Cirrus Academy meets academic goals for the first time in its history


Screenshot from Facebook video

Cirrus Academy Superintendent Gail Fowler announces the school met its academic goals for 2021-2022. It is the first time the state charter school met the State Charter School Commission’s academic standards since opening in 2016.

Cirrus Academy met the state’s academic goals for the first time since it opened in 2016, the school’s superintendent announced earlier this week.

“This is great news,” Superintendent and CEO Gail Fowler said in a video announcement posted to the school’s Facebook page on Monday.

The State Charter Schools Commission notified the school of the achievement via email last week.

Fowler said she attributes the academic growth to a concentrated effort by the school to better train and prepare teachers. Fowler said the school also focused on data-driven goal setting for individual students, small group learning and guided reading.

“We took an aggressive approach because we want to ensure that all of our scholars grow academically,” Fowler said. “It is my belief, as a longtime educator, that if we give our scholars the tools and teach them, they’re gonna show that academic growth. So that’s what we’ve been doing.”

Cirrus Academy is housed in the former Eugenia Hamilton School on Pio Nono Avenue near Mercer University Drive. It is a state-chartered STEAM school, focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math.

Cirrus is also a Title I school, a designation that means it receives extra federal money because it high percentage of enrolled students live in poverty.

The recent achievement, for the 2021-2022 school year, marks the first-ever time Cirrus met the academic standards it agreed to in its charter contracts with the State Charter Schools Commission.

Just before the 2020 COVID pandemic, Cirrus’s middle school students academically out-performed Bibb County Schools’ middle school students for the 2018-2019 school year, but Cirrus still fell short of meeting academic standards that year. The two school years that followed were interrupted by the pandemic.

Cirrus’s charter was set to expire in 2022, but the school’s governing board successfully petitioned the State Charter Schools Commission for renewal. The school is currently operating on a probationary two-year charter set to end in 2024.

The State Charter Schools Commission conducts yearly comprehensive performance reviews of charter schools with a focus on academics, operations and finances. The three categories of performance are scored from 0 to 100 and further broken down into “meets,” “approaches” and “does not meet.”

The State Charter Schools Commission publishes the results of its performance reviews each spring, but the latest results have not yet been uploaded to its website.

Though Cirrus met academic goals, the state’s scoring of its finances may fall short.

During a State Charter School Commission meeting Wednesday, officials said Cirrus was the only school that has yet to submit its financial audit.

Fowler said this is the first year the school has been late to submit its audit to the state commission. She said the auditing firm is working to complete audits for other schools too and all of them are overdue.

“We’ll get some points off,” Fowler said of the State Charter School Commission’s annual review. “Hopefully it won’t be enough to affect us from not meeting financial-wise.”

To contact Civic Journalism Fellow Laura Corley, call 478-301-5777 or email [email protected].