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Lehigh charter school grows

October 4, 2012
By MEL TOADVINE ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Dr. Timothy J. Butts is the principal of the Lee Alternative Charter High School in Lehigh Acres (LACHS) where 167 students are studying daily and according to Butts, most of the student body is doing very well and the school is continuing to grow.

Butts also wants to get the message out that the Lehigh Acres school is not closing, despite reports of a possible closing of another charter school in the county. We are owned by the Richard Milburn Academy; we are alive and well," Butt said.

The school is located off of Taylor Lane Extension, in the same complex that houses the well-known Bistro Rudy restaurant. The charter school has been in existence since 2008 and this is Butts' first year as principal of the school.

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Dr. Timothy J. Butts is the principal of the Lee Alternative Charter High School in Lehigh Acres.

The building was erected a few years before that as a movie theater in Lehigh, but lack of attendance forced its closing. Then it became a church and after that, the only charter school in Lehigh.

Butts has been an educator for a great part of his life, having spent some years in the banking business prior to becoming a teacher. He comes from Broward County on the east coast where he where he spent 10 years in education. Most of the students are from Lehigh with a few who live in Fort Myers.

Some students drive to school if they are of driving age and have a license and access to a car. Some walk and others come by way of Lee Tran, Butts said.

Students who attend the Lee Alternative Charter High School in Lehigh range from age 15 to 21.

He said the school is for students who need an alternative traditional setting.

"We have smaller numbers of students in our classrooms. Our students are here to work in smaller groups and to receive extra training if needed.

"We will graduate many of our 12th graders in the spring at Lehigh Senior High School, and many may go on to college, go into the military or find jobs for work.

Currently, most of the students are in the 11 and 12th grades with a few in the 10th grade. In addition to the main building, there are eight portable trailers with additional classrooms. They set adjacent to the school.

He said the average size of classes at the school is between 15 and 17 students while classes in other high schools are somewhat larger 20 and more.

"We are very proud of our school and of our students and teachers and staff members. And we are very appreciative of the support we receive from the Lee County Board of Education," Butts said.

The school has computers for students to work on and some students can study their lessons online from their homes.

"We monitor those students. And those that work online do so for different reasons. It could be that these students hold down jobs helping their families and there are other reasons.

"These students are tested just like any other students and are given the same type of counseling if their work slides," Butts said.

He said that in the future, he can envision the use of more online education for high schools, but still favors the personal contact with a teacher.

Charter schools are located throughout Lee County. There are 24 including the one in Lehigh and they all are under the umbrella of the Lee county school system and are operated financially by their owners with income coming to the charter schools for each student from the county.

Butts is an energetic educator and has his mind focused strictly on his students getting a good education.

"We strive to have them get their diplomas," he said.

The school has its own cafeteria, which once served as part of a church food giveaway program site. Students can have their lunches inside or outside, depending on the weather. Many play basketball during their lunch breaks.

Butts said the food is the same as served in all other schools and food delivered to one of the other schools in Lehigh is brought to the charter school.

Classes for students begin at 8:16 and continue to 2:04 p.m. While the hours may not seem normal as to the minutes, Butts said the curriculums are designed to give students time off in the afternoon to go to jobs. It also gives times for some students to stay at the school and get extra help Teachers and administration work from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., thus providing extra one-on-one after school training when needed.

"We have a lot of good support from the parents of our students. Many of them come to volunteer and help out at the school. The parents are an important part of our students' education. We meet with parents on a regular basis too with many of them serving on the School Advisory Council, otherwise known as SAC.

"We believe in involving all the stake-holders with involvement. It is the reason for the success at our school," Butts said.

Butts, who has his Ph.D. is from Bridgeton, N.J., which is located in South Jersey. He has been in Florida for more than 30 years and taught in the classroom for eight years.

Butts is a busy school administrator, constantly keeping up with the status of his students. He makes daily rounds from classroom to classroom. He also teaches computer technology in the Dunbar County School on Tuesday nights. He has two daughters. One lives in Virginia and the other in

Fort Lauderdale.

The bell rings and it is time for students to change classrooms. Students may laugh and talk with one another but they are not loud and they don't run. Butts' school and his teachers seem like a model school. Like other schools in the county, there are resource officers who are there if needed.

"We are here to serve the needs in the community. We teach respect for one another. And we stress the importance of getting a high school diploma. He said that many of the students are past the age where they could quit school, but have returned to get a first class education.

While building has been remodeled inside to provide classrooms and labs for students and offices for administrators, there is one asset that was left from the original movie theater days.

It's the main and largest theater where top movies were shown. Today it aptly serves as a large auditorium where all the students can gather. It's where Principal Butts calls students together, too, to talk about school values and the importance of an education.

"It's also where I get an opportunity to praise them for their good work and to build their self confidence in themselves, Butts said.

"Our charter school is here to stay and we are going to strive to provide the best education that can be offered to our student body, thanks to an excellent staff of teachers," Butts said.

Butts also said that the two weeks (Oct. 1 Oct. 12) will be the school's Spirit Celebration. It is open to every student enrolled at LACHS whether they are taking lessons online at home and/or attending LACHS.

"My goal is to get all the students into the school to participate in the fun-filled activities," Butts said.



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