Searching for Milton/Georgetown property

A new public charter school is scheduled to open in central Sussex County in the fall of 2021.

The Bryan Allen Stevenson School of Excellence was founded by 29-year-old Alonna Berry, of Milton. She’s the chair of the board of directors and Stevenson’s first cousin.

Berry has worked in education for the better part of a decade. She has a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Wilmington University and is working on her doctorate.

Berry has a particular interest in rural schools. About a year ago, she was awarded a fellowship to participate in Teach for America’s Rural School Leadership Academy, traveling around the country to study rural education.

“Schools that are innovating and successful in a rural environment are positioning themselves as community schools, as an access point where families can access services. It looks different in different situations, like having a food pantry in the school, or putting a doctor’s office right next door,” Berry said.

After teaching in Delaware schools and studying rural education, Berry took a job with Teach for America, providing support for educators across the state.

But she wanted to have a bigger effect on Sussex County kids. Around the start of 2018, Berry and others were brainstorming about education in Delaware and what it would look like they were to found a school.

“Essentially, we’ve been building a school from scratch,” she said.

The board’s idea is a public high school, starting with grades 9 and 10 and growing into grades 11 and 12. Their mission is to create students who are both globally- and community-minded leaders through service learning.

“One of the principals Bryan Stevenson frequently talks about is the power of proximity. It was when he actually started going into prisons and learning stories of inmates first hand that he changed his perspective,” Berry said. “We hope to partner with local nonprofits, community organizations, hospitals and doctors to give students real-world experience through a service lens. By doing things like working in soup kitchens or for Habitat for Humanity, they can get that experience and learn.”

The Delaware Department of Education accepts charter school applications each year in January, so right now, the board is busy piecing together all the necessary materials. If the application is approved, around April 2020, the state grants a planning year, putting the school on schedule to open in the fall of 2021.

In addition to preparing their application, board members are working with realtors to find a suitable location.

“We intend to be in the Milton-Georgetown area,” Berry said. “We want to be as central as possible so students across the county can access the school.”

Find out more at basseinc.org.