The lone boys-only school in Columbus has a new headmaster — and he is a former local principal.
David Hughes was the headmaster for Emanuel Prep’s first two years, but he didn’t have the credentials for the school to achieve its goal of being the first private school in Columbus to be certified as a Georgia STEM School, which integrates science, technology, engineering and math into all subjects throughout the curriculum, said Emanuel Prep founder Carlos Coleman, the lead pastor of New Birth Outreach Church, 10107 Veterans Parkway, where the school is located.
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“As we're expanding and shooting for our Georgia STEM certification, everyone has to be Georgia certified,” Coleman said of the school board's decision to hire a new headmaster. “… The main thing with the motive (for a new headmaster) is that it was just time … for a new direction so we can continue to grow.”
Coleman’s father, Farnsworth, founded New Birth in 2002. Coleman succeeded his father as lead pastor in 2014. Emanuel Prep is part of the $3.2 million, 22,000-square-foot Future Life Center that opened in 2015 on the church’s 42.5 acres.
Emanuel Prep opened in August 2016 with 13 4-year-old boys in two pre-kindergarten classrooms and ended its first school year with 24 students and four teachers. Kindergarten was added last school year, when 46 students and seven teachers were divided among four classrooms. This coming school year, with first grade being added, 58 students already are registered, Coleman said, and he hopes for 72 students and 10 teachers to be divided among six classrooms.
“We’re targeting families that want to have their sons not marginalized,” Coleman said. “That’s kind of our pitch toward the math and science, where the U.S. and Georgia falls behind, but also to give their sons a rigorous curriculum as well as a platform where they can learn how to be men. It’s all part of the program, creating confidence and a Godly way to live and lead.”
Prudent said his interest in the job was a “no-brainer” because the school’s mission and vision align with his view of education.
“Math and science education in the United States, particularly leading to math and science careers, has suffered a great blow over the years, and I don’t think we’ve been doing much to change the tide,” Prudent said. “… Here, I believe I can do the best work that I’ve ever done in my career as an educator.”
That’s 22 years, starting as a math teacher in Bibb County (1996-2006), then in Paulding County (2006-12), before becoming principal of Central Fellowship Christian Academy (2012-14), a K3-12 school in Macon. After his three years at Calvary Christian (2014-17), he taught math last school year at Chattahoochee County Middle School.
Calvary science teacher Ed Tymes, a mutual friend of Prudent and Coleman, told Prudent that Emanuel Prep was looking for new teachers as it was expanding the school to first grade. But when Coleman learned about Prudent’s experience, he wanted him to be the headmaster.
Smith and Calvary pastor emeritus Don Wilhite highly recommended Prudent, Coleman said. Prudent said he “laid the foundation” for Calvary’s pre-engineering class, which spawned the school’s Quest for Space program, teaching students how to create an experiment to fly on the International Space Station.
Prudent earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from the City College of New York in 1995, a master of divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 2003 and a specialist’s degree in educational leadership from Liberty University in 2014.
So he not only has the proper credentials and track record, Coleman said, but also “fits the mold of preparing young men to excel.”
“Boys learn differently,” Prudent said. “Sometimes, in a regular classroom setting, unfortunately, we tend to treat everybody the same way. So a lot of the time, boys will fall through the cracks, and we’ll see them tend to get into a lot of trouble. But oftentimes, that’s not because they’re troublemakers; it’s because they’re not being stimulated enough educationally. They’re not being taught at the level they should be. That’s what is different here. We assess in the beginning where they are, and for each one, we have a portfolio for them, so we can teach them at their level.”
Coleman also was impressed with Prudent’s “family principles, how he’s raising his own children, all excellent in education, as well as being a man of God who pastors a church.”
Prudent, who serves Benning Hills Baptist Church, has three daughters, Frances (Columbus State University) Abi (Northside High School and dually enrolled at CSU) and Lydia (Rainey-McCullers School of the Arts) and one son, Chris (University of Georgia). His wife, Anne-Elizabeth, is a special-education teacher at Allen Elementary School.
Georgia’s pre-K standards expect students to count up to 20 by the end of the school year. But at Emanuel Prep, which developed its own curriculum by taking rigorous parts from various states, the pre-K goal is to count up 100, Coleman said.
According to Emanuel Prep’s annual in-house assessment, Coleman said, the students increased their scores from pre-K to kindergarten by an average of 36 percent in English language arts and by 42 percent in math.
“When you have a more focused approach with smaller learning communities," Coleman said, "you have more time to develop."
And the retention rate indicates parents appreciate that development. After ending Emanuel Prep’s first year with 24 students, 23 of them returned the following school year, and 42 of last school year’s 46 students are returning this coming school year, Coleman said.
The students at Emanuel Prep have come from families with a variety of incomes.
“We teach our young scholars that we can all achieve things together,” Coleman said. “We can collaborate together, no matter what our backgrounds are. So we have single-parent homes, kids who come here from below the poverty line, and we have some kids that have both parents as physicians.”
Although the staff is diverse by race and gender, Coleman said, nearly all of the students at the boys-only school are racial minorities.
“It’s a challenge,” Coleman said about diversifying the students. “It’s been a new school. I mean, people like to see what’s going to happen. I’m sure more people will be looking when the scores come out next spring. … But we’ll take whoever God sends us — and we’ll give them the best education they can receive.”
The growth plan for Emanuel Prep includes adding one grade per year through eighth grade.
Emanuel Prep’s 2018-19 school year will start Aug. 8. The spots for kindergarten are full, Coleman said, but openings remain for students in pre-K and first grade as well as the school’s summer camp. Call 706-327-1978 for more information.
Mark Rice, 706-576-6272, @MarkRiceLE