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Utopian Academy For The Arts| Georgia Approved Charter Middle School » Utopian Academy Teachers, Administrators Prepare Scholars For Strong Finish to Second Half of School Year

Utopian Academy Teachers, Administrators Prepare 
Scholars For Strong Finish to Second Half of School Year banner

Teachers and administrators at Utopian Academy for the Arts welcomed scholars back to classes recently and challenged them to work even harder to achieve academic goals set for the second half of the 2016-17 school year.
Utopian Academy’s Executive Director Dr. Artesius Miller said scholars have a strong foundation in academics and the arts that will prepare them for success in 2017 as they take center stage for more performances in the community and face Georgia Milestones Exams in the spring.
“Utopian Academy is preparing scholars for success in school and in life by exposing them to a rigorous curriculum that challenges them to not only meet and exceed Georgia academic standards, but also to express their mastery of core subjects through the arts,” Miller said. “Our scholars are supported by experienced teachers and industry experts who work as actors, artists, dancers, chefs, and filmmakers. They get to see how their lessons in the classroom prepare them for careers.”
The Year In Review
Utopian Academy board members and community supporters have high expectations for a strong finish to the school year based on the successes students and faculty have achieved since August. The school year opened with the addition of a new principal, Candice Jimerson-Johnson, and a restructured Fine Arts Department. Drama was restored as one of Utopian’s core arts focuses. The others are: music appreciation, band, chorus, visual art, culinary arts, dance, and broadcast/video production.
Ebonne Craft, a visionary arts educator who launched Utopian’s first school musical in 2015, left the classroom to devote her full attention to serving as Arts Program Director. Utopian Academy made an exciting new hire in the Drama department. Tonia Jackson, a veteran actress with a recurring role on Oprah Winfrey’s hit church drama “Greenleaf,” was hired as the new acting teacher.  Jackson shares her on camera experiences with scholars to help them understand how their lessons in drama and language arts will help them in show biz.
unnamed-1“I appreciate her taking time out of her schedule to come here and work with our scholars,” Craft said. “She gives them real life experience because she works in the actual entertainment industry. I think it’s awesome.” 
The changes in the Fine Arts Department were necessary to support Utopian’s growing profile in metro Atlanta and the increase in the demand for signature performances. (Utopian Academy has continued to send outstanding dance students to the Alvin Ailey Summer Dance Camp. Last summer, scholar Darion Turner was selected for the program for the second year in a row.)
Since Utopian Academy opened in 2014, scholars have been asked to perform at several major events in metro Atlanta including the inauguration of Gov. Nathan Deal and the Georgia School Choice Rally last school year, and the National Conference of Charter School Authorizers this school year. Utopian Academy was the only school invited to perform at the NACSA convention last fall. 
Miller said the student performance, which included dancing, singing, and the video production “Yes, We Can” created a buzz on social media. “People were going on Twitter to share how much they enjoyed our students, and that they were moved to tears by the performance,” Miller said.
Utopian Academy also received rave reviews for their performance during a visit by Georgia Schools Superintendent Richard Woods in October.  Student Government Association president Jabari Godfrey introduced Woods. Choral and dance students also shared the spotlight.
And in November, excitement over the school musical “Grease” prompted administrators to search for a larger venue to accommodate the families and friends of Utopian who wanted to see the show. Fifty scholars in grades 6-8 were featured among the cast and stage crew in the school’s largest musical production to date.
Miller said the school’s usual venue at a local church was too small to accommodate advance ticket sales for “Grease.” The production was then moved to Banneker High School in Atlanta, which has a 500-seat theater. Craft said students were ecstatic about opening the show in a larger space. The show was directed by Utopian Academy music teacher, Erica Thomas. 
The role of “Sandy” was performed by seventh grader, Chadai Jones. Richard Stewart, a sixth grader and youngest male lead actor in a school musical, was “Danny.”
“We had a real stage in a theater,” she said. “The kids performed very well and showed off their music and dance skills. The show was great. W e had a large turnout. ”
The curtain call continued as scholars took center stage for performances in December. The dance team marched in the City of Riverdale holiday parade. Singers and dancers at Utopian also entertained seniors at Governor’s Glen Assisted Living Community.
The next major school production, “A Black History Month Dinner Theater,” will be held on Feb. 24. 
Other highlights of first semester:
unnamedDr. Artesius Miller: The founder and executive director of Utopian Academy received his Ph.D. in Educational Administration and Policy from the University of Georgia. Miller developed relationships at UGA that have now opened doors to other faculty. Miller said UGA has added Utopian Academy to a group of select school districts that it will partner with to educate approved staff seeking advanced degrees or professional development.
·      Welcome New Board Members: Gavin McGuire, Usher’s New Look Foundation member; and JoAnn McClinton, retired state representative.
·      Eagles of the Month: D’Ryah Peoples, Chadai Jones, and Yasmin Harris.
·      Staff/Teacher Eagles: Crystal DeVaughn, Doris Warren, Raymond Harris, and Talithia Davis.


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