LISA Academy introduces hybrid

LISA Academy introduces hybrid education option

LISA Academy Arkansas Hybrid School is more than just virtual learning. Students can also meet in person every other week for enrichment activities and interventions, and they can play sports and join various clubs from robotics and creative writing to community service and more.

It’s also more than just a temporary pandemic precaution. The faculty and staff are trained and prepared to meet both educational and social emotional needs year-round, with flexible schedules and both synchronous and asynchronous learning.

It’s also more than just another free public school option for families.

It’s an opportunity.

LISA Academy introduces hybrid
Tennille Winston teaches kindergarten and first grade at the hybrid school.

For the kindergarteners in Tennille Winston’s class, it’s an opportunity to grow and develop both academically and socially from the comfort and safety of their homes. This virtual environment can make it easier for shy students to learn how to interact with others.

Winston said she had already seen this in her class within the first two weeks of instruction when a student’s grandparents had contacted her excited about the progress she had seen in her once-shy granddaughter.

“I have seen her blossom, and she is talking more,” Winston said. “You would think that because it is a hybrid platform, you wouldn’t get to see those developments. It has been amazing to see her learn how to use her voice and be more assertive.”

For some, it’s an opportunity for families and communities to be more involved with education. Sherrill Williams, who teaches science for sixth, seventh and eighth grades, said she has seen a huge increase in the level of community and parental involvement in comparison with her prior experience in a traditional public school.

“Now, I see what engagement can look like,” Williams said. “Now, I am getting the training on how to be more diverse, how to collaborate more, how to have that advocacy for my scholars, their parents and my teammates.”

For some, the flexibility of the hybrid school is also an opportunity for students to learn to take responsibility for their education. Both Williams and Lauren Dotson, who teaches high school English classes, said students have been enthusiastic about interacting in live classes and regret having to miss class, but are grateful that they can easily catch up by watching the recorded sessions.

“Pretty much all the students I have talked with during goal-setting sessions mentioned they consider themselves college bound,” Dotson said. “Because this teaches responsibility, independence and prioritizing their time, all these kids are sort of ahead of the curve when it comes to looking toward college.”

The LISA Academy team created the hybrid school as a solution for families who appreciate the flexibility of virtual learning, but don’t want to give up the opportunities for social interaction.

Most of the digital curriculum is through Florida Virtual School, but some pieces that are unique to Arkansas are supplemented through Lincoln Learning Solutions and Virtual Arkansas. A dedicated team of LISA Academy Arkansas Hybrid School teachers lead live classes, as well as small group sessions and one-on-one meetings.

The teachers and administrators work from the learning center in Little Rock, which promotes more transparency than with working from home and encourages teamwork, according to Principal Aydogan Altun.

“This system is new, first time, and it’s new for me, as well,” Atun said. “As a principal, I’m helping staff members where I can, but in the meantime, they help each other a lot. They learn from each other.”

LISA Academy introduces hybrid
Sherrill Williams, science teacher, shows a classroom where students will meet for in-person enrichment.

The learning center building previously housed LISA Academy West Middle School, but it has been renovated and dedicated to the hybrid school. In addition to the teachers’ area, it includes classrooms and meeting rooms where central Arkansas students will meet for enrichment. (This in-person component is available this year, but it is not mandatory at this point due to concerns about COVID-19.)

Another learning center, located on the LISA Academy Springdale campus, is available for hybrid school students in northwest Arkansas. Over the next six years, the hybrid school hopes to open learning centers for more students throughout the state, according to Dr. Fatih Bogrek, the superintendent.

“We cannot open a school everywhere in Arkansas, but we can go to each part of the state and open learning centers in libraries, schools, churches,” he said. “We can have in-person education in Fort Smith, El Dorado, Pine Bluff, Jonesboro. In that way, we can recruit students from every part of the state.”

As of the end of August, about 120 students had enrolled in the hybrid school, and each student was given a 15” Chromebook preloaded with apps, like a PDF editor. The school is also providing Wi-Fi hot spots for students struggling with connectivity and is currently in the process of purchasing writing pads for all the students.

Before the end of the first quarter, the learning center in Little Rock will also house a STEM Maker Space that will be open to students from the hybrid school, other LISA Academy schools and even other area public schools (by appointment). The Maker Space is equipped with 3D printers, laser cutters, green screens, computers, a tool cart and other items for students to build projects, practice coding and do STEM activities.

Williams and Dotson said they are looking forward to the completion of the Maker Space and are excited about the wonderful opportunities available to students in the new hybrid school.

“I really like this model because it is thought-forward,” Williams said. “What we really are thinking about is that next generation — how do we keep our kids competitive in the future? I just see that in this model.”

The hybrid school was just approved in March for a total capacity of 1,050 students, so space is available for more students to enroll. More information is available at https://lisahybrid.lisaacademy.org/ or by phone at (501) 451-4200.

Families who are looking for additional education options can also contact The Reform Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that every Arkansas student gets a world-class education, at https://thereformalliance.org/ or by calling (501) 244-9028.

The Reform Alliance (TRA) can help families explore different learning environments to find an option that would best meet their needs. Some of the options include traditional public schools, public charter schools (like LISA Academy Arkansas Hybrid School), private schools, microschools/learning pods and homeschooling.

“Every child learns differently, and it’s important to find the environment that is best suited for each child,” said Emmy Henley, TRA’s managing director. “We are excited about the LISA Academy Arkansas Hybrid School because it opens up more opportunities for Arkansas families.”


Faces of Freedom - Tiara's

Faces of Freedom - Tiara's daughter

Faces of Freedom - Tiara's

In 2012 my daughter officially received her diagnosis of apraxia and an intellectual disability while attending a preschool for children with special needs. When it was time to transition from there to “regular” school, the anxiety was high for us all, but we were hopeful that she would thrive.

While we met a few teachers and staff that were helpful, it was evident that the school district was not equipped to educate my specific child and accommodate her needs to thrive. I watched her go from a vibrant little girl who loved school, to one who hated school and often expressed boredom. This was due to being in a classroom surrounded by children whose intellect was beneath hers even with her delays/disabilities. This was the last straw for us.

We were desperate to get her into a private school that we believed would benefit her and our family, but we also knew that we couldn’t afford the tuition on our own. Mid-school year I saw an advertisement for the Succeed Scholarship for Spring 2018 and knew we had to apply in order to get our daughter to a place where she would thrive as a student but — most of all — as a person. After we received the letter that we were approved for the scholarship, we were elated. Along with the scholarship and help from my local church, we were able to get my daughter to her new school.

Within two weeks of attending her new school, I began seeing a brand new little girl get into my car every afternoon. Her teachers and new friends saw something in her that others couldn’t, and they were equipped with the tools to help her to see her fullest potential and reach for it with all of her might. Her teacher’s words to me were this, “There’s way more in her than anyone has ever tried to pull out. But we will get it out of her.”

Here we are, a year and a half later, and not only is my daughter’s speech improved, but her confidence to learn and interact with others has improved tremendously. I attribute a large part of all of this to the Succeed Scholarship. Without it, none of this would have been attainable for my daughter or my family.

– Tiara, parent

Click here to learn more about the Succeed Scholarship!


The Reform Alliance (TRA) commended

The Reform Alliance applauds court decision reversing school choice transfer exemptions

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Aug. 26 2021) – The Reform Alliance (TRA) commended the decision from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that makes school choice transfers possible in four south Arkansas Districts that were previously exempted.

It opens the door for families in the Hope, Camden Fairview, Lafayette County and Junction City school districts to be able to choose a different school district, subject to school capacity and to the 3% percent limit on the number of students who may transfer out of a district in a given year.

“Finding the right school environment can mean a world of difference to a student,” TRA’s Managing Director Emmy Henley said. “We are glad that more Arkansas families will have the freedom to choose the educational environment that best meets their needs without it being limited by their income or zip code.”

The case is United States of America v. Junction City School District, No. 19-1340, and the opinion is available here. More information is available here.

ABOUT THE REFORM ALLIANCE: The Reform Alliance is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring every K-12 student in Arkansas has equal access to a world-class education. The Reform Alliance is proud to manage the Succeed Scholarship at no cost to the State of Arkansas. Even small expenses like the cost of mailing checks to schools are paid for by a private foundation grant. Free educational resources and more information about The Reform Alliance are available at thereformalliance.org.

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Faces of Freedom - Morgan

Faces of Freedom - Morgan

Faces of Freedom - Morgan

We are Scott and Lindsey Cobb, pre-adoptive parents of Morgan Hover. Morgan came in to foster care two years ago. She was placed in the Bryant school district for one semester. She was lost in a crowd of 700 students, lonely, no friends (sitting by herself everyday at lunch and before and after school), struggling with her classes, etc… She said she was “the weird kid” that nobody noticed.

After that semester, Second Chance Ranch was able to place her in Arkansas Christian Academy because of the Succeed Scholarship. She is thriving. She has a group group of friends; she’s excelling in her classes, and she is co-captain of the cheerleaders. In May, she received The Knight Award for strong character and leadership.

This school has become family for her when she had nothing else. It’s only possible because of this incredible opportunity this scholarship provides for children like her who would have never had a chance to attend a private school. We are so thankful.

– Lindsey, parent

Click here to learn more about the Succeed Scholarship!


Faces of Freedom - Lawson

Faces of Freedom - Lawson

I am a mother of a son who attends Our Lady of Holy Souls due to the Succeed Scholarship. Without the Succeed Scholarship, my son would not have been afforded the opportunity to attend a select school that accommodates his needs. Lawson is currently receiving speech therapy four times a week and is on an IEP plan.

Being able to choose what school my son attends has given me the satisfaction of knowing that he is receiving not only the best care but the best education plan that fits his plan for learning and succeeding in school. I am a firm believer that these funds are needed for families and single mothers such as myself.

This opportunity has been a blessing to my son as I have seen him come out of his shell, communicate better, and overall excel in his academics. Before receiving this scholarship, my son was struggling in public school because there were not enough resources to accommodate his needs which forced me to seek outside therapy and help. The class ratio at his school before was too big for his learning style, and I felt that he was getting lost in the shuffle and over looked because of his disabilities and challenges that he is faced with on a daily basis.

This scholarship is a life saver and an advocate for all children to receive the best education in select schools that best accommodates their needs. I have never seen him this happy and excited about school. Giving kids the opportunity to be successful is important as they are the future generation of doctors, lawyers, teachers, scientists, etc.

Playing politics with education is very disheartening when I hear about the funds being jeopardized. I hope that lawmakers can think about the needs of children rather than the selfish acts. Thank you again for this opportunity to be able to share my success story of my future scientist.

– Brittney, parent

Click here to learn more about the Succeed Scholarship!


Faces of Freedom - Randi's

Faces of Freedom - Randi's son

Faces of Freedom - Randi's

My son was in public schools from K-2nd grade. He is autistic. The last two years he was in public school he was not advancing although fully capable of advancing. The school did not have the time to provide the assistance he needed given the large classroom size. They would instead just sit him in front of a computer to play all day. When I confronted the school they just wanted to put him in a confined classroom. My son did not belong there.

We were fortunate to receive the scholarship, and my son is back to thriving. He is in a small private school where he is receiving amazing instruction. He has blossomed and done so well. He can beat any classmate in a “math showdown” because of his teacher just recognizing his potential and supporting him. He is in a school that loves and accepts him as he is. They meet him where he is and then help he stretch his abilities even further. He is achieved for his potential more and more every day.

– Randi, parent

Click here to learn more about the Succeed Scholarship!


Faces of Freedom - Asa

Faces of Freedom - Asa

My son Asa is a recipient of the Succeed Scholarship. The Succeed Scholarship has allowed us the opportunity to put him in a private school that can meet his needs on a level that our local public school could not. My son has Autism Spectrum Disorder, Developmental Delay, Sensory Processing Disorder, Anxiety and other issues, but is incredibly intelligent. Our zoned elementary school failed him miserably, and I felt completely lost at what to do. Then, our therapist recommended we apply for the Succeed Scholarship … and it has changed our lives.

The Succeed Scholarship allowed us to truly find the best place for our son, without worrying about how we would pay for it. It gave us peace of mind knowing our son is being cared for daily by people who truly love him and want to see him THRIVE.

Because of this scholarship, my son is a straight A student and still loves school. Because of this scholarship we were able to access a school with small class sizes and individualized plans for helping every child learn and grow!

Please do not defund this scholarship… it has changed our lives and so many other families like ours for the better. Thank you!!!!

– Chalsie, parent

Click here to learn more about the Succeed Scholarship!


Faces of Freedom - Arya

Faces of Freedom - Arya

Faces of Freedom - Arya

Our son Arya was adopted from India four years ago. At the time, he was 11 years old and could barely speak, walk or complete kindergarten-level work. He has several disabilities that make learning a challenge for him in several ways; however, we saw that Arya was capable of growing and learning if he had the right environment and the understanding of the right community around him.

Our family was able to find a wonderful private school that would not only work with him, but develop a perfect ISP for him, as well as tutoring and providing speech therapy resources Arya. Arya has attended school there now four years and is able to do most required fifth grade level work.

The Succeed Scholarship enables our family to give Arya that school environment that he needs, with a small class size, one-on-one tutoring, safe classrooms where he has never been bullied. He is part of an amazing school culture that cares about him, gives him space to belong as he is and supports him in every way possible. The financial strain of Arya’s occupational therapy, physical therapy, medical bills, and counseling for him made it so that we were extremely worried about not being able to afford private school going into Arya’s fourth grade year.

Because of Succeed, we are able to keep him enrolled, watch him thrive, make friends, read, write and smile! He even placed second in the 100 meter dash of his first ever regional track meet his school competed in. The difference of four years in the right environment has made him unrecognizable from his first days here. This chance at his school has renewed our hope for his future, as a citizen of his community and country, to become a person who gives back all that he has received. He has dreams now he shares with us and is hungry for knowledge about the world. Every day makes a difference for him!

– Alicia, parent

Click here to learn more about the Succeed Scholarship!