Make no mistake about it: the Academies are a monumental logistical endeavor. It truly takes a village to get ready for the February and April Academies and many people are working behind the scenes to make it all possible. The central office takes on the enormous task of managing the staff and resources that are the backbone of the operation so that the schools can focus squarely on teaching and learning.
Staffing: A team at central office is charged with selecting teachers for the Acceleration Academies, promoting the program widely and drawing talent from around the country.
For the February and April Academies, once the superintendent and his program staff have selected the teachers, the human resources department is responsible for hiring the non-LPS teachers as temporary staff, which includes coordinating all associated paperwork and background screening, and also ensures that payroll is set up so all teachers receive their honorarium. LPS teachers receive payment in the form of a stipend, in full compliance with union regulations.
Transportation: Transportation is provided for students who need it, but LPS’s schools are neighborhood-based, so only a small proportion of students rely on busing throughout the school year. Many schools will send a van to pick up a student who may otherwise have trouble getting to school on a given day due to inclement weather or a family situation. School custodians serve as drivers for the out-of-state teachers, transporting them to their designated schools and back to their hotel. The central office staff makes sure that each teacher is picked up at the airport when they arrive in town and treated like a V.I.P.
Facilities: School custodians prepare the schools to be open during vacation weeks and keep the schools in tip-top condition during the Academies.
Supplies: Central office staff buys supplies for all participating schools. They also reach out to principals and teachers in advance to make sure that they have all of the supplies they need for the week, especially those who teach science and specials.
Meals: Food service staff coordinates with the state to ensure that nutritious meals are provided to students during the Acceleration Academies. A full breakfast and lunch are served every day.
Safety: Central office ensures that safety officers are on hand during the Acceleration Academy weeks.
Special Incentives: Central office staff coordinates the purchase and distribution of gift cards and prizes. Some of the favorite prizes include Target gift cards, bicycles, Nintendo, Kindle Fires, ChromeBooks, and Red Sox and Celtics tickets. Some schools provide an additional set of prizes so that every student in the Academies wins something during the week. One school amassed an impressive collection of used bicycles to give away.
Substitute Teachers: To account for the reality that a few teachers may get sick or experience a family emergency, a small number of Sontag Prize recipients do not receive specific classroom assignments, but are available throughout the week to assist and fill in when a substitute is needed. Coordinating substitutes is done at the district rather than the school level during Acceleration Academies so that school leaders can focus entirely on teaching and learning and creating an environment that is conducive to effective learning.