Confluence Connect 2019/2020
Popsicles & Photo Booths at South City Academy
Connecting With Students During Covid-19
At Confluence Academies, our teachers value human connection, something that can be difficult to achieve through virtual learning. Early in the 2020/2021 school year, South City Academy’s third grade teachers organized a small, outdoor event for families—incorporating all CDC guidelines for social distancing and masks. The event treated students and their families to popsicles, a photo booth, and goodies to take home. It also provided then an opportunity to connect face-to-face with school staff for the first time this year.
“We wanted everyone to feel that for one day things were normal,” said Principal Pam Davenport. “At South City Academy, connecting with our students and families is important, and we love building relationships with new and current families. We hope this event is the first of many during the 2020/2021 school year.”
Approximately 50 families stopped by to connect with teachers, grab a popsicle, snap a picture in the photo booth, and pick up their child’s progress report.
A Message From Our CEO
This year, students at Confluence Academies—like at many other schools—saw a very different start to their 2020/2021 school year. In the interest of public health and safety, we adjusted our approach to teaching students, remaining aware and flexible to the ever-changing environment. In addition to virtual classes, we set up virtual learning support centers at our three elementary schools—Aspire Academy, Old North Academy, and South City Academy—where we were able to physically accommodate students and families who needed technology, supervision, or educational support.
While we want our students to continue their education in spite of difficult circumstances, their health and safety are of utmost importance in all of our network’s decisions. We are in close contact with the state and local health authorities along with other school districts as we weigh each option with a focus on your child’s’ physical, emotional, mental, and educational needs.
During these months, we have also been observing, gathering information, and collecting feedback from our students and families to envision what returning to in-person learning may look like. Our goal is to bring back Pre-K–fifth grade students to our three elementary schools for in-person learning in the fall. In preparation, we are implementing a number of procedures for tracking and responding to COVID-19 cases:
- We are closely monitoring COVID-19 data trends for our region, including test positivity rates, transmission rates, and seven-day averages of new cases.
- We are carefully monitoring in-person activities that have or are continuing to take place as well as our virtual learning support centers and athletics/activities.
We want to take this time to thank our staff, teachers, families, and students for being patient and flexible this year. So far, 2020 has been a memorable year full of change and adjustments. Confluence Academies wants the best for our students and will continue to move forward to provide the educational support and necessary resources for our families.
Esports @ CPA
CPS’s New Game Room & Lounge is Here!
In a time when traditional school sports are suspended because of the coronavirus, video gamers have a clear, tactical advantage—digital competition. Because esports is virtual in nature, Confluence Preparatory Academy’s newest team of Titans can still thrive in a competitive environment, albeit a virtual one.
“By investing in esports, we are investing in our students and the future of technology,” said Dayle Burgdorf, principal of CPA. “We are creating an opportunity to implement innovative ways to teach students game-based learning, using game elements to solve problems.”
In addition to solving problems, esports helps students develop critical communication and teamwork skills, which are necessary to succeed in school, work, and life. When the season begins, students will compete against other students and schools in three games: League of Legends, Rocket League, and Overwatch.
Aspire Academy Introduces Robotics Club & Stepping Team
Aspire Academy Introduces New Robotics Club
This school year, Aspire Academy is proud to announce its new robotics program! This fun and innovative, after-school program will give students the opportunity to discover, explore, and learn new skills through programming robots. They will also compete in the FIRST LEGO League, a global robotics program that provides hands-on learning to middle school students. Aspire Academy students will participate in real-world problem-solving activities where they can develop their critical thinking, coding, and design skills in a fun, interactive environment. Working in teams, students will design functioning robots to solve “game missions” and submit their creation to the FIRST LEGO League challenge. Aspire Academy’s new robotics program is just one of the ways we are incorporating STEM-based learning in and out of the classroom.
Stepping Into Tradition
Stepping, or step-dancing, is a form of synchronized movement in which the entire body is used as an instrument, combining verbal sounds with rhythms created with the hands, feet, and legs. The creative expression is rooted in the “Greek songs” performed by African American fraternities and sororities as early as the 1900s. Aspire Academy is continuing the percussive tradition with Brandi Jones coaching the team of fourth through eighth grade boys and girls. Students practice and perform synchronized routines as a team, displaying their skill, style, and unity. The group is made up of excellent student leaders who are respectful, dedicated, and committed to their team.
A New Look & Sound at GCAA
A New Look for GCAA
Grand Center Arts Academy will welcome back students with colorful new signage encouraging them to reflect, collaborate, create, imagine, and innovate. The new signage is visible at the building’s entrance and for passers-by along Grand Avenue.
Getting a Band Back Together
Even though GCAA’s musicians aren’t able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder or rehearse face-to-face right now, they are still getting a band back together, so to speak. A new, after-school club created by GCAA music department teacher, Brian Vaccaro, gives students a virtual venue to learn and rehearse popular music in the genres of rock, pop, and R&B. The club consists of talented GCAA students including three vocalists, two guitarists, two saxophonists, as well as a bass, keyboard, and trumpet. The group meets online on Thursdays and looks forward to performing together in the same place.
Virtual Success Stories: Confluence Teachers
Dorothy Pino, Old North Academy
Dorothy Pino is Old North Academy’s newest music teacher. If you have a fourth through eighth grader at Old North Academy, you’ve no doubt heard them practicing their recorders for her class. If your student is a little younger, they’ve been learning small percussion instruments, but you certainly already knew and heard that. “It has definitely been a challenge through virtual learning, but it makes me excited to share my passion of music with my students and have my students also be excited to learn,” said Pino. “I am excited to get back into the classroom and hope to get as many instruments in their hands as possible!” When students return to school, they will be using xylophones, glockenspiels, and metallophones as instruments to learn music theory gradually and accurately.
Jessica Sparks, South City Academy
Jessica Sparks has been an educator for 12 years, the last three teaching sixth grade math at South City Academy. Whether she’s teaching virtually or in-person, Sparks takes the time to get to know her students and understand their needs and concerns. “When we first started virtual learning, I was worried my students and I wouldn’t be able to connect as we have in the past,” said Sparks. “Right now, even being virtual, we are building a really strong foundation for when we do return in person. It’s during these times that we truly become a FAMILY.” Jessica has made an effort to continue her sixth grade family traditions, which include: daily announcements, motivational quotes, shout-outs, interactive facts of the day, student recognitions, and weekly and monthly challenges. These activities keep students motivated and encourages participation and engagement.
Cassandra Elam, Aspire Academy
Cassandra Elam is a first-year teacher at Aspire Academy. She teaches sixth grade English and has had an interesting experience teaching virtually. “The strangest part about teaching virtually is not being able to be with the kids physically,” says Elam. When we are together in the classroom, it is easy to pop over to a student and fix the problem or speak to them.” Although it has been a learning curve, teaching virtually has allowed Elam to think creatively on how to engage her students. She has utilized breakout rooms with Zoom and Google Meet to better understand her students’ needs and talk to them one-on-one more easily. She’s proud of her students, who have been very adaptive to the online learning environment. She says they’ve been patient and excellent through the computer! “It only took us a few days to get into the swing of virtual learning,” Elam said. “While students enjoy in-person classes and miss being around their friends and teachers, they have been so great!”
Brian Karvinen, Confluence Preparatory Academy
Brian Karvinen is a physical education teacher and varsity basketball coach at Confluence Preparatory Academy, where he has taught for seven years. While he looks forward to returning to school with his students, Karvinen continues to embrace his virtual learning sessions with the same enthusiasm, passion, and motivation he would in-person. “The hardest part about virtual learning is not having that in-person interaction,” he said. “I want my students to be physically active and mentally well during this time, so keeping the classroom engaging
Michael Howe, Grand Center Arts Academy
Grand Center Arts Academy’s chemistry teacher, Michael Howe, is a seasoned, 41-year teaching veteran. Over these four decades, his teaching methods have evolved, but never quite like this year. Howe has adapted traditional ways of teaching chemistry to the virtual learning space, while accommodating his students’ personalities and learning styles into his overall approach. “I had to build relationships and create ‘relationship trust with students,’” he said. “I realized some students were more introverted and hesitant to turn on their cameras or unmute themselves, so I created smaller group interactions to make the environment less intimidating.” Even though chemistry lends itself to hands-on learning, Howe has found ways to keep his students engaged and motivated. He demonstrates, uses animations, and encourages them to pay closer attention to specific details.
Serving Over 525,000 Meals
Over the summer and while classrooms have been physically closed, Confluence Academies has continued to serve and feed thousands of families in the St. Louis area, easing the food burden for many people in our community.
From March to August 2020, Confluence Academies facilitated more than 525,000 meals for children (students and non-students) and their families, a number that continues to rise. The schools’ business manager, Rene Hughes, coordinates with food vendors, keeping Aspire Academy, Old North Academy, and South City Academy stocked and ready to serve nutritious meals every Monday morning.
“It is in our mission to provide free, high-quality food during this difficult time,” said Hughes. “Our food vendor, Chartwells, has been a tremendous help in preparing and serving nutritious meals to all of our families.”
Meals consist of five, pre-packaged breakfasts and lunches per student—a total of ten perfectly balanced meals for the school week. All children ages 18 and younger can participate and do not need to be a Confluence Academies student. Our network participates in the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, and Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which allows all students a free breakfast and lunch.
- Where: Aspire Academy, Old North Academy, and South City Academy (Compton)
- When: Mondays, 8am-12pm
- What: Five pre-packaged breakfasts and lunches
- Who: Children ages 18 or younger (Need not be a Confluence student Meals available for adults for a fee)
A Little Bit Means a Whole Lot at Old North Academy
The Little Bit Foundation has been a pillar at Old North Academy. Before the pandemic, the organization visited the school every Tuesday, bearing clothes, shoes, coats, hygiene items, laundry items, school supplies, and snacks. During the pandemic, the organization has proven true to its mission as it continues to meet the needs of our students and families.
- Feeding Hope - Offers local mobile food marts and delivers fresh groceries and warm food items to the homes of more than 20 Old North Academy families.
- School Supplies - When school first started and families came to pick up their Chromebook, Little Bit Foundation handed out food bags and 250+ school supply kits.
- Tutoring - When students needed assistance with math and English language arts (ELA), they sent over Saint Louis University students to provide tutoring
for 50 students.
- Essentials - Little Bit Foundation continues to allow our counselors and social workers to order clothing and hygiene items.
“The Little Bit Foundation understands that the needs of our families have not stopped,” said Dr. Leslie Muhammad, Old North Academy principal. “We appreciate and are extremely thankful for the Little Bit Foundation and their consistent generosity to our students and families. We are forever thankful for all that they do for our families. A Little Bit means a whole lot to us at Old North Academy!”
Students at South City Academy Plant a Community Garden
Gardening at South City Academy
South City Academy students are excited to dig into their new community garden. Here, they will learn how to grow food while developing relationships with one another and getting hands-on lessons in horticulture science and nutrition. Some of the fruits, vegetables and herbs may even end up on the school’s lunch menu one day.
“We believe it’s important to help students learn about the importance of where food comes from and how it can provide nutritious benefits to our bodies,” said South City Academy teacher, Jennifer Blaylock. “Although it is a work-in-progress, the garden beds are built and ready for planting this spring.”
Each grade level at South City Academy will have its own gardening bed, and students will decide as a team what they want to plant. Then, they will work together to make their garden grow.
Blaylock, who teaches English as a second language to South City Academy’s kindergarten students, partnered with Gateway Greening to bring the community garden to the school. The garden also had the support of The Dutchtown Association, Urban Eats, St. Anthony’s Food Parish and Alderman Shane Cohn. While the garden has been a community effort, its inspiration was more personal for Blaylock.
“The inspiration for the garden came from my grandmother,” said Blaylock. “She always had a large garden while I was growing up, which is one of my fondest childhood memories.
“It makes me happy that our kids will learn the joy of growing their own food,” she continued. “They may even gain a new appreciation for vegetables.”
A Message From Our CEO: Learning During Covid-19
This year has been difficult for our schools, our families and the entire world due to COVID-19. As you already know, school networks nationwide have extended closures. We, too, have made the difficult decision to extend the closure of all five Confluence Academies campuses through the end of this school year.
We believe it is important to take these measures to help slow the spread of the virus; however, we understand the impact it has on many of our families and are taking measures to help support them. We will continue to provide learning and support services through the network’s last day of school, including:
- eLearning to teach, engage and connect with our students. We have used this time to equip our students with the technology they need to succeed at home, including internet and Chromebooks.
- Free breakfast and lunch program for our students. Four of our schools—Aspire Academy, Old North Academy, Confluence Preparatory Academy and South City Academy—will be serving breakfast and lunch to aid families seven days per week.
During stressful times, it is important to take care of our mental as well as our physical health. Things like catching up on sleep and creating a healthy sleep schedule can help reduce stress. Establishing a routine and exercising daily are also ways to manage anxiety. And, while easier said than done, let’s make sure we listen to facts, not give in to fear and support one another.
Please stay connected with us throughout this time of social distancing. We will be posting updates, lessons, messages and activities from our staff on our social media platforms and our website. Please do not hesitate to reach out with questions about eLearning, getting access to technology, our breakfast/lunch program or mental health. Confluence Academies is committed to your student’s wellbeing and to being a resource for your family.
South City Academy Group Helps Feed Community
Bloom Girls Group
Thanks to a group of South City Academy student volunteers, two local non-profit organizations—St. Louis Area Food Bank and Wings of Hope—are better equipped to feed people in need. The Bloom Girls Group is made up of 12, 6th-8th grade girls at South City Academy. In addition to building friendships with one another, the group focuses on developing leadership skills and using their power for good through community service.
“We focus on topics such as peer relationships, self-confidence, goal setting and being a leader in the school and community,” said Lara Parker, the group’s sponsor and 6th grade ELA (English Language Arts) teacher. “The group provides students an opportunity to become active members in their community while developing positive relationships, acquiring life skills and helping those who need it most.”
The girls have taken on two community service projects this year. They collected more than 450 cans of food to donate to the St. Louis Area Food Bank for families in need; they also helped Wings of Hope package 500 boxes of food for local families.
GCAA Hosts Annual STEAM Night
On February 20, Grand Center Arts Academy hosted its annual STEAM night, welcoming approximately 400 students, families, teachers and exhibitors. In addition to more than 15 STEAM-related interactive exhibits, there were a variety of performances, demonstrations, career booths, student work and activities.
“STEAM night is a great representation of how our students can use their education to create displays that show creativity of science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics,” said Ashley Olson, Head of School. “We invite parents, friends and families of GCAA to see what our students create by uniquely infusing the arts with academics as only GCAA students can.”
The star of the show was a blow-up planetarium, giving students a way to learn about the universe and interact with images and stories from a variety of cultures about the constellations.
10 CPA Students Develop Tech for Fellow Students
Ten CPA students were invited to World Wide Technology (WWT), a St. Louis-based technology service provider, to enhance their coding skills and work alongside WTT iCloud Engineer, Benny Henderson and Akeem Shannon, an entrepreneur and volunteer STEM coach. Together, the group developed TeachersPET, a mobile app that gives students a way to voice and address school or family concerns. Then, the CPA students participated in WWT’s annual hackathon, where they competed against approximately 150 students from 16 area high schools.
After the hackathon, WWT offered graduating seniors the option to apply for summer internships, and Shannon invited CPA students to work with his startup (which will be featured later this year on Shark Tank). Shannon’s company created the Flipstik, a cell phone accessory that mounts to anything, anywhere. Two CPA students, Dariesha Lett (10th) and Ronald Langford (11th), have been working as paid, Flipstik interns, getting a first-hand look at entrepreneurship, public speaking and retail sales.
Pink Out Night @ CPA
As the 2019/2020 Titans basketball season came to an end, CPA’s high school seniors opted to do something a little different. The boy’s and girl’s basketball teams along with the cheer squad decided to raise awareness for Komen Foundation’s cancer research. They hosted a “Pink Out Night” and raised $200 dollars for the organization.
“It was a night to remember, packed with community members, friends and families,” said Angela Prebianca, athletics director for Confluence Academies. “Congratulations to our CPA seniors! We look forward to hearing about your educational and athletic pursuits in college.”
The Pink Out Night also brought a win for the CPA Titans, who beat Cleveland NJROTC 73-40.
Korissa Smith Selected for Three-Week Summer Program at Mizzou
This summer, GCAA sophomore, Korissa Smith, will join more than 300 of Missouri’s most gifted high schoolers for the Missouri Scholars Academy (MSA). She will spend three weeks at Mizzou, experiencing residential college life, academic learning, personal development and leadership training. Students who complete the MSA program receive a certificate of commendation. In addition to a 4.0 GPA, Smith has participated in UMSL’s Bridge Program, plays viola and is a member of the Model United Nations. She has demonstrated excellent leadership and academic capacity, qualities that earned her the MSA recognition.
CPA Sophomore Pursues STEM
Dariesha Lett is an engineering-minded sophomore at CPA who is taking calculated steps to forge for herself a promising career in engineering. This year, Lett’s extracurricular, STEM-related activities include an internship, mentors, engineering conference and hackathon. In early 2020, as a CPA Vibranium Engineering team member, she and nine other classmates competed against other high schools in a technology-based competition called a hackathon. The team identified an opportunity to improve their school and developed a solution using technology. After the hackathon, Lett was one of two CPA students selected for an internship with a local tech startup. In late February, she was selected to attend Missouri S&T’s engineering weekend, introducing her to various career paths in science and technology. While there, she joined the National Society of Black Engineers as a junior engineer. Lett also has two engineering mentors, whom she will be shadowing throughout her high school career.
Old North Academy News
22 Dreams Scholarship Program
Four Old North Academy students have been selected for the 22 Dream Scholarship Program—Payton Birth (6th), Patience Cunningham (7th), Troy Parker (6th) and Deonte’ Ramey (6th). The students have been selected for their exemplary academics, attendance and leadership. They will receive exclusive learning sessions with other area students and will be assigned a mentor who will guide them through middle school, high school and all the way to college. The scholarship program, which is sponsored by KIPP Triumph Academy, guides students from 6th-12th grade, equipping them to make informed decisions about career and continuing education. The program focuses on career development, entrepreneurship, mentorship and internships.
Students Head to Chaifetz
In February, the Saint Louis University (SLU) women’s basketball team welcomed local elementary and middle school students for its annual Billiken Books and Basketball Day. Old North Academy teachers and staff chose students who had proven to be on their best behavior to attend the field trip. SLU provided each student with a booklet of activities to complete before and during the game, including: poster making, face painting, balloon making and a photo booth. Students cheered on their home team as they played their rival, the University of Richmond.
Aspire Academy Supports We Charity
Aspire Academy is a proud member of We Charity, a nonprofit organization that nurtures compassion in students and encourages them to become leaders and change-makers locally and globally. Through the organization, Aspire Academy sponsors the country of Sierra Leone, raising money to help villages dig wells.
“One of the largest problems in Sierra Leone is unsafe drinking water,” said Aspire Academy’s Principal Laqweda Taylor. “Our students eagerly raise money so that children, who they may never meet, can have access to clean water. We also provide activities that give our students a better understanding of the world.”
To raise money, Aspire’s students and staff purchase paper water drops for 10 cents. Students also participate in the “We Walk for Water Campaign,” in which they symbolically carry gallons of water around the gym to simulate the lengths people around the world go to access clean water.
Confluence Academies Teacher Appreciation Day
In February, Confluence Academies hosted its annual staff recognition day, filling Grand Center Arts Academy’s Sun Theater with educators from all five schools. The large group of well-deserving teachers, administrators, school professionals and support staff were treated to breakfast, a day of activities and an awards ceremony. More than 25 people received ‘Excellence in Education’ awards and another 15 were recognized for various accomplishments and achievements. On behalf of Confluence Academies, thank you to the tireless educators who make up our wonderful Confluence family and congratulations to those who won awards this year.
Literacy Library: The Believe Project Opens at Old North Academy
Old North Academy is proud to announce the opening of its Literacy Library. The library is made possible through The Believe Project, a program sponsored by St. Louis Black Authors. The non-profit organization is committed to improving early literacy for children of color. Old North Academy is the organization’s third, school-based library, but its first at a charter school.
“We believe in providing black children with literature that engages them as readers,” said Dr. Leslie Muhammad, principal of Old North Academy. “We also want to make sure they have access to books written about people who look like them and share their interests.”
The Literacy Library is a place for students in Pre-K through third grade to experience books through their own eyes. By providing literature that reflects and interests them, the library is equipped to better develop reading skills and creative expression.
“With third-grade reading being an educational marker, we want the Literacy Library to be another way to prepare children to be competent readers by the end of third grade,” said Dr. Muhammad. “We’ll be tracking progress and look forward to seeing how the library improves our students’ reading proficiency.”
Looking Back, Moving Forward: A Message From Our CEO
As we kick off the new semester and a new decade, I want to start by recognizing our accomplishments last year. First, we are excited to have concluded 2019 with improved test scores. As we move forward, our focus will be on improving our language and math proficiencies. Free resources at each of our schools, such as after-school tutoring and extended hours, can help students improve in these areas.
The Believe Project
Before winter break, we had the opportunity to partner with St. Louis Black Authors and The Believe Project to bring a Literacy Library to Old North Academy. The new library encourages a passion for reading in our young students. Stocking the library with age- and grade-level appropriate books will lay the foundation for confident and competent readers.
One of our most recent additions is a new athletic program at Confluence Preparatory Academy - Esports! Students are excited to try out and participate for the school’s newest team, coming this fall. Esports has become an extremely relevant and popular extracurricular activity for schools and students worldwide, providing another way for students to develop real-world skills through sports.
Finally, we are working diligently to expand our curriculum and coursework systemwide. As we do, we’re looking forward to a new decade of developing innovative learners and providing robust learning experiences for our students, staff and families.
Dr. Candice Carter-Oliver
Recognizing Those Who Make Confluence Great: Students
Myonnie McGinnist (9th)
Shamiya Cross (10th)
Neichelle Bethea (11th)
Gabe Gibert (12th)
Ralph Times (9th)
Gregrionna Peete (10th)
Clifton Vaughn (11th)
Symeon Coleman (12th)
Mar’Tayvion Payne (7th)
William Bryson (7th)
Old North Academy
Payton Byrth (6th)
South City Academy
Elizabeth Kamara (8th)
Recognizing Those Who Make Confluence Great: Teachers
Deniece Kemp - South City Academy
Years at Confluence: 10
Subjects taught: Preschool teacher assistant
“I worked as a special ed paraprofessional for the majority of my time here. When I first started working with one particular student, he wouldn’t talk. One of my favorite moments is when he finally felt safe enough with me to initiate conversations.”
Kyle Leckrone - Aspire Academy
Years at Confluence: 3
Subjects taught: Pre-K - 8th, PE & health
“The relationships I have built with students and staff are by far my favorite part of working here.”
Brandice Hammond - Old North Academy
Years at Confluence: 6
Subjects taught: Pre-K - 8th, STREAM
(science, technology, reading, engineering, art, math)
“I love the close knit family interactions with my coworkers, students and families.”
Katie Switzer - Grand Center Arts Academy
Years at Confluence: 1
Subjects taught: High school biology
“I love seeing students fall in love with the subject I fell in love with. One time, I had them channel their creativity to make model cells. Some made cakes, Sim videos, photo albums and songs!”
Eric Collins - Confluence Preparatory Academy
Years at Confluence: 4
Subjects taught: High school biomedical science and science courses
“I have so many things I enjoy about Confluence, but the best part is the amazing community of individuals who invest their heart and time into our students. The staff and faculty have become a part of my family.”
Jehmela Wilson - Aspire Academy
Years at Confluence - 2
Subjects taught: Pre-K - 8th, Dance
"One of my favorite memories with my students is preparing for the Black History Program. They worked extremely hard to memorize, perfect and execute their segment of the program. Seeing all five classes come together and work diligently was an exciting breakthrough."
A Magical Performance: By Old North Academy’s Students & Teachers
“The Wiz was a great opportunity for the kids to use literary-based concepts and to express themselves,” said Joe Baker, theater teacher at Old North Academy. “Students fully understood their roles as they memorized lines, learned stage directions and performed for an audience.”
The play, which was among the school’s largest theatrical undertakings, had its cast studying and rehearsing for four months before the December debut.
“Our students put a lot of effort and research into embracing their characters,” said Baker. “They learned 130 pages of script, and memorized their lines by the third and fourth weeks.”
The Wiz: Behind the Scenes
Joe Baker has worked for Old North Academy for two years as the school’s theater teacher. While he has led many plays and musicals, he points out that Old North Academy’s recent performance of The Wiz is one of the largest productions brought to life by his students.
Baker was not only impressed with the enormity of the production, but recognized how students became more comfortable expressing their creativity as time went on. The play encouraged creative expression through poetry, short scenes, directing and casting. It also welcomed students to draw from and incorporate their personal lives into the play’s final scene, making it Baker’s favorite.
In addition to facilitating the play, Baker worked tirelessly on the set design as well as the actors’ makeup and costumes, which he hand-made. After many rehearsals and a fantastic performance, Baker wanted to thank his students and staff for their tireless energy and hard work.
26 Pebbles: GCAA Students Use Acting to Address Gun Violence
In November 2019, Grand Center Arts Academy students produced a play called 26 Pebbles & Counting, which addressed the topic of gun violence. The play, which was directed by GCAA theater teacher Keith Williams, chronicled the 26 students and six teachers who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The docudrama not only shared stories of those directly impacted by gun violence, but also how those tragedies have had a broader impact, both locally and nationally. More than 300 people attended the three performances.
“It was probably the gutsiest, bravest and most honest stage production I have seen at the high school level,” said Shane Hopper, GCAA high school principal. “The play was relevant to our current time and place.”
GCAA Head of School, Ashley Olson, is proud of the students for using theater to advocate for issues that are important to them. Both she and Hopper appreciate how students were able to embrace such a difficult topic, while being honest and expressing their emotions.
“The emotional intelligence of the students who participated in this production was astounding,” Olson said. “As an art school, this play was an opportunity for us to highlight social injustices.”
Esports Coming to CPA: Titans Adding a New Team to the Sports Program
Confluence Preparatory Academy is proud to announce the launch of its inaugural esports program. Esports (also known as electronic sports) is an organized form of competitive video gaming, where players face off against each other and/or other teams. Like other sports, gaming can be a platform to develop problem-solving, critical communication and teamwork, all of which are skills necessary to succeed in school, work and relationships. Esports also encourages students to build strong community with one another as well as demonstrate leadership and commitment.
CPA’s esports program and lounge will open in early 2020. The school will host tryouts and teammates will have a coach, jerseys and a dedicated place to practice. CPA also is working to identify scholarships for athletes who are interested in pursuing a college undergraduate degree in game studies, computer science or esports.
CPA High School Students Making Headlines
CPA Students Headed to Harris Stowe
For the second year, CPA high school students are headed to Harris Stowe State University, where they can earn up to nine college credit hours while also enrolled at CPA. The 11 students participating in the “Grow Your Own” dual enrollment program are interested in pursuing a college degree in education.
CPA Senior Designs ‘Dream Big’ Mural
CPA senior Jean Simpson’s large-scale, colorful mural highlights the satisfaction of personal achievement. She hopes to inspire others with the idea that no matter the goal or project, they can dream big, lean on others and create something amazing. Check it out in the halls of CPA.
Spring 2020 at South City Academy
As we usher in a new decade so, too, are we introducing new opportunities for students at South City Academy. This semester, the school will focus on building relationships between teachers and students, in order to help teachers adjust to and address the individual needs of their students. Most importantly, strengthening student-teacher relationships will help South City Academy better support students academically, socially and emotionally.
“South City Academy is a nurturing and safe place for children to learn,” said Principal Pamela Davenport. “Every day, we are preparing them to succeed in school and in life.”
As a means to building relationships, students can expect more events and activities this semester. The annual STEAM Family Night is just one of many activities students look forward to. It’s also one of many ways parents can participate, volunteer and get involved with their student’s education.
Aspire Students Get New After-School Activities & Playground
A new year means a fresh start, and Aspire Academy has some exciting announcements for its students this spring! To support the school’s ongoing commitment to academic progress, Principal Laqweda Taylor is committed to giving students new and engaging learning experiences.
“We want to provide our students with memorable learning experiences,” said Taylor. “Expanding these opportunities for them directly correlates to improvements in academics and student success.”
After-School Programs - Soccer
Among these new opportunities is the expansion of the school’s after-school programs. Currently, students can participate in activities such as robotics, dance, basketball and Girls on the Run. Coming soon, Aspire will be adding a coed soccer program.
“Our soccer goals are up, and we are excited to teach our Champions soccer this spring through our P.E. program,” said Taylor. “My hope is to offer it in the fall as a competitive team.”
New Playground at Aspire
This year, students in Pre-K through first grade have a new place to play, explore, build social skills and simply be outside. The big blue playground, which is inspired by the school’s colors, replaced one that had been built in 2015 by Eagle Scouts Troop 780. While we’re excited to have the new jungle gym for our youngest students to climb on and slide down, Aspire Academy is looking further ahead and hoping to add green spaces for our older students, too. Research shows that children who have nature experiences are more creative, confident, and better understand basic science concepts.
Kicking off 2019/2020 School Year: A Message From Our CEO
To say I am excited about this school year would be a huge understatement! As you know, we’ve been hard at work writing new curriculum, expanding community partnerships, participating in professional development opportunities, and recruiting new students.
The network’s Strategic Plan continues to guide our work and our concentration remains on the initiatives outlined in that plan. Specifically...
- We will continue our work on curriculum and advanced course study, ensuring these values are embedded in our schools, classrooms, lessons and the way we interact with one another and our students at every level.
- We know that our students come to us with various levels of ability and need—academically, socially and emotionally—and meeting and developing them from where they are is vital. That being said, I have never before seen a network quite so prepared and dedicated to meeting those needs and the expectations of the families who entrust their children to us.
- We are also dedicated to ensuring that students have the ability to explore their interests and learn in real-world environments. Our curriculum, coursework and opportunities are expanding in these areas and I am excited to see where they lead!
- All the while, in the background, we are also working to ensure our network remains financially sound and continuing to work toward having learning spaces—at all levels—that prepare our students well for their futures.
Confluence Academies Affirms Commitment to Hispanic Education
Confluence is proud to educate children from across the diverse people of St. Louis and strives to be an inclusive community advocating for academic achievement for all students. We see the greatness of America in those who are here, and we see the greatness of America in those who have risen above injustice and enriched our society. At Confluence, we support the right of immigrant children, including undocumented immigrant children, to a free public education in the United States, as recognized by the United States Supreme Court in 1982.
In Missouri, the child population is 6.4 percent Hispanic/Latino. At Confluence, Hispanic/Latino children make up 15 percent of the student population. We believe it is important for our students to see themselves represented in the teacher workforce. Currently, nine staff members are Hispanic/Latino, and we continue to increase diversity in our teacher and staff ranks.
Confluence has fostered a strong partnership with Missouri Immigration and Refugee Advocates and the Migrant and Immigrant Community Action project to support students and families through programs related to STEM, parent engagement, leadership development, legal services and policy.
National Hispanic Heritage Month
In September, Confluence Academies joined citizens nationwide in recognizing National Hispanic Heritage Month, an opportunity to share the historical and present contributions of Hispanic Americans. We recognize the significant contributions and considerable advances Hispanic and Latino Americans have made, and continue to make in our community, state, and world. Contributions in education, medicine, art, culture, public service, economics, politics, and human rights.
The Confluence Board of Directors in its continued effort to enhance equity and diversity, remains dedicated to providing resources and programming for Spanish-speaking communities, offers translation services and training for teachers, schools, and other school systems, continues recruitment efforts to attract diverse educators into the teaching profession; and continues to support safe schools and resources for undocumented students.
Keeping Students Safe Means Preparing for Inclement Weather
As the winter season approaches, Confluence is preparing to deal with winter weather and other issues commonly faced during the cold months. First, deciding whether to cancel school is the result of a careful process. Forecasts, temperatures, bus routes, and potential threats to student safety are all taken into account. If school is canceled, its start delayed or its dismissal schedule changed, both families and the local media will be notified. Confluence Academies will always alert you through various communications:
- A robo-call to all numbers on file
- An email notification
- Posted to social media sites
- Posted to ConfluenceAcademy.org
- Sent to local news stations
If your current phone number or email is not on file, or if you aren’t sure, feel free to check with the school’s administrative office.
In addition to inclement weather, winter months can lead to complications with attendance, participation and health. With cold weather comes increased cases of colds and flus. While school attendance is important, the best way to avoid spreading illness is by keeping sick children home when it makes sense to do so.
Cardinal’s Care Gives $30,000 to South City Academy
September 4, 2019, South City Academy was awarded $30,000 in crisis aid to supply families at South City Academy with food for the next few months. In the past, school volunteers were able to provide food for approximately 100 South City Academy families thanks to generous donors. Now, the school will be able to provide food to more than 200 families.
Special thanks to administrators, support staff, teachers, and resource office staff for helping bring this project to life.
Pictured: Adam Wainwright, South City Academy’s principal Pamela Davenport and office manager Jannelly Villegas, Andrew Miller.
A Big Debut: Trenay Caruthers Shares Her Muny Experience
What was it like being in Matilda at the Muny?
It was so much fun. It’s always a pleasure working with the equity members because I get to watch them and learn! I learned how to have fun, but also to be focused of the task at hand.
What do you like about GCAA?
I love that GCAA gave me the opportunity to do what I love (musical theater) and advance academically.
Is there a performer you admire?
I really admire Ariana Grande because she started in musical theater, then went to TV, and is now an amazing pop star. I feel like she has had an amazing career.
What’s next for you?
I have an upcoming, live duet performance with Kennedy Holmes, and I’ll be in the Coca/Black Rep production of “Four Little Girls.”
CPA Seniors Headed to Harris Stowe
The Grow Your Own Dual Enrollment Program kicks off with eight CPA seniors earning up to 11 college credit hours this school year. While attending CPA as senior scholars, students will be dually enrolled at Harris Stowe University. The program is designed for students interested in pursuing a college undergraduate degree in education. In addition to earning college credits, CPA high school students will be able to prepare for state certifications.
“One of our most important values is building community partnerships that strengthen our students and prepare them to lead productive and fulfilling lives, and at the same time strengthen our community,” said Dr. Candice Carter-Oliver, CEO of Confluence Academies.
Aspire Academy Principal Lacqweda Taylor: How to Help Your Student Succeed
Increasing Student Achievement
On behalf of the staff at Aspire Academy, I am excited to welcome you to the 2019-20 school year! I hope you were able to reconnect as a family and relax during the summer months. This school year we will continue our efforts in increasing student achievement, completing local and global service-learning projects, and partnering with community agencies to bring additional services to our students and families. For the second year, Aspire has a fully functioning site-based clinic, which opens every Friday from 7:30am to 4:30pm.
Parents, we need your support in our efforts. We are always looking for volunteers and new members to represent our parent advisory committee. You can also support our efforts by promoting the importance of learning by doing the following:
- Ensuring your child attends school every day, arrives on time and is ready to learn.
- Making sure your child is dressed appropriately in school uniform.
- Making sure you keep the most up-to-date contact information on file so we can reach you easily and quickly (phone number, address, emergency contacts).
- Communicating with your child’s teacher when you have concerns or needs.
- Setting a time every day that your child reads at home, or you are reading to your child.
- Completing homework.
- Attending parent-teacher conferences.
- Asking your student to share his/her experience at school.
- Telling your student you are proud of him/her and celebrate often!
South City Principal Pamela Davenport Encourages Getting Involved to Help Kids Thrive
It Takes a Village
I am pleased to welcome you back to the 2019-20 school year! I want to extend a special welcome to all of the new families joining South City Academy this year! I am honored to be your principal.
Our goal at South City Academy is to work together to provide our students with a rich learning environment. My belief is that all students can learn. As educators, we need to discover how each child learns in order to meet their individual needs. In a collaborative effort, we want children to thrive in all ways possible. My hope is that all children will feel welcome in a nurturing learning environment that is positive, safe, caring, as well as a fun place to learn and grow.
Student success is attributed to the partnership and the relationships we build within our community. It truly does take a village! Education is a joint venture and the best results for our children occur when we work together, developing happy, imaginative and caring individuals.
To help us achieve our goals, we encourage you to involve yourself in our children’s ongoing educational development.
Principal Dayle Burgdorf Shares 3 Goals for Academic Success
CPA’s 3 Key Goals
This year at CPA, we have three key goals: First, increase student achievement. Second, create a positive, learning culture. Third, increase our teacher’s capacity within their areas of expertise. Each of these goals has a significant impact on your student and their academic success.
Ensuring your student’s success is our top priority at CPA, they are the center of each and every decision we make. The faculty and staff work hard to build a community that’s inviting, enriching, encouraging, and collaborative. We hope you feel at home here and will get involved in your child’s education with athletics, activities or student government.
Confluence Preparatory Academy is a comprehensive high school that offers students a multitude of opportunities to be involved. They can participate with one of our athletic programs, clubs, or student government. If science or technology is an interest to them, we have a multitude of career pathways for them.
Our team is excited about the upcoming school year and all the “newness” it brings.
GCAA Principal Shane Hopper Invites Students to Explore all the Myriad of Opportunities Awaiting Them This Year
Jewel of the Arts District
Grand Center Arts Academy has gotten off to a fantastic start in 2019-20! This is a very creative and thriving community, one I am supremely proud being part of and representing. Ultimately, we are setting up our young people for current and future success. GCAA is a place to come and explore all the myriad of opportunities that await post-secondary. Whether you enroll, enlist, or employ, the foundation is set for great things beyond high school. We are a jewel in the middle of the St. Louis arts district. Students here can choose a pathway in theatre, dance, music, or fine art. It certainly is a school like no other in our region.
We had our first PTO meeting this year and drew a record crowd of 52 people. It shows an enthusiasm and parental partnership that exists for the great things at GCAA. I have been impressed by the staff, a group of folks dedicated to helping young people. I see them go above and beyond to help our kiddos. While this has all been a very nice start, we anticipate even more great things to come! Thank you for being the best part of our GCAA community and your continued support.
Principal Dr. Leslie Mohammad: Old North is Committed to Academic Experiences that are Rigorous, Relevant & Relationship-Building
Infinite Possibilities at Old North
With enthusiasm and exhilaration, it is my pleasure to welcome new and returning family members to an aspiring school year at Old North Academy! The beginning of a new school year, like the dawning of a new day, reminds us that the future holds infinite possibilities. As a professional learning community with high expectations for excellence in teaching and learning, we are confident that together we have newfound opportunities to improve the lives and futures of Old North Academy students by providing a quality education and learning environment. To that end, we know this is going to be an amazing school year as we embark upon this great, collaborative, educational journey.
In moving forward to ensure a school year of academic achievement and success, I look forward to working in collaboration with each of you as we prepare our Old North Academy students to acquire the knowledge and skills to become productive members of society in a vastly changing world.
This school year’s focus will be on character education initiatives, Missouri learning standards and extra-curricular activities to enhance our scholars’ academic experiences. This year is going to be amazing as we continue to provide academic experiences for our students that are rigorous, relevant, and help them build relationships while making real-world connections.
Together we can achieve! No Excuses! Comets Can! No Excuses! Comets Can!