The West Side’s Academy of Scholastic Achievement recently received a $20,000 grant to assist in developing a new board of directors for the charter school.

An affiliate of The Chicago Community Trust, The African American Legacy Initiative awarded the grant after academy representatives expressed a desire to strengthen their board’s “governing focus,” allowing the school to broaden its financial base.

“We want the board to be prepared to handle the elements of finance and marketing at play in today’s financial climate,” said Sabine Champagne, the academy’s development director. “The grant will allow us to assess the current board, determine what skills need to be strengthened by current members, train them and recruit new members to assist in those areas.”

Currently, the academy, located on 4651 W. Madison Ave, is partnering with non-profit firm O-H Community Partners, a management consulting organization that works to increase the economic growth of non-profit companies. The academy reached out to O-H Partners in April. It was looking to develop a strategic plan for assuring the continued growth and stability of the school.

The primary objective of the plan was to shore up the board of directors, making it more seasoned in handling fund-raising, marketing and academic issues in today’s economic market.

“Members of the managerial staff and I began noticing in the last three years that the dynamics were beginning to change,” said Gladys Simpson, chief administrator of the academy since it was founded in 1978. “We saw that we needed to be a bit more forward-thinking if we were going to allow the school to expand its curriculum and its donor base. This is that latest step in developing that strategic plan.”

The new board, which Simpson hopes to have in place by spring 2009, will be expected to oversee fundraisers and broaden the school’s curriculum into social/personal health programs. According to Champagne, these programs are vital in helping students obtain counseling and maintain their academic focus. The board will have approximately seven members, but it’s unclear if experience in finances with be a criteria. Candidates will be interviewed later this fall.

In a press statement, Leah Bradford, program officer for The Chicago Community Trust stated: “AALI is proud to partner with ASA as part of our ongoing commitment of supporting organizations that are dedicated to improving the quality of life in African American communities.”

The alternative high school for high-risk youth serves nearly 200 students between the ages of 16-19, and is a member of the Alternative Schools Network and the Chicago Public Schools.