The Winfree Story
The Winfree Story
During the early and mid 1990s, a high school history teacher named Melody Chalkley began to notice a disturbing trend: her classroom was turning into a last resort room for high school youth who were finding themselves unable to succeed in the public school arena as a result of a wide variety of issues, both academic and personal. Melody had been teaching in the traditional public school system since 1984 after receiving her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Texas in Arlington in social studies and education. She found while these students could not stay and succeed in their current school, they did not have any place to go either. After watching these students fail time and again due to lack of support from an educational system that was supposed to be preparing them for their future, she knew she had to do something.
As a result, in 1996 Melody left the public school setting and ventured out on her own to start a school that would serve students who, for whatever reason, struggle to be successful in the public school setting. She opened a small private school in 1997 where she was the only teacher working individually with a small group of students. However, in less than two years, she was granted what was then the largest charter school cap in Texas. The end result was Winfree Academy Charter Schools, which opened its doors in 2000 to 9th through 12th grade students under its own charter. Winfree Academy was founded, according to its original charter, in order to “provide a unique educational setting for students who [are] either not succeeding or [have not sensed] their success in a traditional school environment. This setting would eliminate barriers and provide an individualized academic plan for each student to ensure success within a caring and nurturing atmosphere”.
Thus, Winfree Academy was designed as a place where high school students who are at-risk of dropping out of high school can return to school in a safe and secure environment and can work with staff members who have been specifically trained to work with at-risk youth.