Paramount charter school enters South Bend with new tutoring services

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MISHAWAKA — The team of Paramount Schools of Excellence want you to know their name, and they introduce themselves through an eye-catching offer; free tutoring for all students, no matter where they go to school.

Using a state law that allows the purchase of unused school buildings for $1, the Indianapolis-based charter network was given that South Bend schools closed Tarkington Elementary last summer.

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In a precedent-setting process, a state panel awarded the building to Paramount on the Career and Success Academy local network, paving the way for a new K-8 charter school in South Bend.

Paramount — which currently operates three Indianapolis schools and a fourth online academy — has submitted its charter application with permission Trines University this month and plans to invest more than $3 million in deferred maintenance and renovations to the old Tarkington School before classes open in fall 2023.

In the meantime, Paramount educators are working to get a community new to them interested in the school they plan to start enrolling students in as early as this fall.

Their strategy? Use pandemic relief money to open a new community tutoring center. The charter network hosted its first tutoring appointment last week at its new My Learning Nook center at University Park Mall.

The center is a step to increase name awareness, CEO Tommy Reddicks said, but also an opportunity to showcase Paramount’s mission and vision to the community.

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“You can’t just buy trust. You have to prove trust,” Reddicks said. “We really want to take our time with this and show families over the long haul that we’re providing reliable service and something really good for them.”

What is My Learning Corner?

My Learning Nook, a few storefronts past Barnes & Noble at University Park Mall, offers free tutoring sessions all week and weekends.

The center is staffed by licensed teachers and focuses on math and language arts studies at the K-8 level. Students are asked to take a benchmark exam to assess their needs and can come as often as they wish depending on tutor availability.

Each hour-long session focuses on an academic standard and is tailored to the student’s individual learning style. The center accepts students from all schools and educational backgrounds.

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As summer approaches, Learning Coordinator Nikki Tredway said My Learning Nook tutors are available to help children, especially those feeling behind after pandemic-related disruptions, to catch up on their school level before the start of the next school year.

“I feel like Paramount is very unique in the education community as a whole in that they’ve developed an academic way of closing those achievement gaps and getting kids where they need to be,” said said Tredway. “We are here to serve the community.”

Nikki Tredway helps 9-year-old Wilson Elementary third-grade student Thomas Dodson with a tutoring assessment at My Learning Nook inside University Park Mall in Mishawaka.

The center is funded in part by a state Learning Restoration Grant program created by Indiana lawmakers last year to help address learning loss. Status registers Paramount’s show My Learning Nook received $613,000 in a single year.

The University Park mall location is Paramount’s second My Learning Nook center. The charter operator opened its first in November in Lafayette, Indiana, where the network has similar plans to open a new school in the fall of 2023.

This tutoring center, located in the Tippecanoe mall in Lafayette, has already enrolled up to 120 students, said learning coordinator Molly Provost.

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Together, the South Bend and Lafayette schools mark Paramount’s first expansion outside the Indianapolis area. Reddicks said the idea to introduce the Paramount name to local malls came from a meeting with marketing representatives at Simon Real Estate Group.

“We know malls know their neighborhoods and neighbors very well, so we had a marketing meeting…just to pick their brains,” Reddicks said. “And, they said, ‘Yeah, but would you like space in a mall?'”

The exterior of the installation on Monday, May 16, 2022 at My Learning Nook inside University Park Mall in Mishawaka.

Reddicks said he estimates a mall costs about $250,000 a year to operate. But, if the idea takes off and Paramount can secure additional funding, it’s a pattern Reddick said he could see continuing even after the network’s South Bend and Lafayette schools open.

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“Simon Properties wants a win. They want great service provided in their mall,” Reddicks said. “At the same time, we could get to know the community that way…where we can introduce ourselves by offering something for free so families don’t feel like there’s a major problem having a conversation. and knowing who we were.”

Paramount South Bend School of Excellence

When Tarkington School finally reopens in 2023, it will have a different name. Paramount executives announce plans to use the network’s namesake brand, calling the building Paramount School of Excellence South Bend.

Paramount is known in Indianapolis for its urban agriculture and STEM-based programs, introducing opportunities such as urban farming, beekeeping, and cheesemaking.

The network has also established an online academy last year, open to all students across the state. Reddicks said, however, online enrollment is highest among residents of central Indiana, where the school is currently most recognized.

Pending city approvals for livestock like chickens, goats and bees, Reddicks said, Paramount hopes to bring all similar urban agricultural programs to South Bend. The school has set an enrollment goal of 125 first-year students, with plans to add an additional 40 students each year thereafter.

A rendering is shown of plans for the new location of the Paramount School of Excellence South Bend in the former Tarkington Primary School.  Paramount is investing more than $3 million in the building formerly owned by South Bend Community School Corp.

The team is currently working on physical improvements to the building – including new carpeting and paint, a community garden, a renovated front facade and possible solar panels – and plans to open registration this fall for its first class. of students to attend in 2023-24 academic year.

The network has an enrollment partnership with Purdue Polytechnic – which opened its first high school based in South Bend in 2020 — and is looking to be a community partner, Reddicks said.

The charter school, however, will need to stand out among a growing range of education options in South Bend, and chances are not everyone will be excited about another new charter school in the community.

The competition for students that new schools are introducing has long been a hot topic for districts like South Bend, already struggling with enrollment, its associated funding and now looking to downsize its remaining buildings.

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And, concern for liability after the closure of a series of virtual charter schools in the middle allegations of non-compliance with state law have left some traditional public school advocates skeptical of charter schools’ place in the broader education landscape.

Reddicks said he too was a charter school critic.

“Whether you’re in the private sector, the public sector, or the public charter sector, there are examples of good schools and bad schools,” Reddicks said. “We should really call the wrong ones, whatever industry you’re in and demand better.”

The Paramount CEO says his network is distinguished by strong academic programs highlighted by the best study and attendance rates in the state. The first school in the network – Paramount Brookside, opened in 2010 – received an “A” grade in the state accountability system for at least six consecutive years and was named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2018.

A rendering is shown of plans for the new location of the Paramount School of Excellence South Bend in the former Tarkington Primary School.  Supreme leaders plan to open the school in time for the 2023-24 school year.

The school reported fluctuating attendance rates and above-average chronic absenteeism, according to state databut Paramount also serves a student body that is highly transient and more racially diverse and economically disadvantaged than the average Hoosier student.

Reddicks said 85% or more of students in the system experience high poverty rates and 20-30% are likely to change schools before the end of a school year.

These challenges have prompted the school to develop an agile academic plan targeting student weaknesses to ensure that no time is wasted while students are enrolled in Paramount schools.

“We work so hard to be honest and transparent community players and provide great excitement as part of our school culture,” Reddicks said. “I think it continues to win over those who know us, and I’m confident it will be there (in South Bend). I really hope people see the Learning Nook as a first step in how we want to provide a public service as we open our arms to a new community.”

More information about My Learning Nook’s tutoring hours and appointments can be found online at mylearningnook.paramountindy.org.

Email Carley Lanich, education reporter for the South Bend Tribune, at clanich@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter: @carleylanich.



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