The New Face of Lakeside Charter: Follow Up Q&A with Dr. Jim Montague and Staff

Setting The Scene

It is 8 am on a rainy Friday morning and the students of Lakeside Charter Academy are making their way down to the multipurpose room for their morning assembly. They chatter and giggle as they walk in lines through the outside hallways until they arrive at the doors of the building. Upon entering they are each met with a smile and a greeting by name by their principal Dr. Montague, who is full of energy and excitement about the assembly to come. As the students take their seats he walks up to the stage and delivers a warm “good morning,” which is met with dozens of chirpy squeals of greetings in return. The students quiet down as they begin to listen to the announcements of an upcoming Thanksgiving charity drive and are introduced to the “Perseverance” speaker of the day, Chef Maria Kemp of Beyond Decadence desserts. Throughout the assembly, the children were hooked on Chef Kemp’s story of becoming a pastry chef and politely asked questions about her journey, especially when she mentioned she had brought them desserts. Once the assembly had finished, and the children were full of sugar, they said their goodbye’s and lined up class by class to move on to their first period’s.
From seeing even just the assembly, the picture couldn’t be clearer: these kids love their school and the staff love to engage their students and help them learn!


Lakeside Charter Academy, formerly Thunderbird Academy, has gone through some big changes for the 2018-2019 school year. The biggest of those was the addition of their new Principal, Dr. Jim Montague, who brings in a decade of experience and a whole new perspective to the school. Dr. Montague took on the challenge of redesigning the Charter School with the backing of the Office of Charter Schools. Before the start of the school year, he was busy bringing in new staff as well as meeting with current staff members to share his ideas for the school. The staff all participated in summer meetings where they made plans for the school year, discussed the changes that were going to be made, as well as conversed about the goals and future of the school. With all of this preparation and planning, the Lakeside Charter team was ready to take on the new school year and welcome their new and returning students!

How Its Going

Sitting inside the school assembly and watching the staff/student interactions first hand, it was clear that the school year was going well and the students were not only learning but having fun while doing so. Curious for the inside scoop, I decided it would be best to hear from some of the Lakeside family to get their opinions. From the students, when asked the best part of their day, the resounding answers came back to “recess,” “playing with my friends,” “lunchtime,” and “talking to my teachers.”Not surprisingly, each answer was followed by groups of giggles and loud laughter, the true sounds of a happy student.
Next, it was time to hear from some of the teachers. “It’s like one huge family. With our current size, all of the teachers know all of the students and it makes it a very close-knit environment” said 4th-grade teacher Stacy Foshee of what she found to be the most unique thing about Lakeside Charter. Mrs. Foshee is in her fourth year of teaching at Lakeside Charter and couldn’t be happier with the way the school year has been going thus far. She believes that Dr. Montague has absolutely reformed the workings of the school and that the new staff help to form the solid “family-like” nature of the school.

Jenny Barth, the Art Teacher, noted that “it’s been really nice to have a principal who is really involved with the school and the students. He helps with car line every morning and always keeps everyone positive about what is to come next. It makes teaching an even better experience when you have a principal like that.”

After hearing from the teachers, it was finally time to hear from the man of the hour himself, Dr. Montague, to follow up on our previous interview with some new questions.

Interview with Dr. Jim Montague

OTC:Looking back on the last interview, we discussed goals and markers of this school year. Do you think you have met them thus far?
Dr. Montague: Yes, I think we are getting the word out about our school and people are wanting to hear more about us and become a part of our community. We continue to have students come in the school and take tours and people call to ask questions, which are both good things! I think having the sign outside for the Fall Festival has been really helpful as well as it has gotten a good amount of attention. So overall the attraction levels are great! I just got our assessments back from grades 3-8 and they were great, so we are definitely moving in the right direction.
OTC: Have you had any speedbumps this school year thus far, either anticipated or unexpected and if so, how have you handled them?
Dr. Montague: No, no speedbumps to date! We do wish enrollment could be a little higher but that is just something that will also come with time. That’s why we are doing the tree lighting at Birkdale, the fall festival and things of that nature.
OTC: What would you describe the classroom environment to be like on a typical day?

Dr. Montague: Interactive, fun, engaging, but also teaching to the standards. I find that the best kind of teaching is when students don’t even realize that they are learning. That is something I have tried to instill into the teachers: just having fun in the classroom. When children are enjoying themselves they are more likely to retain more information and that is exactly what we are aiming for.

OTC: You mentioned previously that you love to be in the classroom with the students and teachers. Is that something you have been able to do a good deal of this year?
Dr. Montague: I have. My office doesn’t have any windows so I like to get out of here as much as possible! My theory is that you can do things like emails and phone calls anytime during the day so I like to make sure I get to do the things I can only do at school, at school. My walkthroughs, my classroom visits, the boys I play basketball after school with on Fridays. Those are all things that are building relationships not only with the students but also with the staff, which is very important.
OTC: Based on how things are going this year so far, do you see anything you need to be adjusted or put more focus on in the future?
Dr. Montague: I think right now the biggest push is for our marketing and getting the word out for people to enroll. Obviously, the academics with the teachers is one, but for me personally, the biggest push is in enrollment.
OTC: What are some of your goals going into the upcoming open house?
Dr. Montague: My goal was to try to have each student at least bring one friend to the open house! I am trying to work on a marketing plan for next year that is “one family, one student” because if every student got another to join we would double our enrollment. But other than that I just want the students and their families to come out and have a good time and showcase the school. Having fun is the biggest part of it!
OTC: I know this is a hard question but what is your favorite part of Lakeside Charter?
Dr. Montague: The staff. Also the students…and the parents. But if I had to choose I would say that all around its the staff because they are so willing to help out and do anything at the drop of the hat without question! It is so great to have that and it is what makes the school really function so well!
OTC: Is there anything else you wanted to add?
Dr. Montague: Come enroll!!!

Lakeside Charter is more than just a school, it is a family. Come out and meet the staff and students at their Fall Festival and Open House Saturday, November 3rd from 4-7PM to see where you fit in the Lakeside tribe!

Written By: Cassidy Beegle