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Guest column: Reflections on my 1st year leading Lakeview Academy
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When I first visited Gainesville to interview for the position of Head of School at Lakeview Academy, I had done my homework and knew of the numerous strengths of the school, but I learned quickly how passionately people felt about the area's single greatest attribute: Hall County is a wonderful place to raise a family.

I know now why this shared belief is so important to this community and for the future of North Georgia. For a small population, Gainesville has access to the essentials - wonderful health care and a variety of excellent schools - and enjoys a population diverse in longtime families blending with newcomers who have proven time and time again to be generous, altruistic citizens.

Lakeview Academy is one of the many educational treasures in North Georgia, and as one who has worked in a variety of great educational institutions, I am often amazed at how many in this community take for granted the importance of having a strong independent school as part of the educational fabric available to our children.

A school of 500 students grades K4-12, Lakeview operates as a nonprofit institution and receives no state or federal funds. This independence allows true local control; each family is a stockholder able to have a voice in how the partnership between school and parent can best provide the education necessary for success in college and the morality to be successful in being a good person.

While the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools provides the same accreditation as all schools in this area of the country and sets the minimum standards for quality, Lakeview can look to the best practices of education to build programs and increase meaningful, lasting learning in our students.

When Lakeview opens Monday, our students have been able to enjoy a summer similar to the ones I had as a child. When I returned from teaching in a State Department-sponsored school in Alexandria, Egypt, I was shocked to learn the schools in San Antonio, Texas, began the first week in August, the hottest time of year. The rationale there was to have as much time as possible before the state mandated TAKS test, an instrument that evolved into the bipartisan No Child Left Behind act.

Having taught in a calendar ripe with holidays — Christian, Muslim, American, Egyptian — and students who had the work ethic to complete assignments on their own and be accepted into the best American and international universities, I couldn't fathom why pools and summer closed in August to have more time in the classroom with teacher-directed lessons.

So in looking at a school for my children, I saw in Lakeview a school with highly qualified and motivated teachers, a demanding and coherent curriculum, foreign language, arts, and athletics in all grades and with nearly every student in at least one sport or play. And yes, Gainesville is a wonderful place to raise our children.

John Kennedy is Head of School at Lakeview Academy in Gainesville.

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