Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of a Sunday Q&A series on the founding principals of Lafayette Parish’s three new charter schools.
POSITION: Founding principal of Acadiana Renaissance Charter Academy.
For the second consecutive year, Christine Stoudt will be leading a brand-new charter school through its literal first days. Stoudt is founding principal of the new Charter Schools USA-managed school Acadiana Renaissance Charter Academy in Youngsville and last year opened up a Charter Schools USA school in Baton Rouge as its principal. A Shreveport native, Stoudt is a graduate of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (then-USL), and holds a master’s degree in educational leadership. The Youngsville charter school is one of two Charter Schools USA schools scheduled to open on Aug. 12.
What are some of the challenges in opening a new school?
It’s a huge process building the school from the ground up. You have to hire the entire staff. Every process and procedure needs to be put in place, and everyone needs to know it. It’s a challenge, but it’s a lot of fun. In that first year, you’re trying to build that culture, building a team with your students, parents and staff and building a sense of community.
How is the opening going?
We are well on our way. We are hiring as we speak. We probably have about 53 percent of the staff hired. The building is coming right along. We’re set to move in the week before school starts. Everything is moving full speed ahead.
What is your educational background and experience?
I have 20 years of K-12 education experience. After graduation from USL, I went back to Shreveport and moved out to Las Vegas and was there for 13 years. I was in the classroom for three years and in administration for 10 years, working for Clark County Schools. I decided to move back home to Louisiana and the Charter Schools USA job came up, and I ended up in Baton Rouge, opening up their charter academy at Mid City. Then, they asked me to move here to open up Acadiana Renaissance.
What’s been different about your experience in working in a traditional public school system and for Charter Schools USA?
You do have a little more freedom in your decision-making. There’s not as much red tape. We do have a little bit more leeway, too, as far as our teachers and all our staff. Everyone here who is coming is looking for a new opportunity and wants to be here. If for some reason it’s not the best fit, you have that option to let them go. We have a little more flexibility in our spending and how we can use our money, and we do focus on putting all that money into the classroom for the kids.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I think my leadership style is collaborative. I can’t do it all by myself. I need to have a group of people to balance out my strength and weaknesses. I need a team around me that I can count on — that includes parents and staff. I try to keep an open-door policy.
What’s the move back to Lafayette been like for you?
It’s good to be a Ragin’ Cajun again. Youngsville has grown so much. It’s not like it was when I was a student. It’s growing, and I’m excited to be a part of that growth.
Marsha Sills covers education for The Acadiana Advocate. Follow her on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.