Today we’d like to introduce you to Jeff Bell.
Jeff, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I remember learning about Beacon on the website listed as a “confidential” position. I have always been intrigued by start ups, schools in particular, and had explored a number of different opportunities in the past like this one; however, something about Beacon really spoke to me. The interview process was swift, and before I knew it, I had a job offer. After many deep conversations with my wife, we decided to make the move back to Chicago with our two young daughters in tow.
From the beginning, there was great chemistry between the board of trustees and me. We immediately began to build out the model for a Montessori-based high school. There are only 40 or so of these types of schools in the country, so we were able to look at what those institutions had accomplished, but we knew that we wanted to be larger and urban.
The focus was to perforate the line between the school and the Evanston community; we cultivated partnerships with a number of arts organizations and the local YMCA, so our students were immediately out and about, interacting in the “real world.” We were able to secure an amazing space in downtown Evanston and opened up in August 2014 with 37 students. Next year, we will open with 200 students.
Has it been a smooth road?
It actually has been a smoother road that I had expected. We were very strategic about some of the choices that we made regarding hiring, program management, and admissions, which had a significant impact on our success. However, as with any new organization, we struggled with name recognition, viability, and convincing families to send their 9th graders to join us in a school that didn’t yet exist in a brand new space with an unproven product.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
We are a Montessori-based high school that draws students from 58 different schools across the Chicagoland area. We are using our model to try to reimagine what high school looks like by leveraging community assets, crafting an adolescent brain-based schedule, utilizing a challenging curriculum that includes the International Baccalaureate program, and putting equal emphasis on the social-emotional and academic development of our students.
Our teachers are entrepreneurial and passionate and work in a culture in which they feel empowered to teach in an innovative manner within the confines of an excellent curriculum.
I am most proud of the inclusive community that we have built where each student, parent, and faculty/staff member feels valued and heard. Additionally, we have had great success in admissions and fundraising. Our school is fully enrolled, and we just relocated to an amazing space in downtown Evanston.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Yes. One key to our success is proximity to public transportation. Most of our students arrive by the Metra or El. Finding their own way to school has a significant impact on our students, increasing their independence and confidence. Additionally, getting to know your local aldermen and government officials is key. They can make a huge difference in your success.
- 26,400 for tuition. Financial aid is available.
- Address: 1574 Sherman Avenue Evanston, IL 60201
- Website: beaconacademyil.org
- Phone: 2249991177
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://instagram.com/BeaconChicago1
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Chicago.Beacon.Academy/