News - The School That Mike Built

The School That Mike Built

The School That Mike Built

It is fitting that Mike Malone would choose Missouri, the "Show-Me" state, as home to the charter school he conceived. Evidence drove his design of South City Preparatory Academy (SCP), and evidence continues to drive its growth. Show Mike Malone educational data linked to student success, and he stands ready to repeat that success at SCP. The school is as much the product of an entrepreneurial spirit as it is a generous application of what works in education.

After graduating from Greenville College in 1999, Mike taught school for 10 years in various settings. It was not until he worked with the Missouri Charter Public School Association, however, that he scrutinized the winning practices of successful charter schools. Later, when Mike pursued developing a new academically rigorous, preparatory charter school in St. Louis, replicating those best practices remained central to his plan.

An extended day and year-round schedule give SCP students more time in the classroom than a typical school calendar allows - nearly three years for the student who attends SCP from fifth through 12th grade. Seven-week learning blocks alternating with one-week planning and evaluation sessions for teachers gives them multiple opportunities throughout the year to review test data and adjust their strategies to help students succeed. They do not have to wait for year-end test results to determine their next steps.

In 2011-12, SCP's first year of operation, the school realized a remarkable 94 percent attendance rate even though it does not provide students with transportation. Its students also averaged 1.9 years of growth in reading and 1.5 years of growth in math. These achievements are particularly notable for SCP's less affluent student body (90 percent of its students qualify for free or reduced lunches).

Mike's work with the Missouri Charter Public School Association provided him with more than a glimpse at successful schools; it also allowed him to flex his entrepreneurial muscle before stepping out on his own. He developed the association's first school improvement program and exceeded its member participation goals by over 50 percent. He facilitated a grant review process that brought in over $1 million and created the association's first cooperative purchasing venture, saving schools over $250,000 the first year. Mike's success initiating and growing programs confirmed his ability to nurture a budding idea into a thriving reality.

Though Mike is thoroughly an educator, his vision and follow-through in building South City Preparatory Academy show that he is also an entrepreneur. Here are Mike's thoughts on his journey:

We know that GC prepared you for teaching, Mike. In retrospect, how did it help prepare you for the entrepreneurial path?

Looking back, the biggest area where GC prepared me regarding my entrepreneurial approach was in my walk with Christ. I'm convinced that my wife and I would not have taken the leap to start SCP if we did not feel God's call on our hearts. Now, I can see that God was walking with me and guiding me every step of the way from Greenville College to South City Prep. You could say that GC prepared my heart to hear God and trust in him even when the path didn't seem clear.

Sometimes our activities as kids foretell our futures. Are you a natural initiator?

When I was growing up in McPherson, Kansas, my father (Jerry Malone '70) gave me projects and initiatives that helped me years later when I started my school. My dad is an initiator. He started a soccer club, a high school soccer program, and a college soccer program all from scratch. When I was in high school, he passed on the family summer business of house painting to me, and I ran a paint crew every summer until I graduated from college. He also passed on the management of several soccer camps and summer soccer leagues to my brothers (Rodney '01 and Brett '06) and me during high school and college. My father was, and is, an amazing person who constantly uses his skills to serve others. He never started a program that benefited him specifically. Rather, his projects benefited hundreds or thousands of other people in our town. My dad didn't make money from the programs he started, and money was never his motive. In fact, he often sacrificed his own time and money to make them successful.

It's a bold move to step out entirely on your own, risky, I'm sure, for you and your family.

The largest risk we faced was financial. It was a leap of faith for my wife and me when I quit my job to start a school. The school took nearly two years of preparation before we could open, and I quit my job almost a year and a half before the school opened. By God's grace, a grant from the Walton Family Foundation eventually enabled us to cover some of our living expenses. We really trusted God to provide for us during this time.

Our alumni often point to specific experiences at GC that influenced them in memorable ways. Was this true for you?

The experience that most shaped me as a person and a professional was playing on the GC soccer team. I used to think that soccer was the most important part of that experience. I've since realized that the relationships and teamwork I learned were the most important. I credit coach Tom Stonebraker and later, coach Richard Huston, for helping mold me into the person I am today. They saw potential in a skinny, mouthy kid from Kansas and gave me leadership responsibilities even during my freshman and sophomore years. I will never forget their influence. South City Prep is indebted to them for helping me during my time at Greenville.

To read more of Mike's story, click here.

This story was published on April 15, 2013

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