RACINE — A new private school slated to open for the coming school year will be run by two men whose teaching experiences include college classes, legal training and Sunday school.
Grant Meier, who trains adults on legal research and teaches Sunday school, and Bry Coleman, a college professor of business management, plan to start Evergreen Elementary School in the fall with about 150 students in 4-year-old kindergarten through fifth grade, Meier verified Thursday.
The state announced Wednesday that Evergreen had been approved as a 2013-14 voucher school, which means it can accept state-funded tuition vouchers for enrolling low- to middle-income students living in the Racine Unified attendance area. Meier spoke to The Journal Times about his vision for the school Thursday.
“One of the attractions, we hope, will be the class sizes,” Meier said. “No class will exceed 18. I’m thinking most as we start will have approximately 10 students.”
Evergreen will also have a “robust music and art program,” tutoring and a large emphasis on reading, Meier said.
He will serve as Evergreen principal and Coleman will be the business and operations manager; others will be hired to teach. Teachers from Racine schools have already expressed interest in switching to Evergreen, Meier said.
No location has been purchased or reserved for the school yet but Meier said he is looking at two buildings, one in Racine near the zoo and one in Sturtevant. He could not provide addresses Wednesday.
Meier and Coleman have about $100,000 in private funds, mostly from themselves, set aside to start the school. They hope to also get grants and will get state voucher money or parents’ tuition money, Meier said. Tuition will be set at the state’s voucher amount: $6,442, he added.
Meier became interested in founding a school for three key reasons, first among them the idea that vouchers give poor minority students a chance to attend potentially better private schools instead of failing public ones.
“I just think when it comes to education (minorities) are underserved. That’s (reason) A,” Meier said. “B is I really do like kids. I mean I really do. I happen to have 22 grandchildren ... And then C is I like to teach. I like to train. I do that every day.”
Meier, a 72-year-old Milwaukee native now living in St. Paul, Minn., has a law degree and works for Thomson Reuters training new hires on selling research materials to attorneys, he said.
“I have classes virtually every week, all year long, teaching on the law,” Meier said. “Adult learning is a little different (than child learning) but not as much as people think.”
Despite that opinion, Meier did acknowledge his work background “doesn’t really give me any experience with elementary school teaching.” But he added, “I should point out I have spent over 600 hours teaching 7-and 8-year-olds in Sunday school.”
Meier is part of the Mormon church, he said. Evergreen Elementary will not be affiliated with any religion though, Meier said.
Coleman, of Caledonia, could not be reached Thursday. Meier said Coleman is a professor for at least one area college but he did not know which one.
Meier will retire from his Thomson Reuters job at the end of March and plans to move to the Racine area, he said, to focus full time on starting Evergreen. The school will begin accepting students in May and a location will be locked in by August at the latest, Meier said.
Interested parents can call Meier for more information by calling (651) 687-4389.
CORRECTION: This article originally misidentified Evergreen Elementary School co-founder Bry Coleman’s religious affiliation because The Journal Times was given incorrect information. Coleman is not Mormon. The article has been corrected above.