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Ellington Academy delayed; MaLinda and Marvin Sapp (437 hits)

Consider charter instead of Grand Rapids schools
By Dave Murray

Dance instructor Marketa Rawling leads her ballet class in motion at the Grand Rapids Ellington Academy.

Grand Rapids -- A fine arts middle and high school headed by Marvin and MaLinda Sapp will not open this fall and will be delayed at least another year.

If it does open, it could be as a charter school rather than in partnership with Grand Rapids Public Schools.

The Ellington Academy of Arts and Technology, to be operated by the gospel musician and his wife, was one of two high-profile GRPS "centers of innovation" when it was announced early last year.

The Sapps told district leaders they weren't ready to open last fall as once projected, and the school is not included in district brochures highlighting 2009 offerings.

MaLinda Sapp said she is dedicated to the school but now targets a fall 2010 opening. While she won't rule out a partnership with the city schools, she said the couple is looking for a group to authorize the program as a charter school.

"We are so committed to making this school a reality," she said. "We are dedicated to the children and want something that is only in their best interests."

Meanwhile, the Sapps are offering an after-school program that combines academics and arts. Opened last fall under the Ellington name, the program draws about 70 students.

Grand Rapids Superintendent Bernard Taylor said Thursday he is still open to working with the Sapps, although he was not aware of their plans to become a charter school and has not spoken to the Sapps in months.

"We have a process in place for people who want to open a school through the centers of innovation," he said.

"I would hope that if they are interested in opening a school, they would come and talk to us. But I have had no communication with them."

Board of Education President Catherine Mueller said the district could have provided administrative and technical assistance, allowing the Sapps to focus on the hands-on interaction and musical education.

"I'm disappointed because there are so many talented students in our schools and I know they would benefit so much by working with people like the Sapps," she said.

"And the state doesn't make it easy to get into the education business, and that's where we could have helped them. I think they'll come around."

Administrators hoped the Ellington Academy would be a showcase program and allow the Sapps to tap their resources in the entertainment industry to create hands-on opportunities for city students.

Marvin Sapp is senior pastor of Lighthouse Full Life Center Church in Grand Rapids. He also is a renowned gospel singer, with MaLinda Sapp serving as his manager.

He was the big winner at last month's 24th Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards, claiming eight trophies including artist of the year, song of the year, male vocalist of the Year and CD of the year.

The Sapps showed their deep connections with a black-tie gala for the school in May that included a basketball-star-turned-jazz-musician Wayman Tisdale performing with his band -- all of whom are teachers -- plus Sony/BMG executive James "Jazzy" Jordan and former U.S. Rep. Floyd Flake, an educator and religious leader.

MaLinda Sapp said the after-school program is thriving, tripling in size since September.

Students meet three days a week for up to three hours, with tutoring in math and science in addition to choir, instrumental music and other aspects of the performing arts.

Teachers include accomplished jazz trombonist John Hair, soprano Charsie Sawyer and former Henry Paidea Academy Principal Ruth Jones. Calvin College students and recent college graduates offer one-on-one tutoring.

The program is tuition-free, with funding coming from a private donor.

Sapp said about 30 percent of the students come from Grand Rapids Public Schools, and about half come from Kentwood.

The academy is located in the Kingdom Square property, the former site of the Grand Rapids Catholic Diocese campus on Burton Street SE.

"We're definitely going to open the school," she said.
Posted By: The SISTAHS Ministry
Tuesday, February 17th 2009 at 9:40AM
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