GRAND SLAM ENCORE: Back to school for Agassi
Tennis star plans to dedicate more time, efforts to namesake academy
By ANTONIO PLANAS
Andre Agassi greets children at the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy on Thursday. The school began its sixth year this fall
Isabelle Thomas, a performer for "O" at the Bellagio, has fun with Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy first-graders before they performed at a Thursday ceremony naming the MGM Mirage Building, which holds a 27,000-square-foot multipurpose room.
Photo by Clint Karlsen.
Tennis superstar Andre Agassi capped his career last month at one of his sport's most prominent stages at the U.S. Open in New York City.
The Las Vegan said Thursday he will change his focus from hitting serves and groundstrokes to dedicating more time to the school that bears his name.
"This has been all of me for the last 12, 13 years," Agassi said of the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy.
"But now that I'm not playing anymore, it gives me more of a chance to give all of myself to the school, and to be able to enjoy it."
Agassi said he hasn't decided in what capacity he will help the school.
He made his comments during a ceremony Thursday where his school etched the name MGM Mirage Building on the front of the 27,000-square foot multipurpose room.
The name change was made to the 3-year-old facility because MGM Mirage for the past decade has provided a location for the school to house its annual Grand Slam for Children fundraiser.
The events have raised more than $52 million for the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation during that time. This year's event is Saturday night.
Agassi's school began its sixth year this fall and will have a new principal to lead its high school students. Caesar Mickens, a 30-year veteran who worked as a teacher, principal and administrator in the Detroit Public Schools, accepted the position in July.
Mickens told onlookers Thursday during the naming ceremony that the school has one goal.
"We're ready to do something special," Mickens said. "One hundred percent of our students are going to go to college."
The Academy, near Martin Luther King and Lake Mead boulevards, added a 10th grade class this fall and now serves about 540 students, the youngest being kindergartners.
The high school junior and senior classes will be added during the next two school years. When the school is done adding grade levels, Mickens hopes enrollment won't exceed 600 students, which means about 50 students per grade level.
The academy is a charter school, which means it receives state funding and operates as an independent public school.
The school chooses its students based on a lottery where students who live within two miles of the school have first priority.
According to traditional benchmarks, the school is well on its way to meeting Mickens' goal of having all students move on to college.
The school has met all federal No Child Left Behind Act standards during the past two school years. During the 2004-05 school year, the school's middle school was one of only five in the state to be given an "exemplary" designation.
Mickens attributes success at the school to having an eight-hour day, two hours longer than traditional public schools in Clark County. Another factor is low class sizes no larger than 25 students, Mickens said.
Despite all the school's academic success, it has had a history of having high rates of teacher and administrative turnover.
Twelve of 18 teachers at the school did not have their contracts renewed after the 2004-05 school year. During the previous year, at least eight teachers and four part-time or substitute teachers resigned or were terminated.
Teachers at the school work under one-year contracts.
Mickens and Roy Parker, the school's middle school principal who began his second year at Agassi this fall, said teacher turnover was not a problem.
Parker would not disclose the rate of teacher turnover, saying the school had not submitted those figures yet to the Clark County School District. But Parker said only two or three teachers didn't have their contracts renewed after the 2005-06 school year.
"Our turnover was extremely low," Parker said. He added, "I will be here for a while."