Choice Conversation: Lincoln Tamayo
In this week’s Choice Conversation, Mr. Tamayo talks about how National School Choice Week gives Academy Prep an opportunity to connect with parents and prospective students. Please help spread the word to your friends and families about our wonderful community and the opportunities here!
You have a background in law. What inspired you to get into education?
In 1988, Boston University started one of the most unique partnerships in the history of American education when it began running the Chelsea, MA school system. At the time, I was working as the assistant to then-university President John Silber. After our tenth year of the partnership, one day I was called into the office and told to go run the Chelsea schools... It was one the poorest cities in the U.S., overrun with gangs and home to a crumbling school system. But I found my niche there. The decisions we made on an hourly basis literally determined whether children would go on to do something great in their life, or drift off into oblivion. That was incredibly fulfilling.
How did you get involved in Academy Prep?
After working in the Chelsea district for several years, I got a call from a fellow in Tampa who was looking for property on which to open a Nativity private school. I visited several Nativity schools, as well as the Academy Prep School in St. Petersburg. I just fell in love with the model: long days, weeks, years, keeping kids engaged, creating a system and program that best serves children and puts children first.
How did you get involved in National School Choice Week?
Our Admissions Coordinator, Luly Socias, received a fax from National School Choice Week. Since one of our biggest challenges is simply getting the word out in the community about our school, she’s very attentive to finding ways to make our presence known. School Choice provides a platform for parents to choose the right school for their children, the school that might best open doors for their kids. Hopefully Academy Prep can become the model for this type of school.
What do you have planned for NSCW 2013?
We’re running several open houses so that more families can experience Academy Prep. We have kids coming to us that have never been challenged before, never been motivated to learn. And yet, we’re graduating these same kids two to four years above grade level proficiency. Our kids boast a 97 percent high school graduation rate, and 80 percent of those students are freshman and sophomores in college – and these kids are learning in an area where fewer than half the adults hold high school diplomas. We hope to open the door to great schools for these families, first during National School Choice Week 2013, then right after National School Choice Week with more open houses and open dates testing for kids.
What has the reaction been like from the community to your upcoming event?
Our parents, who we’ve talked extensively with and who are well connected to the community, have had extremely positive reactions toward National School Choice Week. We expect a tremendous turnout during the open houses. There’s a lot of excitement surrounding school choice and our efforts to the get word out about Academy Prep. Last year, we had 276 applications for the 41 seats we had open in the fifth and sixth grade.
What are your aspirations for Academy Prep and for the future of American education?
My aspiration is that Academy Prep can continue to expand as it continues to be a model for inner-city education success. We need to do a better job of holding children to the standards they deserve to be held to, and preparing them for viable American citizenship down the road. We have been handed a solemn public trust to run our schools and educate our children. We have to honor that trust, and we do that by teaching children what it means to become engaged, to become intellectually stimulated, to reach for something greater... I tell our kids, if you get yourself out of bed every day and work hard, we will move heaven and earth to get you to the places that will transform your educational life.
We thank Mr. Tamayo for his steadfast dedication to this community and the future of our children.