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VoyageDallas Media: 'The Most Inspiring Stories in Dallas'

 
 



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Today we’d like to introduce you to Brenton White.

Brenton, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Growing up in an area with limited options, I learned at a young age that my success in life was going to depend on the cultivation of my intelligence and talents through hard work and education. This is why I know first-hand that education can, and does, transform lives—it helped transform mine.

I was blessed to have been accepted to the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Music—singing—had always been my passion, but attending that school helped that passion flourish into something tangible.

I was able to leave for Boston after graduation, armed with a full scholarship to Boston University, where I studied Classical Voice with Richard Cassilly, and I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in 1994. I then received my Master’s Degree from the University of Southern California, where I studied Jazz Voice with Michelle Wier and Sean Holt.

I came back to Dallas in 1997 and found myself pulled into Southeast Dallas, wanting to join the efforts in helping education thrive amongst the Pleasant Grove community. So in 1998, when my parents, Karen and Don Belknap made it their mission to empower the children of Pleasant Grove and surrounding communities, through educational opportunities, I climbed on board to help establish what would come to be known as A+ Academy Charter School.

I served in any role that required my assistance—Teacher, Technology Director, Compliance Officer, Principal, Webmaster, Chief Leaky Roof Fixer—I was always willing to learn whatever was necessary for the benefit of the students.

It is this drive to continue building a sustainable place of education for these children that led me to complete the Principal Certification Program in 2006, the Superintendent Certification Program at UNT in 2014, and am currently working on my Doctorate in Educational Leadership at Dallas Baptist University.

This drive to serve and belief in our mission is evident in all of our team members, as well. It is with their help that we’ve been able to grow tremendously since the first little building of 1998. I firmly believe we have some of the most hard-working, talented minds working for A+ Charter Schools—together we are able to provide individualized education that balances innovation with traditional values, in order to provide every child with a lifelong knowledge and strength necessary in becoming successful self-sufficient adults.

And together, we will help provide additional educational opportunities this year, with the opening of our brand new A+ Academy Secondary campus, and the expansion of our Inspired Vision Elementary School, all happening within Pleasant Grove on August 14th.

I am truly honored to be a part of this growth in education from its inception.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Creating a school from the ground up is a very daunting task. In 1998, the charter concept was very new and not accepted or understood in most circles. Recruiting talented staff was a struggle, as well as creating an environment of trust with the parents.

As a new school, we were provided with less funding than the traditional public schools. We also struggled to find the resources we needed to educate our students effectively, but it was a task that we took seriously and has made us resourceful and equipped to handle all the challenges that lie ahead.

These challenges have made us tenacious. We have learned that hard work pays off, and if you persist, you can see your dreams become a reality. More than ever, I see a need for educational reform, and the one way I can participate in that reform is by setting an example for others to follow. I have learned the importance of servant leadership and how a leader should use power for the benefit of those they lead and not for their own betterment. It is my job to empower the staff who in turn assist me in empowering the students to become effective leaders in their community.

A+ Charter Schools: Home of Inspired Vision & A+ Academy – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
A+ Charter Schools, Inc. is a 501(c) (3) non-profit corporation, intended to operate charter schools. It currently operates four open-enrollment charter schools (A+ Academy Elementary, A+ Academy Secondary, Inspired Vision Elementary, & Inspired Vision Secondary), which are free public schools that have the flexibility to adapt to the educational needs of individual students. Our charter schools, just like all other public schools, must meet the rigorous academic standards set by the state of Texas.

The first school was founded by Karen and Don Belknap in 1998, to help improve the lives of children in our Pleasant Grove community through education. They wanted to provide individualized education that balanced innovation with traditional values, in order to provide every child with a lifelong knowledge and strength necessary in becoming successful self-sufficient adults.

4 schools, and 5 campuses later, that has not changed. While we are led by innovation, we are strengthened by our tradition. We may always be in search of the best methods, curriculum, and technology for our students, but we also focus on strengthening their character, values, and leadership skills, all of which are crucial to becoming successful, self-sufficient adults.

I am proud of our ability to serve the needs of our children, families, and community. We have become a partner and resource to Southeast Dallas, and with the opening of our two campuses

in August, we’re able to grow from 2,200 students to 2,700 students, allowing us to provide more educational opportunities for children and their families.

Unfortunately, even with our expansion this year, we still have over 1,000 students on our waiting list. We hope to continue to work in making sure that list decreases with more educational opportunities.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
One of my proudest moments happened during the summer break. At the Region 10 Teacher of the Year Celebration, one of my teachers received acknowledgement as the 2017 Teacher of the Year for A+ Academy Secondary. What made this so special is that she is a former student who received her college degrees and teaching certification, and now she has returned to teach the students in her community. It is heartwarming to know that this student believes so much in those who educated her that she has returned to do the same for other students.

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