New charter school to open Friday

The high school, headed by Chuck Hall, is the byproduct of a protracted, and sometimes contentious, split between the board of the former Lifeskills Center of Middletown and that school’s contracted management company, White Hat Management. When the two sides couldn’t see eye to eye on how to run the charter school, the board opted not to renew its contract with White Hat and formed a new school at a new location.

But rather than focusing on the negative, Hall and the teachers at Marshall High School accentuate the positive as they prepare for opening day.

“I feel like a kid all over again, to be quite honest,” said Hall, who had been the principal at Life Skills for nine years. “I’m so excited about this venture. It’s hard to explain the jubilation I’m feeling right now, mainly because we’re finally in a position where we’ve got some autonomy. I’m not feeling micromanaged. Someone’s trusting that me and the staff know what we’re doing.”

The school, at 4720 Roosevelt Blvd., is located in the former ALDI store. So far, it has an enrollment of 130 students, with the goal of 250 students by the end of this calendar year, Hall said. It has a staff of 10, including six teachers.

“We’re going to meet the students where they’re at, and we’re going to be in tune with that. We’re about nurturing relationships,” Hall said. “We’re going to know who the students are, and they’re going to know who we are … we’re going to have that eclectic teaching model where some students are visual learners and some are auditory learners. Some do well independently, some in groups. We’re going to figure out what style works for that student.”

Hall believes that long-standing teaching models of instructing students in rows of desks is becoming outdated.

“Everybody gets the same material. It’s the way we learned 100 years ago, and it’s the way we’re still teaching. My concern is we’re not keeping up with technology … we’re not evolving as a country,” he said. “We’ve got all this technology and social media — let’s take advantage of that. That’s what we’re going to do here. We consider ourselves a new age school, a modern teaching school.”

The teachers are eager to start the new style in the new school.

“We’re just really excited about having a new start and a fresh new look on our school,” said Jon Armstrong, a social studies teacher.

Debbie Thomas, a specialist, said, “Our unique staff and personalities are going to play a big part in what makes us different from the other schools … We get involved in (the students’) lives.”

Some people may think of Marshall as being the school for “the bad kids,” but Hall is quick to dispel that notion.

“It really was never that way, but that’s the perception. I battled that for nine years. Now, I believe that being a new name, and a new vision and a new direction, we have erased that whole stigma. There’s no stigma attached to Marshall High School. Kids can come freely without that burden of being embarrassed,” he said.