UPDATE: REAL Prep Academy Falls Apart Leaving Parents and Students Stunned
When Troy McNair was first starting out in the recording industry, he got a shock when he learned the tour bus drivers were making about $300 a day, with a per diem on top of that.
"I didn't even know that career was out there," he told The Skanner News. "The opportunities in the entertainment industry are so wide, it's a sea. It's more than sea, it's an ocean."
With more than 20 years working for such greats as Def Jam, Rush Artists and Disney, McNair is now helping Portland's newest recording arts charter school take root.
The R.E.A.L. Prep Charter Academy – which recently changed their name from the High School of Recording Arts Portland – is set to open in the fall of 2011 and will be offering a public high school education with a curriculum centered on career training in the entertainment industry.
And as McNair knows, the entertainment industry is a bit like an iceberg – only about 10 percent of it is highly visible. Lighting and audio-visual technicians, tour managers, graphic artists, stage hands – and yes, bus drivers – and more are all employed to support the albums, concerts, films and television that are consumed around the world.
"What's great about this school, is that it's developing creative minds," he said.
When it was first proposed to the Portland School Board, the academy was on a fast-track to open in fall of 2010. Budgetary constraints placed on charter school grants persuaded Erica Jayasuriya, the school's director, to develop plans and curriculums in the year before the application was submitted.
Portland Public's High School Redesign plan changed everything. Jayasuriya became heavily involved in the redesign process – which has been put on hiatus until at least September. She says that her involvement was a major reason the charter school was approved and ultimately became the focus arts charter school for the district.
"A lot of what we built into our school design is what PPS is moving towards," she says.
In the process, the opening date for the academy was moved, giving Jayasuriya's team a year to increase funding and community involvement. She says they will be likely opening enrollment in February 2011 for about 200 students – first-come first served. After that, there will likely be a lottery for a possible 50 more seats.
Jayasuriya wants to keep enrollment small and targeted. Because they receive federal funds, everyone has a chance to enroll in the charter school. She says they will be doing targeted outreach to the communities they hope can benefit the most from the offerings of R.E.A.L. Prep.
The charter school won't get federal funds for operations until July 2011 – about two months before the school is scheduled to open. That means hiring teachers and picking a physical location must be done posthaste, unless additional funds can be raised from corporations and nonprofits.
Changing the Name
Even when R.E.A.L. Prep was affiliated with the High School of Recording Arts in Minnesota, the curriculum was targeted to the needs of the students in Portland, says Jayasuriya. The original HSRAP targeted older, at-risk inner city youth, a goal that didn't match the aspirations of R.E.A.L. Prep organizers.
Portland's only entertainment charter school will work on retention and offering targeted arts curriculum to grades 9 to 12. The first two years will focus on teacher-driven curriculum and the final two years will have students on a more independent, project-based study track.
The name change and the closer alignment with Portland Public Schools hasn't changed the curriculum one bit, says Jayasuriya.
"We're not technically a PPS school," she said. "I'm technically the superintendent of the school."
This independence allows R.E.A.L. Prep to fill a need that is not currently being filled by Portland Public.
"I'll tell you what we're not: An old-fashioned style magnet arts high school," she said. "Where you're a dancer or you're on the theatre track …"
R.E.A.L. Prep will cater to those who have passion for the arts – which focuses on the African Diaspora – but doesn't require anyone to have specialized training or prerequisites.
McNair says there's a huge demand for talented, trained people in the entertainment world.
"Now you have higher education — Berkley, Yale and Ivy Leagues getting into the mix," he says. "It makes sense for young people to get in on it at younger ages."
For more information, visit the school's website at http://realprepcharter.org.