My name is Stephanie Tascillo and I’m the Director of Outreach and Enrollment for Atlantis Academies in South Florida. We have four locations, one in Miami that’s K-8, one in Miami that’s post-secondary, one in Coral Springs, and another in West Palm Beach. Atlantis Academies specializes in individualized education for students with special needs.
What do you think about school choice programs in Florida? Why are they helpful for the students you serve?
School choice programs are helpful for the students we serve because a lot of our students are not successful in a public setting. Our program offers small class sizes and individualized instruction. Our students have been very successful and with school choice programs, they’re able to use the scholarship funding to offset the tuition at our school.
What makes your school special specifically that’s not available in the public school system?
Atlantis Academies is a very special program because we have children who have special needs that for whatever reason are not successful in public schools. It might be that the classes are too big or that there’s too many distractions. At Atlantis Academy, we have small class sizes with very high teacher-to-student ratios and individualized learning plans for all of our students. For that reason, many of our students are very successful that they graduate high school with standard high school diplomas, and they’re able to go on to varying post-secondary options.
How many of the families that you serve wouldn’t be able to afford private school without some sort of school choice funding?
Atlantis academy does require private funding. The state does not give us any money, the school is not aided by taxpayer dollars. For that reason, parents have to pay the full tuition amount. For many parents, these school choice scholarship options are a great way for them to be able to offset our tuition amount.
What do you find most fulfilling about the work?
What I find the most fulfilling about the work that we do is when we have a student who’s maybe struggled for many years in a public setting or has become one number out of thousands of kids. They come to us and they have these individual plans and everybody knows them. Our school is very small and its great to see that students have been able to be successful in their grade level. It’s fulfilling to know that success is a result of being at Atlantis Academy and the amount of time and effort that the teachers put in. It’s great to know who these kids are and help get them too levels where they need to be.
“Parents know what’s best for their kids. Each child is an individual, not every child learns the same way.”
What do you want to say to people or lawmakers who are considering whether or not to support school choice?
I would say school choice is very, very important. Our lawmakers need to support it. Parents know what’s best for their kids. Each child is an individual, not every child learns the same way. Differentiated instruction is very, very important, and we need to raise a generation who is able to fend for themselves and be productive members of society. And the only way we’re going to do that is to provide an education that best fits them.