Capital City Lighthouse Charter School Groundbreaking Ceremony: Gary Newton Comments

Good morning. It’s a great day for students and families, as well as the individual, familial and community economic development of North Little Rock.

I’m Gary Newton with Arkansas Learns – the nonprofit, nonpartisan private sector alliance of employers, parents and citizens dedicated to excellent education for all students, no matter their culture, economic status or ZIP Code. To that end, we were and remain a champion of Capital City Lighthouse Charter School.

We’re here today not only to break ground, but to break barriers to choice which have too often preferred the self interests of adults over the best interests of individual students.

Let’s celebrate what this community is getting.

On the recent A-F School Report Cards, only five public schools in Pulaski County north of the Arkansas River received As – North Little Rock School District’s Seventh Street Elementary, Lisa Academy North High School in Sherwood, Academics Plus Elementary and High Schools in Maumelle, and Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School Flightline Upper Academy.

Instead of being razed or becoming a boarded-up eyesore, this former Bellwood Elementary School and its surrounding community will be the beneficiary of an initial $2 Million capital investment, creating a school of choice which will attract students and families from North Little Rock, Pulaski County and beyond. Most importantly, true to its name, Capital City Lighthouse will become a beacon for learning.

When it comes to public education, one size or delivery system does not fit all. Further, public education should not be either/or, but all, collaborating to ensure the best educational opportunity for each student.

The North Little Rock School District, which aggressively markets across the county, is perhaps the greatest beneficiary of inter-district school choice in Arkansas. Unfortunately, the district’s schools are off limits to residents of neighboring Pulaski County Special School District, because that district’s unilateral leadership continues to exempt from choice.

But while that exemption is challenged, we should celebrate that there are no residential barriers to admission to Capital City Lighthouse. If you are an Arkansas resident K-6 student, and there is a seat available, it can be yours. Just apply online.

When Capital City Lighthouse Charter School opens on August 12th, it will initially be a K-12 model, serving grades K-6 and approximately 344 students. The school will add one grade, 50 students each year, for a maximum enrollment of 544 students in grades K-10 in the first five years.

The purpose of the school, and of all Lighthouse schools, is to prepare our students for college through a rigorous arts-infused program. Its vision is that all students will be taught by a highly effective teacher in a nurturing environment. Every student will achieve at high levels and develop the knowledge and values necessary for responsible citizenship and lifelong learning.

And who better to understand the value of a STEAM, arts-infused curriculum than the community which is home to the Thea Foundation’s Arkansas A+ Schools and the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub Steam Lab.

Dr. Anderson, thank you and your team for bringing another excellent public education opportunity to this community and her people. Since talent is now the leading driver of economic development, the location of Capital City Lighthouse is a major “get,” which will pay dividends for students, families and this community for years to come.

Thank you for the privilege of celebrating with you today.

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