University Charter School taps Wedgworth as leader

Published 10:38 am Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Board of Directors for Sumter County’s new University Charter School has just completed an interest inventory in an effort to prepare for the school’s August 2018 opening. The survey has been conducted by the newly-named head of school, Dr. J.J. Wedgworth.

The interest inventory, conducted through a survey collected online and via hard copy distributed to accessible public locations throughout the county, was designed to gauge the current level of interest in enrollment, as well as the specific educational needs of families interested in enrolling at University Charter School.

Dr. J.J. Wedgworth

“We are pleased with the level of response we received from the interest inventory, and we are already working to ensure that these needs are addressed in our planning efforts,” Wedgworth said. “In preparing our application over several months, the team worked diligently to identify our county’s needs, most of which are common throughout the Black Belt region and even other rural communities throughout the nation. Conducting this interest inventory gives us solid information from the families University Charter School will serve and helps ensure that we work through this planning year to address their needs.”

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As head of school, Wedgworth will be responsible for oversight of all academic programs and curricula; faculty and staff hiring, professional development, compensation, other personnel matters; and student enrollment, and attendance, and will also oversee budgeting, financial management, fundraising, technology, and management of school facilities.

Wedgworth will also assist and guide the board of directors in making decisions in all areas covered under school governance and contract guidelines with the Alabama Public Charter School Commission.

The head of school will work closely with the principal of the school after that position has been established and filled.

Wedgworth said the board will soon announce employment opportunities as well as application and enrollment periods. Enrollment will be open first to Sumter County residents, followed by a subsequent enrollment period for non-Sumter County residents of Alabama. If enrollment exceeds the school’s capacity, a lottery will be held.

Wedgworth has played a lead role in the school’s establishment, from feasibility research to application preparation, which proved successful when the Alabama Public Charter Schools Commission voted unanimously in July to approve the application. The school was the only one of three applications approved unanimously, without condition for this application cycle.

Consistent among Wedgworth’s professional efforts are successful efforts in improving the region through education, from scholarly research presentations on solutions to public health issues and quality of life assessments in the region to expertise in managing data and implementation of programs and initiatives resulting from that research.

Wedgworth said that as head of school, her mission is to do what’s best for students in every scenario.

“My mission is to have the courage to do the right thing for the children, day in and day out,” she said. “I will strive to successfully consult and collaborate to bring out the best in others in support of the students. I envision the faculty and staff of UCS as one that embodies a sustained, relentless commitment to improvement and to becoming a better version of themselves.”

According to Wedgworth, instilling that commitment will provide a single-minded focus to working on behalf of the students. “We have received such strong support from the UWA Board of Trustees and from President Tucker, with their leadership and commitment to the mission. Johnnie Aycock and the application team worked diligently to develop an amazing framework for our school, and our community has shown tremendous support.”

The University Charter School Founding Board of Directors includes president, Micky Smith; vice president, Rev. Byron Franklin; secretary, Kyle Edmonds; treasurer, Veronica Triplett;  as well as Dr. Robert Witt; Leslie Prystup Emory; Anthony Crear; and Dr. Jan Miller.

Prior to this position, Wedgworth served as director of research integrity in UWA’s Office of Sponsored Programs and Research, having served in the department since 2014.

Before coming to UWA, Wedgworth was employed at the University of Alabama as a research project manager for more than six years, as well as a tutor for athletic student services.

A Sumter County native, Wedgworth is a 2002 graduate of Sumter Academy and returned as a faculty member teaching high school science classes there while also coaching volleyball and softball. She holds a bachelor of science in biomedical science and psychology from Auburn University; a master of science in human environmental science with emphasis on rural health from UA; and a doctorate in environmental microbiology, also from UA.