Brookhaven Innovation Academy began its second year of classes on Aug. 2 with a new head of school and a full enrollment of 480 students, including its first seventh-grade class.
Terri Potter, former principal at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Sandy Springs for nine years, takes over the helm at BIA, succeeding former head Laurie Kimbrel.
Kimbrel left BIA, the state charter school currently located in Norcross, after its inaugural year. Kimbrel departed to take an assistant professor post at the University of West Georgia’s College of Education.
BIA Board Chair Jennifer Langley said Kimbrel gave the school the “CEO mentality” it needed during its first year and that the school is fortunate to now have Potter.
“She’s fabulous. She’s geared up for at least a year or two as we do a more extensive search for a new head of school,” Langley said. “That will be the person who will take us into the future … and we’re not in hurry; we want to take the time and find the right person.”
Langley said the school this year has a separate wing for the sixth- and seventh-graders. The school boasts students from 32 ZIP codes, with 40 percent of students coming from Brookhaven, she said. There are 700 students on BIA’s waiting list, Langley said.
The BIA board also is continuing to search for a permanent home in or around Brookhaven, she said. “Definitely, the goal of the board is to be inside I-285, so we’re on the search for that,” she said. “I think Brookhaven would be ideal.”
The school’s budget this year is approximately $3.5 million, she said. When the school adds eighth-graders to its enrollment next year, the budget is expected to grow to closer to $4 million.
Langley said charter schools such as BIA should spend only about 15 percent of their overall budget on real estate. Going beyond that 15 percent threatens the school’s success and ability to stay open, she said.
Moving BIA back into Brookhaven is already a campaign issue in the District 4 City Council race. Dale Boone, a competitive eater and a film producer in India, is challenging incumbent Joe Gebbia. During a July 30 gathering at International Café, Boone announced to friends and diners that if elected, he would work to bring BIA back into the city limits.
“Our Brookhaven schools are broken, we know that. BIA offers free education for every child, period. As my campaign pledge and promise to you I’m going to work every day to bring back Brookhaven Innovation Academy from Norcross, Ga., to Brookhaven, Ga., to where it belongs,” he said.
Gebbia, who helped found BIA as a City Council member and who sat on its board, said bringing BIA back to Brookhaven continues to remain a high priority for him, as well. But because BIA and the city are two separate entities, there is not a great deal the city can do to.
It is not the city’s responsibility to find property within the city limits for BIA because the charter school is its own entity, Gebbia said.
“But anything we [on the council] can do, we should do,” he said. “It is up to them to facilitate that occurrence.”