University Academy History

In January of 2011, Jacob Fish and William Cunningham of Saint Andrew Bay Land Company (SABL, Inc.) began to discuss the creation of a charter school to be located on the old airport site that the company would be developing in Panama City, Fl. The potential for this school to be an innovative model, using the research and guidance of universities such as Florida State University, was discussed during the initial design of the school.

Meetings among stakeholders included Jacob Fish and William Cunningham of SABL, Inc.; Dr. Ken Shaw, Dean of Florida State University Panama City Campus; William Husfelt, Bay District Schools Superintendent; William Harrison, counsel for SABL; and Katharine Davis, Research Associate at Florida State University. Jacob Fish and Katharine Davis collected feedback and suggestions to write and submit  the original charter for the school, which was then approved by the sponsoring Bay District School Board to open in 2012

These foundational concepts were developed in the Charter:

The Mission of University Academy Charter School is to establish a research-based school community that learns, leads, and lasts. The Charter School will offer an environment that emphasizes innovative teaching and learning in order to maximize academic achievement for all students and to promote high expectations for the school community to become responsible, productive, lifelong learners.

The School’s Board of Directors intends:

  1. to improve learning by providing new opportunities for all students, with special emphasis on low-performing students and reading;
  2. to use innovative learning methods based on meaningful research in and through Florida State University;
  3. to demonstrate practices and curricula that stimulate continual improvement in all public schools;
  4. to expand the capacity of the school system and mitigate the educational impact to be created by the adjacent development of new residential units within walking distance of the school site; and
  5. to create new professional opportunities for teachers.

The Guiding Principles of The School follow those found in section 1002.33(2)(a), FL:

*Meet high standards while providing parents flexibility to choose and providing them with sufficient information on whether their child is reading at grade level and whether the child gains at least a year’s worth of learning for every year spent in the charter school.

*Promote enhanced academic success and financial efficiency by aligning responsibility and accountability.

Utilizing the following underlying educational principles will support these:

  • Reading proficiency is the key to future life success; therefore, the reading curriculum, applied methodology, and available materials are core to success.
  • Science and mathematics are balanced by factual and conceptual understanding practiced in real world application; science and mathematics instruction that includes investigation with application leads to deeper understanding and future innovation.
  • Research-based instruction informs professionals in choosing appropriate materials, methodologies, and tasks proven to increase student achievement by guiding low-performing students to competency and high performing students to distinction.
  • Formative assessment can effectively guide instruction, with adjustments made in “real time”, rather than at the end of a unit, semester, or year; actively engaged teachers identify critical issues during learning and intervene immediately.
  • Ongoing assessments use student data to identify needs for advanced content, for intervention, for remediation, and for continuous progress; focus on data leads professional conversations to improve teaching and learning and guides information on progress presented to parents in conferences and reports.
  • Summative assessments guide school decisions for future curricular choices, for future placement, and for reporting to all stakeholders. This reports academic success and ensures accountability to all stakeholders.
  • Professionals working as partners can build understanding of content knowledge and enhance teaching for learning; a collaboration between pre-primary, elementary, secondary, university, and content experts increases teaching skills for all partners and leads to increased student achievement.
  • Learning is maximized when children are actively engaged with effective materials, offered a challenging curriculum that considers their background readiness, and guided by a highly qualified effective teacher who understands planning for Next Generation Sunshine State Standards (NGSSS), the Florida State Standards, and appropriate national standards (NCTM, NSF).
  • Artistic expression is a unique feature of human communication that can be integrated within the curriculum; units of study developed to expand content knowledge in science and social studies can include elements of art, music, and dramatic play to incorporate expressive arts throughout the school day.
  • To design and implement developmentally appropriate challenging learning experiences, it is essential that teachers understand human development and recognize individual patterns across social, cognitive, emotional, and linguistic levels.
  • Understanding individual differences and diverse cultures within the community helps establish an inclusive learning environment, enabling each learner to meet the high expectations found in the NGSSS and Florida State Standards.
  • A partnership of teachers, families, community members, and students within the learning community creates a caring, safe, orderly environment that supports individual and collaborative learning, encourages positive social interaction, provides active engagement in learning, and promotes self-motivation.
  • Responsibility modeled throughout the community of learners leads to responsible citizens; all members of the school assume productive tasks and actively promote personal and professional ethics, honesty, and integrity.

The Purpose of the Charter School follows those found in section 1002.33(2)(b), F.S., by providing opportunities for:

  • students to practice innovative methods for learning that maximize achievement,
  • highly qualified teachers to develop and implement research-based effective instructional programs that infuse emergent and proven technologies,
  • educational leadership to develop a model in an educational setting that emphasizes reading ability within applied studies in social sciences, science, technology, math, and the arts.
  • parents to participate in a unique educational environment that partners with families to support high standards and achievement for all students, from low-performing to gifted.

and also follows those optional purposes found in section 1002.33(2)(c), F.S. with opportunities for:

  • pre-service and in-service educators to experience professional development that stimulates continuous improvement in an environment that mirrors the community of learners found in the district and region.
  • university and college students to observe and participate in exemplary teaching practices, applying and demonstrating the Educator Accomplished Practices.
  • university and college faculty to design, implement, and analyze research that reveals and validates effective instructional methods and measurement tools.
  • community and business members to partner in cooperative ventures that support high quality education designed to meet the needs of the 21st Century.

These priorities are meaningful for educational change, manageable with the available resources, and ultimately focused on improving student outcomes for the target population.