Founder and CEO of The Simple Vue Academy, Nandi Edouard and her team are planning to bring a new kind of charter school to Cobb County by 2025.
Curriculums like STEM and STEAM are common, but the proposed Black-owned charter school will be implementing STREAM, which adds the “R” for Reading and Writing.
The Simple Vue Academy’s mission is to create a sustainable pathway to entrepreneurship by providing scholars grade 6-12 with a STREAM based education, guidance on business, financial management, and a village of support. Currently, Edouard and her team have launched a small pilot, “The Simple Vue STREAM Camp”, which started May 31 and runs until June 9. The STREAM camp’s goal is to show parents and leaders how entrepreneurial mindset skill development helps students as young as sixth grade identify the skills, knowledge, tools, and values of an entrepreneur.
The Cobb County-native has also received $20,000 in grants to open the first STREAM school in Cobb County.
Ubuntu Community Day
On Friday, June 9 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Edouard and her team will host a free community event for parents, children, and teachers with other community leaders and other special guests featuring food, games, bounce houses, and an ice cream sundae bar.
“We’re trying to bring the community together to not only praise and get some shine on the kiddos who have gone through STREAM camp but bring the community together to have a conversation about the state of education in Cobb County,” she said. “Our students are not graduating at the rate in which it is perceived for this area. When we look at the sub-populations of Black students, students who have a disability, or a student who has free or reduced lunch, it’s even worse with graduation rates and college and career readiness, so we need to have a conversation with our community about that.”
The plan for the community day, according to Edouard, is to bring everyone together, have the kids who have gone through STREAM camp present their ideas and things they have learned during the nine days together and have a conversation about what they need to do as a collective to ensure what they have learned continue to actualize and this is all to support our petition and authorization from Cobb County School District and the state commission.
The hope by the end of Ubuntu Community Day, Edouard said, is to have petition signatures, letters of support, and a community behind once they go for authorization in November, January, and March.
Edouard also told the Atlanta Voice she isn’t doing this alone and has her community, co-design team, and board behind her.
For more information, visit https://www.thesimplevueacademy.org/. To sign the petition to support the academy, visit The Simple Vue Academy – Petition for Support (google.com). To register for the community day, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ubuntu-community-day-tickets-641591676977?aff=erelexpmlt.
The Proposed Charter School: The Simple Vue Academy
The Atlanta Voice: What made you start the Simple Vue Academy?
Nandi Edouard: I’ve been through a couple of charter school networks across the United States like Texas, Georgia, and New York. I witnessed what education can do for a student and especially innovative education. I’ve also seen some really horrible circumstances of education and I felt like I was in a space where I had the passion and drive and wanted to change the face of education, especially for the students of Cobb County. I was born and raised here and know the education system, went through it from elementary, middle, and high school and even was around it with college at Spelman. It was a feeling of we have so much brilliance, but we aren’t really diving into what kids truly can do and create because we teach to the test, and we are very antiquated in our thinking in Cobb County.
So, I did a bunch of different jobs in education, got to an assistant principalship, got my master’s at Columbia, and had an “aha” moment like why not start a school? I also come from a family of entrepreneurs, and I’ve seen them struggle through entrepreneurship and a lot of the things we talk about when we talk about the struggle is ‘I wasn’t ready’ or ‘nobody prepared me for this’. That’s what schools are for schools claim that they make you college and career ready, yet when I got to college and when a lot of folks got to college, they fell flat on their faces. They didn’t know how to manage their money, didn’t know about time management, so just seeing really bad education, really good education, and my family struggle through entrepreneurship, kind of helped me create this vision of the Simple Vue Academy.
AV: Being a graduate from Spelman College, how did your experience from Spelman pour into your future endeavors such as The Simple Vue Academy?
NE: At Spelman, I was surrounded by amazing Black women who were taking over the world and I always felt a sense of community and sisterhood. I also had my first true educational experience at Spelman; I was a part of an organization called JumpStart where we taught literacy skills to 3–5-year-olds in an early childhood setting. When I did that, I got a lot of information on the start of a child’s educational journey and then got to dive in with my Spelman sisters around that and how we wanted to change the face of Atlanta when it came to early childhood. I met a recruiter who was an HBCU graduate, and she told me about teaching and how I could get into a space of teaching that rocked my world. I left Spelman to move to Houston with my Spelman sister and we started teaching at the same school and it blossomed from there.
AV: You are set to make history by founding the first Black-owned STREAM school in Cobb County, in 2025. What is a STREAM school and where did the motivation for this begin?
NE: A lot of folks have heard of STEM, which is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. There’s also this new wave of STEAM that adds an “A” for the Arts, but we are proposing a STREAM-based school, which adds an “R” for Reading and Writing. What we have noticed, and our families and communities are saying that is our students are lacking social skills. Students don’t know how to interact with each other and adults to get the things that they need and to advocate for themselves. So, the “R” isn’t only for the literacy crisis that we have going on because I hate to keep talking about it because I think at this point, folks know that we’re in a literacy crisis, it’s bigger than that. It’s bigger than just having kids reading on grade level and keep up, it’s having them read on a grade level and then be able to articulate those thoughts into the greater world. STREAM encompasses all the creativity and innovation that STEM and STEAM give you, but it pushes the envelope on how to articulate that into the greater world and really create value for your community and yourself.
AV: To you, what is the importance of STEM, STEAM, and STREAM education?
NE: I don’t know how old you are, but if you went through school when we had cursive in the second grade, it’s not like that anymore. Kids don’t know how to write in cursive anymore and that’s crazy to me because how are you signing contracts and you don’t know how to sign your name. Our kids are saying they want to be entrepreneurs and business leaders, but it’s like if you can’t read, write, or sign the contract, how are you going to be a business leader or entrepreneur? So, the real big difference in STREAM is we’re giving you that next step like you know what you want to do, you kind of know how to get there, so let’s give you those application skills so you can make sure you can get to that next step or continue down the path you have chosen.
AV: What is the importance of Black-owned charter schools in Atlanta?
NE: One of the biggest things is that for example, in Cobb County 78% of our student population are people of color and we know by the research that when the student sees themselves as an adult, the student is more likely to be more successful. Being one of the first Black women charter school founders is big because a lot of our students don’t see themselves in this type of role. I think a lot of our kiddos feel like they must go to college or do something that their families have done and so what we’re going to try to do is expose them to different people of color who are business leaders or entrepreneurs in the community to show them they can be who they want to be or have been dreaming of becoming.
AV: You have received $20k in grants to open the first STREAM school in Cobb County, how does it make you feel to have so much support in getting your passion truly in physical form?
NE: It’s really wild. I wake up every day and I’m like ‘wow, I’m starting a school’. It’s crazy, I think when we got the first $10K from the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta, that was like wow, okay an organization believes in this. When the second $10K came, it was even better because the foundation gave me a coach that helped me figure out how to use the money, but then Transcend came in with the other $10,000 and they taught me how to make the money move. So, what they’re basically doing and supporting me in is creating a valuable tool, an experience, and a pilot of this program which we’re currently in. We’re literally running summer camp right now to pilot the school design. We’re measuring the student experience to see if kids really like this type of learning or how we’re engaging with them and creating community with them, so we can prove the point that this school is going to work with this community and population.