ALBANY — Growth in technology, new leadership and new curriculum are some of the changes that Albany’s private schools are looking toward going into this academic year.
Byne Christian School will have virtually a brand new feel to it, with the introduction of uniforms as well as a new curriculum.
Cory Wise, the headmaster at Byne, said that once school starts on Aug. 7, its faculty will be teaching students a classical Christian curriculum.
“This is our first year as a classical Christian school,” Wise said. “There will be new subject matter.”
Logic and rhetoric are the focus at the higher grade levels, while the grammer level includes songs and timelines allowing them to more easily memorize facts and data later on.
The curriculum change, which was moderately introduced last year before going full bore this year, is expected to allow for a greater integration of subject matter.
“It is literature, Bible and history interwoven together,” Wise said.
The classical methodology, Wise said, involves more dialogue and roundtable discussion.
“The idea is to build from one another, and learn from one another,” he said. “We get instant feedback on how students are able to interact with the material. We want them to understand formal and informal logic.”
Wise said knowledge will build as the students progress. By the time they are in high school, the will be expected to handle subject matter with a degree of mastery.
“We are offering a deeper level of understanding on the things that really matter,” he said.
The headmaster said the change came as a result of a call for higher academic excellence. As options were explored, a decision was made to go in a new direction.
“I feel like it has gone well,” Wise, who came onboard last year, said. “The board has embraced (the new system), the faculty has embraced it and the students are embracing it.
“(The long-term) goal is lifelong learning, deeper communication, a love for Jesus and (students who are) passionate about making a difference in the world. They will leave here with that kind of zeal for God that changes everything.”
Wise said Byne is also working to grow its fine arts program and bring in computer training skills at the middle school level so students are more proficient by the time they reach high school. Middle-schoolers will also be getting a basketball team, with more sports likely to be added in the future.
Also new this year is a discount on tuition for children of military service members, first responders and ministers.
“I am a veteran and value those who serve and protect,” he said. “We see education as more than trying to give knowledge; we see it as discipleship. We want to show we honor those who serve and protect.”
The school is adding uniforms this year as a means to bring more unity, while there will be occasions built into the calendar to wear jeans.
High-schoolers will be required to perform community service hours. The requirement ranges from 10-25 hours, depending on grade level.
A parent orientation is scheduled at Byne at 7 p.m. Friday.
At Sherwood Christian Academy, there has been an uptick in STEM, particularly in middle school and high school grades. That concept will soon be added in the higher elementary grades.
“We are taking pieces of STEM and putting it into the general classroom,” Sherwood Headmaster Brian Dougherty said.
The school is also onboarding the Raptor Visitor Management System this year. Any parent or vendor coming on campus will have to scan their identification, which will be put through a database.
“That is one way to use technology to protect our kids,” Dougherty said.
School at Sherwood starts Aug. 9, before which families will be introduced to some of the new resources during a back-to-school night Aug. 6 for children up to eighth grade. The high school students have back-to-school gatherings at different locations divided by grade Aug. 5.
A senior college success course focusing on money management from a Bibicial perspective will be added this year, Dougherty said.
“We will teach kids how to view money from God’s perspective,” he noted.
A writing project will be expanded in the coming years, the headmaster said. Growth is also expected for Making Spaces, designed to influence creative thinking.
A film class was added last year, which has generated great interest. It has since been visited by Stephen and Alex Kendrick, who brought a few movies to the big screen via Sherwood Pictures before establishing Kendrick Brothers.
The brothers are releasing a new film in August titled “Overcomer,” which Sherwood’s student body will view.
“The kids come into the classroom and they are learning how to make movies,” Dougherty said. “We are very proud of that film class.”
Technology will be incorporated more into the lower grade classrooms with the introduction of iPads and Promethean boards — the latter of which is for K4, or Pre-K, classrooms.
“The teachers have been clamoring for it,” Dougherty said. “I have a technology director who knows how to use iPads (to enhance learning).”
Overall, the curriculum at Sherwood will remain the same. Meanwhile, activity periods once a week will provide time for extracurricular activities — including club meetings. Chess and robotics are among these activities where the most growth is either already taking place, or is expected.
“I think families are looking for college prep programs, and they are looking for things to explore,” Dougherty said. “Teachers are also looking to start some clubs. Now they have an activity period, and they want to do a call out.”
In athletics, Dougherty said Sherwood wants to build on the success from last year that resulted in athletic achievement awards in multiple sports. Kenny Roberts from Lee County is coming to Sherwood as the new varsity boys basketball coach, Ashley Thomas as the varsity boys soccer coach and Katie Brasher from Andrew College as the new varsity girls soccer coach.
“(All of) these changes will add great value to our educational program,” Dougherty said. “We always look for ways to raise the bar. We see areas of improvement and push the envelope. I trust it is attractive to prospective parents
“Our enrollment has gone up the last three years, and I trust it will go up this year. We are blessed to have three years of enrollment growth.”
At Deerfield-Windsor School, a recent change in leadership has taken place with the announcement of Head of Schools Geoffrey Sudderth’s intention to depart after the upcoming school year.
The Deerfield Board of Trustees said in the announcement, made earlier this month, that it decided to accelerate the transition and put an interim headmaster in place while conducting a search for a permanent replacement who will take over for the 2020-21 year.
Allen Lowe was named the interim headmaster. Lowe has roughly three decades of athletic coaching, teaching and classroom experience. Ahead of the first day of school on Aug. 9, he is working to catch up on the responsibilities of his new role.
“I know this school runs itself once the doors open,” Lowe said. “We are hoping for a great school year. We will try to draw spirits and lift people together. In 1966 I (helped) cut the ribbon, and my father was the first headmaster. I went to the school here for 11 years, I worked here for 27 years and had three children who have graduated from here.
“I have been a student, an employee and a parent.”
Through the changes that have taken place at Deerfield, Lowe said there have been two things that have remained a constant: a high-quality and dedicated teaching staff and highly motivated students.
“Those two things have been a constant as to why this institution has been so important to Albany, Georgia,” he said. “We want (students) to have the opportunity to go wherever their calling is. We want an environment where they have the interactive ability to get along with others.”
Lowe said he is a believer in developing long-term relationships fostered within the hallways, and that Deerfield is always looking for ways — at least in the long-term picture — to challenge students and prepare them for college.
“Academically, the staff and everything is in place (for this year),” he said. “We are looking for ways to expand while making it cost-effective. We have a high expectation for kids as they walk the halls.”
Lowe also said two new sports — clay target shooting and archery — are also being added at the school.
“This will give avenues for others to participate,” he said. “We will expand those and see how it goes.”
At the time of his interview with The Albany Herald on Wednesday, Lowe was in the third day of his new role.
“The staff here is catching me up as fast as we can to springboard to start a new school year,” he said. “I am excited for the challenge to get students and teachers (on board with) the same mission.”
Two days before school opens, on Aug. 7, a community day is planned at the school at 5:30 p.m. for Deerfield families and others interested in learning more about the school.
“It is open to anyone who wants to come here,” Lowe said. “We are in favor of pushing quality education for all of our kids. They become our future.”
Questions regarding the upcoming academic year for Saint Teresa’s Catholic School were directed to Principal Susie Hatcher. The Herald was unable to reach her for comment for this story.