A Perfect Fit

Head of School, Susannah Joyce, with parent Morgan Bennett, watch students Reed Thane, Maxwell Bennett, Wren Thane and Madge Bennett,on campus at St. James Day School.  photo by Matt Cornelius
Head of School, Susannah Joyce, with parent Morgan Bennett, watch students Reed Thane, Maxwell Bennett, Wren Thane and Madge Bennett,on campus at St. James Day School. photo by Matt Cornelius

A Perfect Fit

Choosing a school is one of the biggest decisions you make for your child. A very reasonable fear many parents have is the transition a child makes from the gentle world of home to a large, busy schooling environment. Fortunately, we are blessed in Texarkana with wonderful options, making this transition easier. A smaller campus is a good option for some families because they are often more conducive to individual care while still achieving excellent academic outcomes. When a child has access to a smaller school environment, some find that in education, bigger is not always better! Small campuses can play a vital part in helping to ensure that no child slips through the cracks. The low student to teacher ratios mean teachers have extra time to invest in a child’s learning program in order to assure it is pitched at a more tailored and flexible level that remains challenging but also provides a feeling of safety and support. That is the sweet spot in education. That is where the magic happens.

When a parent drops their child off in front of the school each day, they put their trust in its teachers and administrators, praying they will see and appreciate all the special attributes that make their child special. Students’ social, medical and emotional needs may be known more personally by the staff of a smaller campus and the quirky little characteristics that make each child unique become genuinely appreciated as those relationships grow. Belonging to a smaller, more close-knit community is often important to building a child’s resilience and may add a protective layer against mental health issues and bullying. When kids have a feeling of belonging, they can truly exhale and relax, and get on to the business of learning and thriving. Fewer students mean fewer voices, allowing students more chances to speak up in class and express their opinions and beliefs—even the shy ones.

One spectacular small-campus option in Texarkana is Red Lick Independent School District, home of the Mustangs. Their mission is to provide students with an enthusiastic and exceptional learning experience, to embrace the diversity of the students’ learning abilities, to inspire optimism in all students so they may realize their full potential, to be proactive in providing teachers with current technology and training, and to be relentless in the pursuit of these principles for the benefit of their students. With only 516 kindergarten through eighth grade students on two campuses, Red Lick is small in number, but the extraordinary staff and hardworking students dream big and push hard for excellence in their education. This excellence is proven when you look at some of their alumni. Connor Brooks, who is now a senior at Texas A&M College Station, started school at Red Lick when he was in kindergarten and attended through the eighth grade, graduating with a class of 55 students. His mother Dana Brooks shared, “He excelled there and was challenged. They had fabulous teachers and coaches. I can’t say enough good about his experience at Red Lick.” Connor met his four best friends there. When they had to choose which high school to attend, they all chose Texas High where they entered a class of 554 students as freshmen. Because they had gained such strong leadership skills at Red Lick, they were able to make that transition without a glitch. All five of them excelled, and all graduated in the top 10% of their class at Texas High. They are all now seniors in college with very successful career paths ahead of them.

New Middle School Principal, Dr. Matt Endsley, former students and teachers—Melissa Johnson and Leigh Ann Haley with Superintendent, Brandon Dennard representing the staff at Red Lick ISD.

photo by Matt Cornelius

Melissa Johnson, a former student at Red Lick, was so inspired by her experience as a student, she returned as an educator. She is currently serving as the District Dyslexia Therapist. “Even as a child and student of Red Lick ISD,” Melissa recalled, “I was aware it was a very special school. Years later, as an employee, I’m even more convinced of this. Our school district still continues to offer the small ‘hometown feel’ of family and security, together with an excellent education.” Red Lick continues to develop students into motivated learners, ethical leaders, independent thinkers, problem solvers and collaborators yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Another great option is St. James Day School, which is a private Christian school serving students from Pre-K through the eighth grade. It is fully accredited by the Southwest Association of Episcopal Schools and is recognized by the National Association of Episcopal Schools, the Texas Private Schools Association and by the State of Texas. Its mission is to educate students in a safe environment that instills high intellect, character and compassion—challenging its students academically, physically and spiritually to achieve their highest potential as confident individuals and future leaders. Indeed, they do all of this well, and students absolutely love it! Morgan Bennett, mother of Maxwell (7) entering second grade and Madge (4) entering Pre-K at St. James, laughingly shared, “Both of my daughters cannot wait to hop out of the car every morning, and even beg to spend their summers there!” Morgan goes on to say, “I love the custom education that goes along with a smaller classroom. I appreciate the sweet, attentive teachers who encourage time spent outside learning, playing and exploring. The smaller campus size encourages mentoring by the older students, which, in turn, creates a welcoming atmosphere between all the ages.” Her daughter, Maxwell, shared, “You get to do fun things every single day!” Morgan also loves the incorporation of religious aspects into their daily routine, not just during their weekly chapels. It brings her much joy when she catches one of her girls singing The Lord’s Prayer or Hallelujah. Inspired by Psalm 127:1 which says, “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it,” St. James considers itself a family, and like any loving family, they strive to plant the roots of moral responsibility and academic excellence so deeply that children who finish their course of study truly have wings to fly.

Premier High School, whose motto is “providing hope to students who need an opportunity to succeed,” is designed for recovery and early graduation for students who thrive in smaller, more independent learning environments, and who may feel underserved in traditional public high schools. They are a mastery-based, blended learning, college preparatory program with an emphasis on technology and one-on-one teacher/student interactions. Since its opening in 2016, this tuition free public charter school has been providing an alternative to the traditional high school settings of most public schools and their enrollment has increased every year. Shorter school days and hands-on teachers are offering flexibility for students to receive the individualized education they deserve. John Landen Williams graduated from Premier in 2021. “I’m so happy we chose Premier for John Landen,” his mom, Sarah Cooper, said. “He has the kind of personality that he couldn’t care less about extracurricular activities, even the prom or homecoming. It was torture for him even in elementary school to be part of the school programs where he had to stand up and sing! Premier allowed him to be the unique, one-of-a-kind young man he was created to be and learn the way he learns.” She went on to say, “John Landen came out of his shell when he started Premier. He blossomed and now has many different opportunities to choose from for his future. Premier helps students achieve their goals and even get college classes behind them before they graduate. I am so thankful we chose Premier!” Its passionate teachers and proven academic record help students achieve their goals on their own terms, providing exactly what some students need.

High school junior, Marley Franklin, giving his first-grade brother Noah a helping hand on the campus of Trinity Christian School where they both attend.

photo by Matt Cornelius

Trinity Christian School, home of the Warriors, is accredited through the Arkansas Nonpublic School Accrediting Association, and serves grades Pre-K through twelfth grade. It provides a biblical perspective in the education of its students. Their philosophy of true education is to develop knowledge of God and His created reality. With a highly qualified staff, they are providing a Christian-based, academically excellent program of study. Their mission is to see their graduates walking with Christ in their homes, workplaces, churches and communities for the duration of their lives. So, partnering with parents, they are taking the steps necessary to guide their students and provide them with an education that leads to nothing less. Bethany Franklin, mother of Zack, Marley and Noah Franklin, whose grade levels span from Pre-K to a recent graduate, shared, “Due to the small classroom sizes (10-14 kids per class) and the teachers being extremely available, accessible and personable, academically all of our kids are exceeding their grade levels.” She goes on to share, “While academics are so important, the main reason our kids are at Trinity Christian is the biblical worldview. In the upper grades, they are taught what the Bible teaches and how to defend their faith. From political issues, current events and discipline or behavior issues, all is handled from a biblical perspective. Their teachers talk about having a real relationship with God.” TCS students in the upper grades also sign a character contract that holds them to a standard of living both in and out of the classroom. It means so much to Bethany when she gets to hear her kindergartener recite entire chapters from Psalms and her older boys hold debates on hot topics in the news using scripture to back up their findings and research. Bethany adds, “It’s worth the money to me to send them to a place where I know they are being influenced both in and out of the classroom. I trust the administrators have their best interest and futures in mind when they make decisions. That means so much to me as a Christian parent who needs all the support from our ‘village’ that we can get.” TCS also offers strong athletic programs such as basketball, football, track, cross country, strength and conditioning, Esports and baseball/softball.

The truth is, small classes are logical extensions of an educational philosophy which believes that educating the whole child is vitally important. It is not just a matter of teaching your basic reading and math, but a matter of teaching those subjects and everything else within a larger context. Giving a child a sense of who he/she is and where he/she fits in is part of that mission. When we accomplish this, we equip a child for a lifetime of achievements. The intimate, small class allows that kind of teaching and learning to take place. After all, from small beginnings come very great things!


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