For 11th year principal Don Zumpano, getting the educational experience just right is more important than rushing into adding more classrooms, and students, to Glades Academy, a public charter school located in Pahokee.
While its elementary program is expecting about 250 children this year, the school’s middle school program, which saw the addition of an eighth grade class this year, has only about 75 students.
“If I had to, we could probably squeeze 100 kids into the building,” said Mr. Zumpano. “I have room for another classroom should I need one, but it’s not about the number of kids [we have]. It’s not about numbers, it’s about quality of education.”
The school has moved into the campus of New Hope Charities, which is located just east of Pahokee, and has continued offering its unique brand of schooling to area children, expanding its school as it goes along. In the meantime, the principal will continue carefully monitoring the number of kids coming into the program, and hopes to grow at a rate that will keep its educational approach strictly in focus.
The school was initially founded in June of 2001, and operated for years out of a building at St. Mary’s Catholic Church property. Glades Academy continues growing and features its own transportation for students, recently purchasing a new fleet of school buses.
As a public school, Glades Academy is funded by state dollars and also through private donations. It has continued growing, Mr. Zumpano says, thanks to its unique educational approach. Mr. Zumpano points to “different philosophies” when discussing how Glades Academy stands out from other schools.
“There’ s a great need out here for a good quality school. There’s also a big need for more choice,” said Mr. Zumpano, who describes himself as a disciplinarian who places a strong emphasis on core curriculums. “Our school is not for everyone … some parents buy into our philosophy of educating children, some people don’t.”
Heading into next year, the school is focusing on expanding its recreational offerings with the construction of an indoor sports complex that the principal hopes will be completed by January. The complex will house the school’s various sports, and will help students participate in more extracurricular activities.
The move should set the stage for a growing student population. According to the principal, enrolling in the school is a simple process: a parent simply has to visit the school’s registrar’s office and register their child.
“A child can start immediately. I refuse no child,” said Mr. Zumpano. “It’s a new day when they register here at Glades Academy, everyone is treated equally and given the benefit of the doubt.” The principal admits that the school may be tough for some parents or students, and he is okay with that.
“Sometimes, a parent or child may feel a teacher is too strict,” he said. “Maybe that child can have more success in a school where the principal smiles all the time.” But it is an educational approach he believes in firmly.
“I consider our school a no-nonsense school for children that want to get a good education,” he said. “I go home every night and sleep very well knowing I did the very best I could.”