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Utopian Academy For The Arts| Georgia Approved Charter Middle School » LEADERSHIP TEAM

UTOPIAN ACADEMY FOR THE ARTS LEADERSHIP TEAM

 

 

 

DR. ARTESIUS MILLER
FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Morehouse College-Bachelor of Arts

Columbia University-Master of Arts

University of Georgia-Doctor of Philosphy

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As a product of the urban, local public school system in Atlanta, GA, Artesius Miller has seen hands-on the academic disparities and challenges that affect our youth. As a recipient of the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship Program, Artesius attended and graduated from Morehouse College in 2009 (Bachelor of Arts in Economics); Teachers College, Columbia University in 2011 (Master of Arts in Education Leadership);and the University of Georgia in 2016 (Ph.D. in Educational Administration and Policy). Professional experiences in financial services and education management organizations, combined with deeply rooted family ties in education, impacted Artesius’ vision to create Utopian Academy for the Arts.

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CANDICE JIMERSON-JOHNSON
PRINCIPAL

Dartmouth College- Bachelor of Arts

Harvard University- Ed.M.

Boston College- Certificate of Advanced Educational Studies

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Candice Jimerson-Johnson lives by the motto, “Excellence in all things.” Having served as a teacher and an administrator in both public and private schools in the Midwest,Northeast and South have developed her unique understanding of students’ needs.She believes education should be interactive, engaging, challenging and aligned to real world experiences, while being standards and performance based.

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MELISSA DAVIS
DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS

University of Phoenix- Bachelor of Arts

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Melissa Davis is a native of South Florida and has lived in Atlanta, Georgia since 2003.  Mrs. Davis is a prestigious member of the National Association for Professional Women and began her Finance career with Northside Hospital, as a Financial Counselor. Beginning in 2012, Melissa joined Fulton County Schools as the Student Data Specialist for Haynes Bridge Middle School.

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DR.HOLLEY JOHNSON
DEAN

Alabama A&M University- Bachelor of Science

Vanderbilt University- Master of Education

Lincoln Memorial University- Education Specialist

Valdosta State University- Doctorate of Education

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Dr. Holley Johnson is the Dean at Utopian Academy for the Arts. Dr. Johnson is from Opelika, Alabama and attended Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, Alabama where she received a degree in Collaborative Teaching K-6 in 2003. She then traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, where she attended Peabody College at Vanderbilt University, which is currently ranked the #1 Special Education Department by US News & World Report. Dr. Johnson completed her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education in 2005.

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EBONNE CRAFT
ARTS COORDINATOR

Tennessee State University- Bachelor of Science

Strayer University- Master in Education

Cambridge College- Specialist in Curriculum & Instruction

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Ebonne Woods Craft is an alumnus of Tennessee State Unversity where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Speech Communication and Theatre. She earned her Masters of Educational Adminstration from Strayer University, along with a Specialist of Education in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment from Cambridge College in August of 2010.

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August 31, 2015August 31, 2015
RIVERDALE - When 300 students at Utopian Academy for the Arts reported to classes last week, there was no sign on the lawn letting them know that they had reached the right place. The name of the school had been removed by order of the City of Riverdale.This week the sign is still bare.The City of Riverdale has prohibited Utopian from using its school sign to welcome visitors or identify the building until administrators secure a business license. School officials, however, maintain that Utopian is a public school so a business license is not necessary. The debate has caused the school to accrue fines in the hundreds of dollars for violating city code. Administrators say the fees and threats are just another attempt to “bully” Utopian into pulling out of Riverdale.“They don’t want people to know that a school exists at 6630 Camp Street,” said Artesius Miller, executive director of Utopian. “They have stripped us naked and said basically ‘You all will not have anything so that people will know that you are even here’.”Similar tactics last year resulted in delaying the opening of school for more than a week. A Clayton County fire marshal denied administrators, teachers, and students the right to access the building saying that Utopian needed a last minute inspection among other things to occupy the premises. Utopian lost 80 students after its delayed opening.Utopian’s rocky start inspired legislation to protect state-approved public charter schools from similar stall tactics. The "Utopian Academy for the Arts Act," which went into effect in July, prohibits local governments from requiring public charter schools approved and inspected by officials with the state Department of Education to be forced to obtain any other licenses from local government entities to operate their school.The law does not protect a charter school’s signage, however.In the weeks before classes began this school year, a City of Riverdale code enforcement officer left a violation notice on Utopian’s door warning administrators to take action immediately: “Remove banner until permit is issued and apply for a business license.” Miller said that a member of the Clayton County School board advised him that other county schools in Riverdale are not required to have a sign permit or a business license. “Every time that we have attempted to have some type of signage, we were told that we needed a permit or we were being fined because we are not affiliated with the Board of Education in Clayton County,” he said. [columns] [column half][pullquote left]

Where Is Utopian Academy for the Arts? City Prohibits School From Using Sign[/pullquote][/column] [column half]

“It got really nasty,” Miller said of a recent surprise visit from code enforcement before school began."

Miller said that he has received calls and notes from the city warning that Utopian has accrued fees in the hundreds of dollars for violating city business license and sign codes. “It got really nasty,” Miller said of a recent surprise visit from code enforcement before school began. “The guy came and tossed the [fee list] in the face” of a school supporter.Miller took video footage of the visit that shows a code enforcement officer telling him and a school supporter that an inspection of the school’s signage was necessary because “the Georgia Department of Education does not look for stuff like this on buildings.”For the second year in a row, Miller turned to the State Charter Schools Commission for reinforcement. Miller got a letter explaining to the city that schools authorized by the commission are indeed public schools, not businesses.“Utopian Academy for the Arts is a public charter school authorized by the SCSC- a state level authorizing entity under the authority of the state Board of Education,” wrote Gregg Stevens, general counsel for the commission.“Accordingly, Utopian Academy for the Arts should at all times be treated like a public school with the privileges, rights, and obligations afforded thereto …” Utopian opened in August 2014. It was denied the right to exist by the Clayton County School board in 2011, 2012, and 2013 when the district rejected its charter application. The local denial was over-ruled by the state in October 2013. The state Charter Schools Commission granted Utopian Academy the authority to serve kids for five years as a state charter school. It was the first charter school to win approval from the new commission.[/column] [/columns] State Rep. Valencia Stovall, who supported the opening of Utopian in Clayton and co-sponsored the new law protecting charter schools from harassment, said it was “disheartening” to learn that Utopian is still having trouble with local government.“They should be treated as any other public school opening in the city,” Stovall said. “Instead, they have been hit from both sides from the City of Riverdale and the Clayton County School Board.” Stovall said that in addition to racking up fines from the city, Clayton Schools is exercising its right to charge Utopian much higher rent than the building’s earlier tenant. Utopian pays $3,000 a month to use the building compared to the Riverdale Development Authority, which had a lease allowing it to pay $1 annually for 20 years.School leaders say they refused to be forced out of Riverdale by local leaders who see them as competition. “Being in this fight for so long has been a tedious journey for me not only as a board member, but also a parent,” said Sharon Daniel, who chairs Utopian’s governing board. “We will not give up. We will educate the City of Riverdale.Utopian is a public school. We have a right to be here.” CLICK HERE FOR THIS RELEASE IN A DOWNLOADABLE FORMAT