuesday, September 27, 2022

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NATCHEZ — A 1985 South Natchez-Adams High School graduate learned Monday afternoon that her pitch for a charter school in Natchez was the only one approved in Mississippi this year.

The Mississippi Charter School Authorizing Board approved the Instant Impact Educational Services application to begin a kindergarten through eighth-grade charter school in Natchez. It will be called Instant Impact Global Prep, said JoAnn Rucker, CEO of Instant Impact Educational Services. It will be the company’s first school.

Instant Impact Educational Services CEO JoAnn Rucker

“I don’t have the words to express,” Rucker said. “The board and I were extremely happy when we heard the news.”

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This year was Impact’s second time applying to open a charter school in Natchez. Last year, her application was denied, but it taught Rucker much about the process.

“At this stage, it wasn’t quite a surprise. We were surprised at the beginning of Stage 3 (of the application process). When we got those results, it made us believe this may actually happen.”

Instant Impact Global Prep, as yet, does not have a location, nor is it accepting applications. Rucker said she and her board would shortly release a series of dates and times to provide more information to the community.

“Those dates will be coming out no later than Thursday. We will have in-person opportunities for people to learn more about our plans and digital opportunities,” Rucker said.

She is targeting August 2023 to begin classes for kindergarten through second-grade students.

“First, we have to sign a contract with the state. After taking all the necessary steps required by law, we will work on opening the school.”

Rucker said because of the consolidation of some schools in the Natchez-Adams School District, some school buildings could be available. She said she had an initial meeting with Natchez Superintendent Fred Butcher. She said if one of the NASD buildings does not work out, others are available.

“This is really a grassroots effort. I graduated from South Natchez. All of the board live in Natchez. All of us are passionate about education and this community,” Rucker said.

The school board includes:

• Joyce Cornett, board chair, is a postmaster with the U.S. Postal Service.

• Ellen Edwards, vice chair, is a retired Mississippi Department of Education employee.

• Gloria Chatman Brooks, who works for the nursing department handling technology issues at Alcorn State University.

• Trumeka Clark, who owns a catering business.

• and Edna Davis, who works at Walmart.

Rucker earned a degree at Alcorn State University and has been in education for more than 28 years, working as a teacher, technology specialist, curriculum coordinator, assistant principal, and assistant superintendent in three different school districts.

21st-century skills

Rucker said the school would use project-based learning to teach 21st-century skills, which industries and businesses seek in employees.

“With this particular model of learning, we will build those skills from kindergarten up,” she said.

Kindergarten through third grade will focus on learning how to communicate and solve problems.

“Students in those grades will learn and sharpen skills of communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking,” she said.

Fourth and fifth grades will focus on building leadership skills.

“They will focus on their community. What issues are going on, both scientific and social? We want them to learn how to problem solve things that are relevant, not abstract.”

Middle school students — sixth through eighth grades — will have the opportunity to choose a STEM, science, and technology-based pathway or the civic pathway.

“Not everyone wants to be a scientist. Some students may want to become mayor one day,” she said.

Essentials to all students, subjects like math, reading, and history, will be taught all along the way.

Rucker said she looks forward to meeting with the community and those interested in the school.

“I believe what we have to offer is an opportunity — and opportunity for families and students and an opportunity for the full community as a whole,” she said. “We are all committed to Natchez.”