Barry Lollis is the CEO of Savannah Classical Academy, a public charter school serving K-12 students in Chatham County. He is a biologist turned educator who has been working in local schools for over a decade. Lollis was a science teacher at Savannah Arts Academy in the early 2000s. He also served as an assistant principal at Shuman Middle School for a year. He worked at Jenkins High School for a year before being promoted to principal at Windsor Forest High School.
“I worked nine years in Chatham County total across those. At the time I became principal at Windsor, I think I was the youngest principal ever in Chatham County. I was 33 at the time,” Lollis recalled.
He left Chatham County to work as a principal in Middle Georgia for a few years before returning in 2017 to serve as the CEO of Savannah Classical Academy, which is the only public K-12 school in the county. Some are unclear about the school and what opportunities it presents to potential students, and Lollis strives to provide clarity.
“A lot of people are confused when we say charter school. Some people equate us to a private school where you have to pay tuition and some people don’t know. But a charter school is a public school funded like any other public school in state, and it’s at no cost to parents,” he said..
Savannah Classical Academy is free and open to students in Chatham County, but as a charter school, it differs from other local public schools in management and operations.
“At Savannah Classical, we have our own board and our own leadership. So I would be the leadership and then we have a governing board that serves the same function as a school board where they oversee policy, me and the school . . . The charter school is really like a mini school system of one school. You have your own board, your own leadership, and you make your own rules, policies and so forth. But in order to get that autonomy that comes with your charter contract, you have to meet certain financial and academic performance goals. . . In short it’s a public school available to families who choose to seek enrollment. It just operates differently than a traditional public school,” he explained.
Established in 2013, Savannah Classical Academy currently serves about 430 K-12 students, and it has earned a reputation for academic excellence.
“They look at your operation from your lunches to your breakfast to the cleanliness of your building, the materials you have in the building. . . They look at every facet of the school and rate you based on what they see . . .They gave us accreditation with quality, which is the highest rating we could receive,” Lollis stated.
Lollis credits the school’s academic successes in part to the long-standing relationships fostered between students and faculty.
“I’ve worked in a variety of schools in town and outside of the county, and hands down in Savannah Classical, our faculty will get to know that child better than any other school I’ve been in simply because we’re K-12. We’ve seen them at the very beginning and all the way up through high school, so that’s an advantage that we really get to build that commitment, culture and community,” he expressed.
Lollis also believes the school’s unique house system and core virtues contribute to student success.
“We have six houses [that are] named after the squares, and they all have certain meanings. Each child is in a house until they graduate and they work with other children. . . They get to work together in teams and competitions to build that sense of community,” he began. “We also have our core values. And we talk about one virtue of the month. We reward children for exhibiting virtuous behavior, and they learn about that from Kindergarten all the way through high school,” he explained.
With a focus on core virtues, a productive school culture and a rigorous curriculum, SCA students deliver excellence in the classroom and the community.
“We have very high expectations for our students, and they meet them. They have good involvement within their schools, and we are very much involved with our community through our service learning projects. The students and teachers work really hard, and they have great academic outcomes,” he explained.
In addition to serving the student body, Lollis has accomplished much through the years in education. He earned the Governor’s Platinum and Bronze awards for student achievement. He was also awarded a $2.4 million US Department of Labor grant to support students entering college for critical need careers. He has served on several boards and committees including the Governor’s Education Advisory Board and the Georgia Department of Education’s Charter Advisory Committee. He is also a member of the Georgia Charter Schools Association’s COVID Taskforce.
Outside of education, Lollis enjoys spending time on the water with his wife Lisa and their two sons Jude and Luke.
Savannah Classical Academy is currently accepting lottery applications for the 2023-24 school year through Jan. 20, 2023. To learn more about SCA, visit savannahclassicalacademy.org