“Mr. Danforth, if you are the head of the school, does that make me the heart of the school?” – City Academy student
City Academy grew out of the ideals of the Mathews-Dickey Boys’ and Girls’ Club, a premier youth agency that has provided athletic, educational and cultural enrichment programs to thousands of children since 1960.
City Academy was co-founded by Don Danforth III and Duncan Marshall, who shared ties to Mathews-Dickey and Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School (MICDS), an independent school in St. Louis County. As Director of Education at the Mathews-Dickey Boys’ and Girls’ Club for eight years, Mr. Danforth developed high-quality after-school and summer programs for children in the city who typically had limited educational opportunities. Mr. Marshall, a long-time Mathews-Dickey volunteer, served as Director of Admissions at MICDS, where he saw great opportunities for well-prepared minority students to receive scholarship support for secondary school. Their idea was to create a high-performing independent elementary school for committed families whose educational opportunities were limited by geographic, demographic, or economic factors. They believed that academic rigor and exceptional teachers would engage students in learning, challenge them to meet or exceed high standards, and, ultimately, prepare graduates for success in top independent secondary schools.
City Academy opened in 1999 within the Mathews-Dickey facility, with just three grades (junior kindergarten, senior kindergarten and first grade) and 42 students. The school added one grade per year. Then, in September 2004, City Academy opened a new 40,000 square-foot facility on Kingshighway, across the street from Mathews-Dickey. In 2007-2008, 125 students were enrolled in City Academy, which now extends from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. City Academy celebrated its first class of graduates in 2005. City Academy’s class of 2005 reached a milestone in 2015 with members of the class graduating from college!
City Academy has experienced several stages of development since its inception.
Start-up Phase (1998 – 2001)
City Academy’s start-up phase focused on engaging the community—families and donors—in efforts to establish a school. During this time, City Academy enrolled its first 40 students in junior kindergarten, senior kindergarten, and first grade. The demographic and economic characteristics of the student population reflected the neighborhood the school served: 100% of families were African-American and they paid an average need-based tuition of $1,500.
Strategic Plan #1 (2001 – 2004)
In the spring of 2001, City Academy conducted its first strategic planning session. Out of this came three imperatives: the necessity for new academic facilities, the necessity for a substantial capital and endowment campaign and the necessity to build an academic program strong enough to result in outstanding placement of students.
Strategic Plan #2 (2005 – 2010)
City Academy’s second strategic plan focused on strengthening its academic program and recommitting to its early mission of providing a school of the highest academic standards, enabling families with limited resources to have access to an academically rigorous elementary school. The plan outlined specific tactics and defined measurable goals to meet the objective of “providing a superior educational environment that emphasizes the mastery of academic fundamentals and critical life skills (to ensure that) City Academy will graduate highly educated, motivated students who are well prepared for, and able to gain admission to the top area secondary schools to which they aspire.” The plan encouraged school leadership to analyze and refine at all aspects of the educational program, and to be unyielding in the pursuit of academic excellence.
ISACS Accreditation (2008 – 2009)
In 2007-2008, City Academy conducted an extensive self-study as part of its bid for accreditation by ISACS (Independent Schools Association of the Central States). Ultimately, the visiting team unanimously recommended City Academy for full accreditation by ISACS.
Strategic Plan #3 (2010 – 2014)
City Academy’s third strategic plan focused on capacity, academic outcomes and programming, and the school’s financial situation (present and future). In 2013-2014, City Academy celebrated 15 years!
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