The Roger Bacon Academy: Scoring Big in Sports and Music
Families in northern Brunswick County have three options for schooling their elementary-age children: public, private or charter. Leland’s The Roger Bacon Academy is the area’s charter school option for children in grades kindergarten through eight. And it’s here, at this small school in this up-and-coming town, that big stars are born.
In 2010 The Roger Bacon Academy celebrated ten years of providing tuition-free, quality education to the residents of Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover, Bladen and Pender counties. Since 2000 the school has earned numerous recognitions and achievements, including selection as a Top-25 School for Academic Growth and of Excellence among 1,800 K-8 institutions in the state of North Carolina. The year-round school attributes its success to its staff and parent involvement.
“Our school has built a reputation for retaining dedicated and highly qualified teachers who give students a strong and proven academic foundation,” says Mark Cramer, The Roger Bacon Academy’s superintendent. “Our consistently high test scores and excellent performance in sports is a testament to both the tremendous amount of parent participation and our fine coaching staff. We have a very well-rounded program here.”
The Roger Bacon Academy operates two campuses, Columbus Charter School just north of Whiteville and Charter Day School in Leland. The Leland campus sits on 70 wooded acres off of N.C. Highways 74/76 and serves more than 900 students. In addition to the traditional curriculum taught at Charter Day School, students are also heavily involved in — and extremely successful at — a wide variety of extracurricular activities. In fact, The Roger Bacon Academy has produced many a sports star.
Football stars tackle Texas
When The Roger Bacon Academy’s Pop Warner football team kicked off five years ago, head coach Darryl LaFave had no idea that he’d soon be sending two of his players to Texas to receive national recognition by National Football League (NFL) representatives.
The art teacher and football coach is proud of his entire team. “These kids are amazing,” says LaFave. “We had an impressive season at 8-2 this year and even had a chance to play for the title of Division Champions. And on top of that we had two kids selected as top players in the entire nation.”
Forrest Kelly, a Charter Day School seventh-grader who plays free safety on defense, halfback and quarterback on offense and also serves as the team’s place kicker, has been selected to play in a National Youth All-American Bowl in Texas. The tournament is sponsored by Football University (FBU), an invitation-only football training experience led by the NFL’s top coaches to develop and enhance skills in athletes in grades six through 12. It will be held at the Alamodome in San Antonio on January 8 and 9, 2011.
RBA Viking’s Isaac Zsidisin, a sixth-grader who plays fullback on offense and linebacker on defense, will also participate in a FBU program, The National Youth Combine, which will be held the same weekend in Texas.
Alex Zsidisin, Isaac’s father, serves as one of The Roger Bacon Academy’s football coaches and a regional scout for FBU. Zsidisin is proud of Isaac from the standpoints of both father and coach.
“This is quite an honor for Forrest and Isaac, as they have been selected out of thousands upon thousands of players all competing for spots in these events,” says Zsidisin. “To have two players who are from the same area, let alone the same team, is extraordinary.”
Roger Bacon hits a bull’s-eye
The Roger Bacon Academy’s archery team was the only team from North Carolina to participate in this year’s National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) World Tournament in Orlando. If that’s not impressive enough, take into account that this was the team’s first year in existence.
The school’s founder, Baker A. Mitchell, Jr., has always had an interest in wildlife. The former Eagle Scout saw an opportunity to expose the school’s children to something unique through the addition of an archery program. Mitchell contacted Steve Windham, a Roger Bacon Academy board member and the chairman of the N.C. Wildlife Commission, to help initiate an archery program at the school.
Students now choose between band, chorus, archery and art as electives. The archery class teaches not only the skill of the shot, but also the math, physics and history of the sport.
The man in charge of the archery class is former world champion archer T. J. Beamer. Head of Roger Bacon’s facilities maintenance, Beamer jumped at the opportunity to teach the archery course, and the students are equally enthused.
“The kids are amazingly self disciplined and motivated,” says Beamer. “They attend practice every day at school, even coming out during vacation breaks and on Saturdays.”
The students have shown that they love the sport, but having a good eye isn’t all that’s required. The school has a set academic standard that students must maintain in order to participate.
“We have some students who are bringing home the highest report cards they’ve ever gotten in the eight or nine years that they’ve been with us,” says Beamer. “The idea that they can’t participate in a sport that they love unless they keep their grades up really helps them to focus academically.”
Good grades and persistent practice paid off for this first-year competitive archery team. The 12-member Charter Day School team competed with success against 41 student archery teams in the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) World Tournament in Orlando. Earning an overall ranking of 14th placed all of The Roger Bacon Academy archers in the top 100 of world competition.
One team member in particular, Roger Bacon Academy eighth-grader Hunter Johnson, stood out among the best of the best. Johnson earned “World Champion” status in his division by ranking fourth out of all middle school competitors and 11th out of the 900 total competitors in all categories.
“Think about it,” says Beamer. “We don’t have a gym at our school so our kids are familiar with practicing in the outdoor elements. The tournaments are indoors so our team is shooting without the distractions that they were trained to deal with. That helps them to outperform their competitors. That makes them excellent.”
Something to cheer about
Perhaps the reason that Charter Day School’s football and archery teams are so accomplished is because they have a championship cheerleading squad rooting them along with inspiring chants and stunning stunts. The Roger Bacon Academy’s Pop Warner cheerleading squad has been crowned regional champions every year that it has competed, giving the school yet another reason to cheer.
Students of all ages are encouraged to stomp, shout and shake their way onto one of the four Roger Bacon Academy cheerleading squads. The small flag team is open to kindergartners through eight-year-olds, and the cheerleading squads — junior pee wee, pee wee and midget — are designated by age.
Physical education and health teacher Jean LaFave serves as the head coach for the teams, which total more than 100 cheerleaders.
Cheering may seem like nothing but fun and football games, but, here again, academic success takes priority.
“We practice four days a week,” explains LaFave. “We keep a very close eye on academics though, offering study hall during school and during practice.”
Jill Applewhite, whose daughter participates on both the cheerleading squad and the archery team, says that the activity involvement has helped her daughter’s self-esteem.
“It’s been very hard work for her,” says Applewhite. “That being the case, her self-esteem has really blossomed from realizing all that she can achieve.”
Musicians of note
The football, archery and cheerleading teams aren’t the only ones that are impressing school administration. The Roger Bacon Academy’s music groups also boast talented individuals of note.
“This year [09/10] our chorus traveled to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia, for the Musicale Festival,” says The Roger Bacon Academy Music Director Thurman Lucas. “For the third year in a row they have received first place in the Show Choir Division. They also received an ‘Excellent’ rating and won third place in the Mixed Chorus category.”
Former Band Director David Tyson adds: “And our band received a rating of ‘Excellent’ at the Carowinds Festival of Music. Congratulations to three students who made All District Band: Abby Mintz, Jordan Anderson and Kayde Brown.”
What the future holds
Charter schools, on average, receive 30 percent less than public schools in way of funding. You would never guess, however, that The Roger Bacon Academy is lacking any resources by looking at the caliber of students that it produces.
Cramer hopes to someday build a gym for the students, when and if the funds become available, but his priority remains on academics.
“The classroom will always be the most important,” Cramer says.
“Our accomplishments of the past ten years have been incredible in both academics and athletics, thanks to our star students, staff and parents,” continues Cramer. “I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of something so great for our community.”
For more information about The Roger Bacon Academy visit www.rogerbacon.net.
To donate to the school’s booster club to aid with gym development and other initiatives, contact Bradley Barth at (910) 655-3600 ext. 224