The mission statement of the soon-to-launch Magic City Acceptance Academy sets it apart from maybe every other public charter school: “The Magic City Acceptance Academy facilitates a community in which all learners are empowered to embrace education, achieve individual success, and take ownership of their future in a safe, LGBTQ-affirming learning environment.”
The grade 6-12 MCAA, which will start classes the day after Labor Day 2021, on Sept. 7, isn’t a school just for LGBTQ+ students, though. Any student can apply, but that it will have an LGBTQ-affirming learning environment” certainly means it’ll be a safe space for students who may find themselves bullied or ostracized in their current school.
The importance of a school that specifically promises a safe place for young, gay students, though, is certainly a first for Alabama.
“We are not only for LGBTQ students, we’re for all students,” said principal Michael Wilson, Ph.D., most recently the principal at Glen Iris Elementary School before he retired. “We’re going to have trauma-informed instruction and social and restorative justice, and really be digging into things that the students really care about. We’re going to do a lot of project-based learning, based on the state standards, of course.”
Wilson expects the school will have as many as 300 students in its first year, but its building on Bagby Drive in Homewood, currently being renovated, will be able to accommodate up to 400 students. There is a lottery for enrollment opened until March 10. For information, email the school.
The school’s vision statement states:
“The Magic City Acceptance Academy (MCAA) will motivate and prepare students in grades sixth through twelve by providing an exceptional, innovative, and quality-driven education. MCAA’s purpose is to engage students who have dropped out, are not thriving in traditional schools, or are enrolled in home-school programs. Mentors and teachers will be incorporated throughout the diverse MCAA curriculum to empower students in directing their own education. MCAA will provide a safe learning environment and LGBTQ affirming culture for all.”
Of course, that LGBTQ-affirming culture became hurdles for school leaders to get through when dealing with Birmingham City Schools, which denied the MCAA application, and the Alabama Public Charter School Commission, which denied the highly-rated application twice before finally awarding the school a charter.
Unlike Birmingham City Schools, Wilson said Homewood City was very open to MCAA coming to town.
“Homewood was very accepting,” Wilson said. “The City Council reviewed our request for zoning and approved us unanimously.”
Charity Jackson is MCAA’s chief academic officer and is in charge of “Ensuring we are not only meeting the standards, but mastering them,” she said.
Magic City Acceptance Academy will fully embrace the college and career readiness standards, Jackson said, so that students are ready for success in higher education.
Karen Musgrove is CEO of the school, which will be treated like an independent school district for getting local, state and federal funding. Students will not pay a dime to attend, Wilson said.
“I believe in addressing the needs of the whole child,” Wilson said. “You can’t always depend on outside resources, like the family, because there may be problems. There will be intervention and mentoring, so students feel valued and competent in what they’re doing. They learn what success looks like.”
Wilson believes in the beginning, the school will have about 28 faculty members so that classes are maintained at 20 students to each teacher. Depending on total enrollment, that number may be adjusted. Other public schools’ student-to-teacher ratio could be 28 students or higher.
“We are a school that is inclusive and diverse, and that will create an open and inviting space,” Wilson said. “We learn how to navigate life in a diverse world.
“We are all different, and that’s the beauty of this world,” said Wilson. “Our goal is to lift students up and let them know they have value and a path in life that can lead them to success. We’ll have licensed professional counselors, mental health services available. It’s a complete wrap around for the students.”
The potential sounds amazing, and the people in leadership at the school know what they’re doing. Along with Musgrove, Jackson and Wilson, there is Marixa Coward as registrar, Jim Gibbs as operations director and coordinator of fine arts, and Trevor Hauenstein as director of STEM.
Alabama has never had a public school as progressive as the Magic City Acceptance Academy. I don’t think it’s too bold to say this new public charter school will likely save young lives.