After five years as Lakeview Academy’s head of school, John Kennedy is planning at least five more.
“About a month ago I was offered a five-year, new contract that supersedes the one I’ m in now,” he said. “It is kind of scary to look at that and go, ‘Wow, that means 2020.’”
The last five years have been full of growth and expansion at Lakeview, and Kennedy sees it continuing into the future.
Kennedy came to Lakeview in 2010 from San Antonio, Texas, with his wife and two sons, now teenagers at Lakeview. The first few years he was on a one-year rolling contract. In 2013, he was offered a three-year contract, which is replaced by his new one beginning Wednesday.
When he came to Lakeview, the school had approximately 400 students in grades K through 12. Today, the school has a new 3-year-old preschool program and it is at capacity with nearly 600 students in all grades.
“We are at capacity, literally,” Kennedy said. “I’ve kind of laughed and said, if we add a second 3-year-old program, they’ll be in my office. And I’m not kidding.”
In the last five years, the school has almost tripled its learning supports, which traditionally were for students who needed extra help with reading and math. Now, Lakeview offers enrichment in the lower school for students at all learning levels.
Some of the growth at the school can be attributed to national trends, according to Kennedy.
“One of the most interesting things in our discussions, which is really a national discussion, is the Common Core curriculum and the changes to state tests,” Kennedy said. “These education trends don’t really affect an independent school.”
Kennedy said he likes to use the term “independent school,” rather than private school, because in his mind the school is not private by definition — it’s open to anyone who can and wishes to attend.
“But we are independent of the federal government,” he said. “We take no money. So we’ve kept a lot of the old things that have washed out with the testing — handwriting, memorizing multiplication tables in the younger grades, a hands-on science curriculum versus test-based. And we can make decisions quickly.”
The school recently hosted a dinner for its former students now attending Auburn University, University of Georgia and Georgia Tech. The students were asked what they felt most and least prepared for at college, and the administration learned it needed to upgrade its computer courses.
“So we actually hired a computer programming teacher from Georgia Tech who will be teaching Python (computer programming) and AP computer science to our students,” Kennedy said. “So we can get that immediate feedback and make the changes we need to, while still keeping the things we think are important. Yes, computer programming is important, but so is handwriting.”
Kennedy said, because Lakeview is a college preparatory school, its mission is simple.
“We really have a much easier job than public schools,” he said. “Our mission is very focused, so we can use feedback from what colleges are expecting from our students and give that to our students, K through 12.”