South Charlotte

Renaissance principal helps school succeed

A walking public relations agent, Melody Sears, principal of the Renaissance School, says “We are big news in the nation.”

She echoes what the other administrators in the Olympic Community have shared. All the schools in the Olympic Community of Schools, only in their third year of existence, are listed by Newsweek magazine among the top 1,300 high schools in the US. This is the story they want the public to hear.

I was attracted to Melody Sears's excitement before I ever laid eyes on her. Her fervent commitment to the Olympic Community of Schools poured through the phone even as we set up a time to meet face to face.

Melody Sears is the principal of the Renaissance School, the liberal arts arm of the Olympic Community of Schools.

The Renaissance student body is two-thirds minority; 42 percent of her student body is on free or reduced lunch. Many of her students come from homes where both parents hold down more than one job; students themselves work – often longer hours than are within Sears' comfort zone. Tardiness and absenteeism are a challenge. Yet, she can boast a graduation rate of 87 percent.

We are doing exciting things here, Sears says. The public needs to know about it. Her “personal mission,” she says is to “dramatically and positively impact the lives of every student I encounter.” Melody Sears is a child of CMS. Her father was a police officer working for CMS, and she grew up in Charlotte.

“I believe in what I am doing,” she says, “and I live what I believe.

“Loving kids, genuinely caring about them will drive everything else you do.”

Students know when they are called into her office, they will receive hugs and cinnamon candy, even if she has to suspend them. And she is not above taking a ride to the home of a student to see why there seem to be so many absences.

She says she is “proud to be able to show the world” to her students. She has used professional development money to take students, parents and teachers to Boston, Albuquerque, Miami, and other places to see sister schools and programs of interest.

“There is a great big ole world out there,” Sears says.

She hopes students will be energized by exposure to the possibilities and use the opportunity of education to reach beyond what they might otherwise have imagined.

And, if money is an issue, “I am the scholarship queen,” she boasts. “If students make the grades and the SATs, there is money out there.”

Sears has started financial aid nights. Students run college workshops, guiding each other through the maze of college and scholarship applications.

To encourage parent involvement, Sears has successfully brought parents to the PTSA (Parent-Teacher-Student Association) through “Muffins for Moms” and “Donuts for Dads.”

On Sears' desk is a saying: “People may doubt what you say but they will always believe what you do.”

No question.