Are you looking for a school in South Florida? These just made the best list

Two of the schools that ranked high were Somerset Academy at SoMi (South Miami campus) and Doral Academy of Technology. Both charter schools — Somerset in the elementary division and Doral in the middle school division — were named No. 1 for schools in Miami-Dade County and for charter schools in Florida.

Several South Florida schools made it into the top ranks for best public elementary and middle schools in Florida as well as into the top five for charters, according to new rankings by U.S. News & World Report. 

Two of the schools that ranked high were Somerset Academy at SoMi (South Miami campus) and Doral Academy of Technology. Both charter schools — Somerset in the elementary division and Doral in the middle school division — were named No. 1 for schools in Miami-Dade County and for charter schools in Florida.
Doral Academy also snagged the No. 2 spot for best middle school in Florida, with Somerset Academy securing the No. 3 spot for best elementary school in Florida. Somerset Academy at SoMi also garnered the No. 3 spot for best middle school charter in Florida. The school goes from kindergarten to eighth grade.
To read the complete article in the Miami Herald, click on this link

Amanda Nichols Receives University of Chicago Outstanding Educator Award

Amanda Nichols, an educator at Somerset Academy High School in Pembroke Pines, FL received the University of Chicago Outstanding Educator Award. An Outstanding Educator shapes young minds in meaningful ways—thoughtfully approaching instruction, sharing an infectious love for learning, and caring for students both inside and outside of the classroom. Each year, newly admitted UChicago students have the opportunity to reflect on their time in school and nominate an educator who played a significant role in their education, made a positive impact in their lives, and whose influence has brought them to where they are today. The University of Chicago is honored to recognize excellence in teaching and sincerely congratulates this year’s Outstanding Educator Award winners, who are exceptional in their field and role models for all students. The University deeply appreciates the lively minds who thirst for knowledge that these educators have nurtured and inspired. We thank them for going above and beyond the call of duty every day and leaving an impression that will be carried over a lifetime. All award winners receive a commemorative award, certificate, and letter that includes details from the student they were nominated by. Principals and superintendents of award winners will also receive communications notifying them that their employees have received the award.


Please use the social media hashtag, #outstandingeducators, to highlight winners and share their achievements. Additional information regarding the University of Chicago Outstanding Educator can be found on our website at the following link: Any further questions can be directed to Justin Klein at​​​​​​​.

Somerset Academy Eagle Campus - Black families find understanding, trust

Somerset Academy Eagle Campus principal Tunji Williams believes education is a two-way street, a partnership between school and family, with the parent as the child’s first teacher.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Dorian Smith wanted a more academically challenging environment for his daughter, D’Yani, so after third grade he moved her from her struggling neighborhood school to a magnet school.


Because of staff churn, though, that school wasn’t working out either. So, in the middle of fifth grade, Smith turned to a college-prep charter school other parents had been telling him about for years.


Now D’Yani is a sixth grader at Somerset Academy Eagle Campus, and excelling.


Smith described the school as having “more of a home vibe.” It’s smaller, warmer, and more structured, he said. It sets high expectations for student performance and communication with parents. And it matters, he said, that in a school where 96% of the students are Black, so are nearly 70% of the teachers and administrators.
“It boils down to a little more understanding and a little more trust,” said Smith, a police officer. “Sometimes you need that familiar face to relate and connect a little better. That’s not to say there is a guarantee that because of that your child is going to prosper. But it helps. Once you ease the comfort level, it’s easier to learn.”
To read the complete article, click on the link here

Read "Charter schools are good for our community" on The Florida-Times Union

Written by Guest Columnist, Tunji Williams, Principal of Somerset Academy Eagle Campus in Jacksonville.

In a recent column, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor from Tampa bemoaned the rise of public charter schools in Florida, claiming they undermine traditional district schools.


I understand her fears. Back in the late 1990s, when charter schools were new in Florida thanks to legislation signed into law by Gov. Lawton Chiles, I was also concerned. I didn’t understand them.


But then I educated myself. I visited charter schools and saw the good they are doing. And now we have two decades of evidence showing charters benefit families and often help strengthen district schools . . .
Read the full article at the link 

Somerset Academy  in Jacksonville

Celebrating the Class of 2021: Somerset Academy Losee Campus

After a tough year of COVID learning, schools across the valley continue to celebrate their 2021 graduates. Somerset Academy Losee Campus held a special ceremony Thursday night to honor their students, as they send them out into the world.

The ceremony was held at Craig Ranch Regional Park.
About 119 students donned caps and gowns, with their families in attendance and a few other special guests.
Like many other schools, this is the first time all of the 2021 seniors had been able to gather together like this in months.
8 News Now spoke with the school’s principal earlier, who said it’s really refreshing to see everyone come together.


“We’ve gone back and forth to be able to bring everyone together,” said Principal Jessica Scobell. “It’s bringing us back to normal. It’s great for our graduates; it’s great for our families. So, we are just really excited to be here today.”
To read the original news article, please click here

Somerset Parkland Academy; Rising Up in the Midst of a Pandemic

As the first year of Somerset Parkland Academy comes to a close, it is already regarded within the Parkland community as many families' school of choice, outpacing the high marks of our public schools in many aspects.

PARKLAND, FL- The opening of any new school is an incredible challenge. From new facilities to new students and staff to new operations, the first year is always the most difficult. For Somerset Parkland Academy, opening and enduring the first year process during the pandemic was a tougher situation than anyone could imagine. The additional complexities of working with day-to-day teaching and COVID-related issues made the year more challenging than one could ever expect.
And yet, as the first year of Somerset Parkland Academy comes to a close, it is already regarded within the Parkland community as many families' school of choice, outpacing the high marks of our public schools in many aspects.
No single person has been more instrumental in the first-year success of Somerset Parkland Academy than Principal Geyler Castro.
"Establishing a school culture and family feel without interacting face-to-face is an incredible challenge," says Castro. "The idea of being brand new, and being in this together, was paramount in creating a successful environment for year one. Building a 'classroom of the future,' and then teaching without having met your students face to face; that's a challenge."
One of the strengths of Principal Castro is identifying and empowering highly capable staff and supporters. Jennifer Knight, President of the official Somerset Parkland Academy volunteer group the VIPP's (Very Involved Parkland Parents), and a team of volunteers have assisted the school staff, teachers, and leaders in every way during the school year. As the year closes out, one final event organized by the VIPP's is the unique Founder's Event, which will be held on Wednesday evening, May 26.
The Founder's Event will recognize all the time and effort Castro and the founding staff, families, and supporters of Somerset Parkland Academy have put into making year one an outstanding success.
"The school staff of Somerset Parkland Academy have really done a fantastic job to open this school during a pandemic and try to give our kids a sense of normalcy this year," says Knight. "As President of the VIPP, I also want to recognize the parents at the school who have really stepped up to volunteer and financially support the school this year."
One of the unique components of the Founder's Event is the idea that locals can support the Founding of Somerset Parkland Academy by sponsoring a brick with their name on it that will be permanently included as part of the sidewalk at the school. The bricks are a tremendous way to help fundraise for the school and build ongoing community support at the same time.
"The Founder's Event will be a closing highlight of the year for many of us. We're so thankful for all the positive support from our families and supporters at Somerset Parkland Academy," shares Knight. "And ultimately, this is for the benefit of our children and this community. It hasn't always been easy, but we've seen incredible progress this school year and are excited for the years ahead."
Principal Castro agrees with Knight's sentiment. "I can't think of a better way to recognize and celebrate our Somerset Parkland Academy's incredible year than with this Founder's Event. We simply want to thank our administrative team, teachers, support staff, and community for all the support- and show them we've only just begun!"
The Founder's Event begins on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. and will be held in the Media Room. For more information on the event, please contact Jennifer Knight at
For full article, please click here

Bahamas shows appreciation to Somerset Academy Miramar teachers

Tourism reps present beach bags loaded with goodies from The Bahamas!

PLANTATION, FLORIDA — Representatives from the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation’s (BMOTA) sales and marketing team recently took time out to present gift beach bags loaded with Bahamas-branded items to teachers of Somerset Academy Miramar Charter School​​​​​​​, Miramar, Florida.

To read the entire article, click here​​​​​​​ 

Somerset Academy Students and Coach Named All County in Basketball and Wrestling

This past March at Somerset Academy, members of both the Basketball and Wrestling teams made significant accomplishments for themselves, teams, and school. The Sun Sentinel selects the best athletes within their respective sports, including basketball, wrestling, football, soccer, volleyball, and more.'
For the Somerset Academy Basketball team, senior point guard, Jonathan Renois, was selected for 2nd team All County by the Sun Sentinel, and Daivd Delancy IV was selected as an honorable mention. These are two great accomplishments on behalf of these two athletes for themselves, as well as for their team. Congratulations to both Jonathan Renois and David Delancy IV for earning these titles, and being considered top athletes according to the Sun Sentinel.
For the Somerset Academy Wrestling team, 9 students were considered to be 1st team All County, 2 students were selected for 2nd team All County, as well as 1 Honorable mention. Darian Estevez was named the Wrestler of the Year and considered to be 1st team All County as well. Darian has received a full scholarship and will be attending the University of Chicago next school year. Congratulations to Darian Estevez, EJ Solis, Skyler Caban, Chase Gillis, Bas Diaz, Christian Fretwell, Danny Diaz, and Matthew Jimenez for being recognized as 1st team All County this year. We would also like to congratulate Matthew Velasco and Joshua Oyeneye for earning 2nd team All County, and Raymond Greene for receiving an honorable mention. These athletes are considered to be the best in their sport after receiving these achievements. The Sun Sentinel​​​​​​​ also named Coach Joseph Blasucci the Coach of the Year.
Congratulations to both Somerset Academy Basketball and Wrestling teams for receiving these achievements on behalf the Sun Sentinel. These athletes and coach are considered to be the best of their sports, and have made great accomplishments.

North Las Vegas Mayor Talks to Somerset Students about Leadership

North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee takes questions from students during a virtual leadership assembly at the Somerset Academy North Las Vegas , Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Lee was the featured speaker.

Watch the video below and read the complete article here

Jonathan Renois (Senior) is a McDonald’s All American Nominee!

On Thursday, February 18, Jonathan Renois was nominated  for the South Region as a McDonald’s All American. He is the first basketball player nominated in Somerset Academy history.

Charter School Network Prepare to Return Formerly Struggling North Florida Schools to Local Control

Nearly five years after taking over operations of Jefferson County’s struggling school system, Somerset Academy, Inc. is preparing to return control to the local school board.
“I’m super proud of how far we’ve come,” said Cory Oliver, who has served as principal of the combined K-12 campus since two district schools were turned over to the South Florida based charter school network. “It’s a completely different school.”
Oliver, whose office sports a Superman theme, has a lot to feel good about.
The percentage of students receiving passing scores on state standardized tests, which once were in single digits, are now between 35 and 45% in most subjects. Disciplinary referrals are down by 80% since the start of the 2020-21 school year. The district, which earned D’s in the two years prior to Somerset’s arrival, has improved a letter grade.
The high school graduation rate rose by almost 20 percentage points this year, though state officials caution that may not be accurate as many students were not required to retake graduation tests due to the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, enrollment, which was a little less than 700 in 2017 and represented only about half of all eligible students who lived in the district, has increased to about 779.
The improvements go beyond academics. Somerset installed a new kitchen and added a culinary arts program and built a recording studio. It renovated the gym and refurbished the weight room. Band members got new instruments and football players no longer had to share shoulder pads.
The JROTC program, impressive before Somerset took over, continues to be a shining star. Trophies hidden away in closets are now displayed in trophy cases. Classrooms got technology upgrades. Students got new uniforms.
“It’s like night and day. These kids have been in poverty and living without for so long,” Oliver said. “We want them to see what’s possible and feel like this is home and that they deserve to be here.”
Oliver’s philosophy was reflected in the school’s motto for 2019-20: “Whatever It Takes!” to Somerset officials, it took everything they had to improve what had been the lowest performing schools in the state.
“When we got here, the staff was exhausted and overwhelmed,” Oliver said. “The staff is still exhausted and overwhelmed, but they’re seeing results. They’re seeing what’s possible when they work as a team and know they are going to be supported.”
Residents of Jefferson County, a 637-square-mile area with a population of about 15,000, once were proud of their schools, which were a model for other districts, according to comments Jefferson County School Board member Shirley Washington made at a State Board of Education meeting in 2016.
“We used to be the flying Tigers,” Washington said, referring to the school’s Tiger mascot. “We had other schools come to our county and see what we were doing. We’re going to get it back there. There’s no doubt in my mind.”
But to state officials, the Jefferson County schools looked more like the crash-and-burn Tigers. Florida Department of Education officials came to visit and did not like what they saw.
More than half of the students at Jefferson Middle-High School had been held back two or more times. Just 7% of middle schoolers scored at grade level on 2016 state math assessment. To put that in perspective, 26% of students were performing at grade level in the state’s second-lowest performing district. Enrollment had dwindled for years as more families sent their students to private schools or district schools in neighboring counties. Finances also were a mess.
After rejecting the three turnaround plans that district officials submitted, the Board of Education took an historic vote to make Jefferson County schools the state’s first district run by a charter school provider. The solution mirrored education reform in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina decimated the schools.
Somerset Academy, Inc. won the bid to assume control.
Somerset staff arrived to discover complete disarray: crumbling buildings, graffiti-covered walls, old equipment stacked against classroom walls and no enforcement of discipline.
“It was way worse than we ever imagined,” said Todd German, chairman and treasure of Somerset’s board of directors. “These did not look like places anyone would want to come to learn or come to work.”
School board members pledged to cooperate with Somerset but later said they were “coerced” into accepting the arrangement. The superintendent at the time told WLRN Public Radio that the Department of Education “played in places they shouldn’t have.” Education Commissioner Pam Stewart countered, stating it was “very clear that the Department acted within their authority.”
The charter network fired about half the staff and recruited new teachers. Teacher salaries were raised to $43,800, compared to $36,160 teachers in neighboring Leon County earned. The network hired additional security officers at the schools, where fights had broken out almost daily. One brawl, which occurred just a few months after Somerset came on board, resulted in 15 arrests.
“It was like the wild West,” German recalled, while acknowledging the problems were caused by a small percentage of students. “Cory improved security and put in some zero tolerance policies.”
Oliver said staff from Somerset arrived to find a culture of apathy. Students were allowed to loiter in the halls or outside when they should have been in class.
After the takeover, he said, even the maintenance staff pitched in, alerting administrators when they saw anyone who didn’t belong on campus. Custodians engaged students who looked stressed to make sure they were okay.
“We were de-escalators, not enforcers,” said Oliver, who also hired mental health specialists and started a mentoring program for younger students.
Slowly, the culture began to change. Community members, including the Rev. Pedro McKelvin of Welaunee Missionary Baptist Church, began to support the new leadership. Before the takeover, he said, the district “was on the brink of collapse.”
Christian Steen, a senior, credited Oliver with boosting morale and observed that things had improved significantly.
“The students are more focused in class and now there’s not much skipping,” said Steen when he spoke before a House Education Committee three months after the takeover.
As they enter the last year of their contract, Somerset officials want to prepare to hand the district back to local officials. They already have begun working with a newly elected superintendent to meet that goal. Somerset has offered to let a new principal hired by the school district shadow Oliver before he leaves.
“I have a lot of feelings about leaving Jefferson,” said German, Somerset’s chairman. “I hope we can set (the schools) up to succeed."
To read the original article, click here

Cara Salsberry of Somerset Academy Canyons Gains Admittance to Harvard University

For as long as she can remember, Cara Salsberry, a senior at Somerset Academy Canyons Charter School, has wanted to be an inspiration to others. Cara is a current student athlete, President of her senior class, a member of the Science National Honor Society, and a member of the Health Occupation Students of America.
Throughout her high school experience, Cara has been passionate about discus and shot put, and is also considered to be number one among high school seniors in the state of Florida for both discus and her shot-put throw. She stands at 156-feet, 11 inches for the discus and at 43 feet, 6 inches in the shot put. However, her high school in Boynton Beach, Florida, does not have an area for shot put or discus, in which she is often found practicing on the sidewalk.
Despite the obstacles set in Cara’s way throughout this journey, she has found every way to exercise her passion. Cara, a track and field star at her high school, has been accepted into more than 30 colleges and universities including Harvard, Princeton and Auburn. Cara states, “I never felt that type of breathtaking moment before, and I felt so uplifted because my family was there with me.” Congratulations Cara Salsberry!
Read the full story here

Somerset Jefferson K-12 spreads holiday joy to students in Monticello, Florida

For the fourth year in a row, Academica schools in South Florida has sent some holiday love to children in the Big Bend region. Elementary students at Jefferson Somerset in Monticello will “shop” for their own Christmas gifts before the winter break, choosing from hundreds of gifts sent from six schools in the Miami-Dade and surrounding areas.

Somerset Academy National Junior Honor Society made thank you posters for the doctors, nurses, and medical support staff at Memorial Hospital in Miramar FL

According to their sponsor, Mr. Martinez, “It’s important now, more than ever, to say an extra ‘thank you’ to our doctors among the Coronavirus fight. We wanted to recognize the physicians for the vital role they play in the success of hospitals and the well-being of patients”

Arizona Charter School, Somerset Skyway, Receives Expansion and Innovation Grant

Somerset Academy Skyway Campus, an Academica-supported K-6 school in Arizona, was awarded a 2020 A For Arizona Expansion and Innovation Grant. This grant was awarded to schools that have been successful providing their students with uninterrupted learning during the pandemic.
As Emily Anne Gullickson, the founder and CEO of "A for Arizona", said, “The quality and caliber of applications we reviewed in Round One shows that our local leaders are developing creative solutions to address the current challenges facing our K-12 education system." From providing Remote-Live Instruction (RLI) to ensuring students have electronic devices, Somerset Skyway has been able to provide students with access to a quality education. The grant will assist Somerset Skyway to enhance its programming for its students.
At the administrative level, the grant was received with appreciation and humility. As Kristin Crawford, the principal of Somerset Skyway, said, “We appreciate the collaboration opportunities that [Emily Anne Gullickson] and A for Arizona organized for schools over the summer. Without Colēgia and the Zoom sessions, none of this would have been possible.” Although Colēgia and the Zoom sessions helped, they were only tools, and tools are futile unless one knows how to use them. The perseverance and pursuit of excellence by Somerset Skyway was what allowed them to receive the grant.
Receiving the grant is a great achievement and a testament to the determination, resilience, and grit of Somerset Skyway. Somerset Skyway’s eagerness to guarantee their students are learning without sacrificing safety is clear.

Las Vegas teacher turns students into cardboard cut-outs ahead of a new school year

Las Vegas | August 14, 2020
LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Tara Swartz is a 5th grade teacher at Somerset Academy Lone Mountain. Classes start Monday and Swartz will start her day staring out at twenty-six smiling faces. What makes her class unique is those faces will be made of cardboard.
"At the baseball games you see the cardboard cutouts in the background," Swartz said. "We thought that's a great idea. What if we did that with the kids? They'll get to see themselves and we'll get to see them."
Mrs. Swartz sent out an email to all the parents asking for a picture of their students. The pictures came in, she went to the store and her cardboard kids classroom was born.
"I really like it," exclaimed one of her students.
"I think it's so creative and so cute," said another.
Mrs. Swartz will be teaching her students virtually, with 26 little boxes on her laptop, but all she has to do is look up to see those same faces smiling and life sized in her classroom.
"It means so much," an emotional Swartz says. "I'm so filled with joy to be their teacher."
Classes start Monday morning at Somerset Academy Lone Mountain.

Jefferson Somerset Academy Principal Cory Oliver is working hard to keep students and staff safe

Theresa Sterling
Jefferson Somerset Academy
He spent the summer preparing for the new school year in very different ways compared to years past. Not only was he hiring new staff, examining curricula, overseeing normal summer maintenance and managing Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) reporting and compliance—with his two young children on campus all summer—he was laser-focused on opening school safely for Jefferson County students August 31.
“It’s always about academics,” says Oliver. “But this year, our top priority is keeping everyone safe and healthy. Without that, the other things won’t matter.”
Oliver, 41, and an educator since 2003, along with wife Courtney Oliver, Assistant Principal for Somerset Elementary and Andre Gainey, Assistant Principal for Somerset Middle and High Schools, spent the summer drafting opening plans for FLDOE approval, working alongside the school’s facilities staff placing social distancing desk markers on classroom floors, painting directional pedestrian lines on walkways, cleaning out storage areas and moving extra classroom furniture in to the cafeteria and tackling cleanup in the media center, which was the staging area at the start of the year for curriculum sets and technology devices for all grade levels. Furniture was moved out of classrooms to allow safe desk spacing and smaller student groups, and classes are limited to a number that enables social distancing per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, though many classes have fewer students than guidelines allow in the on-site, traditional instructional model. Most classes cap student numbers at around 12, but this varies depending on room size.
The alternative mode of instruction Somerset offers is Remote Live Instruction (RLI), which 35% of students chose at the start of the year. RLI is different from virtual self-paced learning: with RLI, students use Zoom videoconferencing to enter their classes at a specified time to participate in group activities with their peers and classroom teachers, and they must be online with cameras, audio activated and wearing school uniform shirts. Teachers work simultaneously with students present in class and learning through RLI.
For students without computers at home, the school provided laptops for all who needed them, and families with more than one Somerset student received a laptop for each child. Staff handed out materials and devices in drive-through lines before the start of school. There were glitches—originally the school furnished iPads, which turned out to be incompatible for current instructional needs—so all devices were recalled and replaced, and the Zoom site crashed when schools across the globe opened up all at once. It was extra work and frustration, for sure, but Somerset administration’s motto is “Whatever it Takes”, and it is evident teachers and staff keep this tagline in mind in their service to students of Jefferson County.
“I just returned from a visit to Miami and Broward schools. I honestly can say that the reason that our school has had such a successful opening is directly because of our amazing teachers and staff that have continued to follow the protocols we established back in July,” Oliver says. “The people who serve our students are the heart and soul of our school community. I am beyond honored to lead such an amazing team. Nobody has done this as well as our team.”
Principal Oliver took other key actions to ensure a safe school opening:
• Mandatory masks worn at all times. No person enters the school without one, and non-compliance is swiftly addressed. Students are given “mask breaks” outside each day.
• Hall monitors stationed in each building, called pavilions on the Somerset campus, who clean between restroom use and continually disinfect doorknobs and other common space fixtures throughout the day.
• Purchased a state-of-the-art screening system placed in the main entry. The system, which cost several thousand dollars and is staffed by a security guard, digitally tracks masks on faces and temperatures of each body entering the school.
• Installed a Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization (NPBI) air filtration system in eight classroom pavilions, the gym and cafeteria at a cost of $55,000, skipping the portables, which have individual systems that do not share air with other rooms or buildings. The system—chosen by high-visibility clients such as Harvard University, the Tampa Bay Lightning Arena and the White House, according to the company’s web site—changes the makeup of pathogenic particles, causing them to glom together in larger masses that are then easily filtered out. Investing in cleaning the circulating air seemed a better use of resources, said Oliver, when compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars other school districts spent to install plexiglass shields around each desk. One South Florida district spent $750,000 on shields, which are not hermetic seals and permit air flow to move around the plexiglass.
• Cohort student groups do not change classes, and students are not permitted to congregate in hallways or outside. They remain in classes where teachers come to them, and lunch is delivered to each room. This avoids groups of students moving through the campus and mixing with other classes at cafeteria lunch tables.
• Volunteers are not permitted on campus, and parents are discouraged from showing up without scheduling in advance. Many visitors are asked to wait in their vehicles if they can be accommodated this way.
• Teachers must submit up-to-date seating charts and students adhere to assigned seating. This facilitates contact tracing in case a positive COVID case is identified.
• Cleaning staff disinfects classrooms and other spaces at the end of each day.
Families are now contacting the school to change the instructional mode for their students. Internet service can be spotty in Jefferson County (giving families laptops doesn’t solve the nationwide problem of broadband access in rural areas), a concern Oliver took up with Verizon in his request that the company update local cell towers. And, many families realize the best learning environment for their students is in the classroom, with peers and teacher proximity. Somerset Academy set the start of the new semester in January 2021 as the official instructional mode change period but with overwhelming change requests from families who want to make the switch now, school administration has started wait lists for classroom seats and recently—in an innovative move—created a large overflow area where students can learn via RLI on campus with more reliable internet service and ample social distancing.
Oliver admits it hasn’t been easy, but he and staff have risen to each challenge, worked through it, and learned from it. He has made some hard decisions, following CDC guidelines and his own conscience to keep his Somerset family safe, including tracking a COVID exposure and mandating quarantine of the football team, which also affected the most recent opponent, North Florida Christian. That was hard for the team, hard on seniors, he says, and a difficult call for Somerset’s athletic director to make to the other school.
His sadness and frustration came through in a staff email. “Over 80 people have been quarantined because of one family choosing to not follow the guidelines,” the principal wrote.
Now, several months into the pandemic, Oliver isn’t letting staff or students grow lax in these COVID times. In another message to staff, he stressed that his duty—an appropriate term, coming from a former Army combat engineer—is to ensure safety guidelines are followed to keep Jefferson Somerset students, staff and their families safe and healthy.
“Until this pandemic is over, teaching is secondary to school safety. This is our sad reality. I am so very proud of our students and staff for working so hard to keep the school safe. We have witnessed so many positive moments here. Proper protocols actually have stopped many people from being exposed and sent home to quarantine,” he wrote. “Please, do not fear doing the right thing. You must enforce all of the guidelines, and all of the time, if we are to get through this without a massive shut down.”
His diligence and positive results have not gone unnoticed; Oliver made a recent trip to South Florida to advise other schools in preparing for opening on-site instruction. Many districts began the year with remote learning alone and are now returning to traditional brick and mortar classes, and having already worked through the planning, implementation and correction phases, his input is invaluable in these unprecedented times.
Principal Oliver’s concern for Jefferson County students guides every initiative, not only during the uncertainty of this pandemic, but from the very beginning in earlier, more normal days. Somerset invested millions of dollars in improvements campus-wide at his direction, from refurbishing buildings to installing state of the art systems for special programs, to landscaping,to pouring new basketball courts, to installing visually inviting, inspiring design elements throughout all pavilions. The campus was deteriorating when Somerset arrived, he says, with graffiti marring buildings and structures deteriorating from lack of adequate care.
“Students should feel respected. They should feel they are worthy of a clean, safe, beautiful learning space, and they deserve that,” he says. “We invested in this campus because these kids are worth it.”
Oliver usually ends the school day with a broadcast announcement of positivity and gratitude, his last connection with students before sending them home for the day. When a sudden cold front came through recently and the mercury dropped drastically within just a few hours, his cool dad voice came over the intercom minutes before students headed to the bus loop and parent pick-up areas.
“Tigers, it will be cold tomorrow morning, so wear a jacket. I am really proud of you all, and I love you guys,” he said.
The next morning staff greeted sleepy-faced students yawning and grabbing to-go breakfasts and heading to class, most heeding the fatherly message, bundled up against the unseasonably cold North Florida morning.

South Dade wins 16th state wrestling team title; Somerset Academy reigns in 1A

Somerset Academy dominated its way to winning the 1A state championship, sending nine wrestlers to the medal stand including four individual state titles and rolling up 196 points.

To read the full article in the Miami Herald, click here


Improving Teacher Retention Through Mentoring

Charter School Superstars: Episode 24

Dr. Sarah Boulos Fye and Ryan Kairalla discuss the role that mentorship and peer relationships play in keeping teachers in the profession

Listen to more episodes here:



Teach the Way They Learn: Episode 7,8
This two-part interview discusses the benefits and sacrifices of grit.  

Listen to More Episodes Here


Jefferson Turnaround

Teach the Way They Learn: Episodes 18-20
In this 3-part interview Lily Salazar speaks with Cory Oliver about his experience at Somerset Jefferson.

Listen to more episodes here​​​​​​​




Effective Leadership

Charter School Superstars: Episode 1
Judy Marty (CAO, Mater Academy, Inc.) and Carrie Montano (Principal, Pinecrest Glades Academy) speak about fostering student success in high-poverty and ELL schools, selecting the right faculty, and busting charter education myths.

Listen to more episodes here


Social Media in Schools

Teach the Way They Learn: Episode 35
This episode discusses the pros and cons of social media in schools.

Listen to more episodes here

Bringing a charter school to a new community

Charter School Superstars: Episode 67

Principal Geyler Castro talks about the incredible journey of introducing the first public charter school to the wonderful community of Parkland, Florida.

Listen to more episodes here

Effective Charter School In Key West

Charter School Superstars: Episode 83
Thomas Rompella speaks to Ryan Kairalla about his perspective on leadership and encouraging innovative ideas from his faculty and staff.

Listen to more episodes here

Two Academica-Serviced Schools Named 2020 National Blue Ribbon Charter Schools

Miami, Florida, March 20, 2020
Somerset Academy Miramar South and Somerset Academy Middle School South Miami (SoMi) earn 2020 National Blue Ribbon School Award Distinction
U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos recognized Somerset Academy Miramar South and Somerset Academy SoMi Middle School (SoMi) as 2020 National Blue Ribbon schools. A total of 11 schools in Florida were recognized.
Somerset Academy Miramar South Elementary and Somerset Academy Middle South Miami, were recognized for their exemplary performance and progress in closing the achievement gap.
Somerset Academy Middle South Miami (SoMi) is a part of the nationally acclaimed Somerset Academy, Inc. charter school network. SoMi opened its doors in the Fall of 2009. Now in its 12th year of operation, SoMi is home to nearly 200 students in grades 6 through 8. Somerset Middle SoMi offers a rigorous curriculum, featuring programs in Spanish and Mandarin. SoMi was designated as a "School of Excellence" by the Florida State Board of Education. It has received an "A" grade under the State of Florida Accountability Program for a decade and consistently ranks among the highest performing middle schools in the State. SoMi Principal, Kim Guilarte-Gil, is a recipient of a 2019 Florida Charter School Champion Award for being an exemplary School Leader. SoMi earns its Blue Ribbon award under the category of "Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools."
Somerset Academy Miramar South (SAMS), also a member of Somerset network, earns its Blue Ribbon under the category of "Exemplary High Performing Schools." In 2019, SAMS was the highest performing school in the State of Florida on the English and Math portions of the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA). One hundred percent of students at SAMS scored proficient on the ELA and Mathematics FSA. The school is led by Principal Alexandra Prieto. Prieto is a recipient of a 2017 Florida Charter School Champion Principal Leadership Award. Under Principal Prieto’s leadership, SAMS’ sister school, Somerset Academy Miramar, earned the 2018 National Blue Ribbon School designation. It was the first of the Somerset Academies and was one of the first charter schools in Florida.
Somerset Academy, Inc. Governing Board Chair, Todd German, says "We are proud of the Principals and their teams for their outstanding work. It is heartening to see their exemplary work recognized this way."
As a member of the Somerset Academy network of high quality charter schools, Somerset SoMi and SAMS are fully accredited by COGNIA under the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS-CASI) division. The Somerset schools are supported by Academica, a global education community providing services and support to nearly 200 charter schools.
In consideration of COVID-19, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Awards Ceremony will be held virtually. It is scheduled for November 12th and 13th. More information about the 2020 National Blue Ribbon School designations can be found by clicking the following link: National Blue Ribbon Schools Program
ABOUT SOMERSET ACADEMY: Founded in 1997, Somerset Academy Charter School opened in Miramar, Florida, to humble beginnings. The network now operates over 70 high performing charter schools in Florida, Texas, Nevada and the Canary Islands serving nearly 35,000 students. Somerset Academy, Inc. schools have earned local and national awards for their performance, including six National Blue Ribbon School designations. 
ABOUT ACADEMICA: Academica is at the forefront of maximizing and developing human potential and achievement. The global education community supports individuals through school, college, career and beyond. Academica supports college and career preparatory K-16 (kindergarten through college) public charter schools throughout the nation. Through Academica Virtual Education (AVE) and Academica International Studies (AIS), Academica leverages cutting-edge technology to deliver high-quality education to students across the world. 
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