Excel Academy of Denver – a Hybrid for High Performance
(Denver,CO – September 30, 2013)
What do you get when you blend one of America’s most innovative urban school districts with one of the nation’s leading providers of alternative education? You get Excel Academy Southwest of Denver.
Camelot Education and Denver Public Schools (DPS) launched the program in August, serving 225 students this school year with an increase to 375 students planned for next year.
“What makes this partnership unique is that the staff is 50% Camelot and 50% DPS, allowing Excel Academy of Denver to tap into the best practices of both,” said Camelot CEO Todd Bock. “We have an outstanding, highly experienced principal from DPS in Cynthia Navarro and a well-qualified executive director who understands and knows how to successfully implement the Camelot culture in Curtis Reichart.”
Like all Camelot schools, students at Excel Academy quickly learn about behavioral “norms.” But Camelot has evolved over the years so that it is known as much for its academics as it is for its environment.
“The content and learning objectives are posted on the board in every classroom. Students know what they are supposed to learn,” said Mr. Reichart.
Regular attendance is critically important for these students to be successful. Many came to Excel because poor attendance at their previous school led to failure. “Because we are an accelerated school with longer classes and a longer school day, missing a day here is like missing two days,” Principal Navarro said. “I monitor attendance very closely. We call the homes of absent students and we go out and knock on their doors. Our job is to teach and graduate the students who choose to enroll here, and we can only do that if they are here.”
DPS has made progress in recent years tackling its drop-out problem yet about half of all students still don’t graduate. Camelot has earned a reputation for helping students in numerous school districts who have dropped out, aged out or fallen years behind get back on course and graduate near or close to on time.
Students say they feel safe at Excel where bullying and judging are not part of the culture. “Teachers and staff here respect the students and they care about us,” is a frequent response from students when asked why they are finding so much more success in their schoolwork than at their previous school.
DPS is a district of choice, meaning students and their families can choose Excel Academy or any other school. Camelot and the DPS are collaborating on the recruitment of students.
History and geography teacher Leonard Ward came to Excel Academy from Denver’s Abraham Lincoln High School, buying into this approach from day one. He believes with the tremendously positive experience the school’s students are finding the word will quickly spread.
“There are a lot more students like the ones we are serving here. Our partnership with DPS is going to be successful. We are going to turn heads,” he said.