Published in TC Today - Volume 35, No. 2
Artesius Miller is starting a charter school in Atlanta.
His great-grandmother would approve
By Joe Levine
Artesius Miller’s great-grandmother ran a school in rural Mississippi, and six of her 12 children became educators. Miller’s grandmother was a teacher and so is his uncle.
“So it’s almost genetic for me to go into education,” he says, grinning. “It was just a matter of when and how.”
Those questions got answered at TC in 2009 after a faculty member in education leadership, Kenya Mosby, heard Miller talk about why: his gratitude to his family, his desire to give back.
So, Mosby suggested, why not start a school of his own, back home in Atlanta?
Two years later, Miller—who has since shuttled between New York and Georgia—expects to soon receive authorization to open a new charter school in Georgia’s Clayton County, one of the nation’s poorest and most dysfunctional districts. The new school—which he will call Utopian Academy for the Arts—will serve primarily African-American and Latino boys in grades five through eight, offering smaller-sized classes, mentoring and courses in the visual and performing arts.
“I studied theater in high school, and it gave me a means of expressing myself I didn’t know was possible,” explains Miller, a Screen Actors Guild member who is currently auditioning for a movie being made by the comedian Steve Harvey. “It also gave me something special to look forward to, so I’d be thinking, ‘Man, I can’t wait to go to drama.’”
Why a charter? Miller is a firm believer in traditional public education, but he also believes that people in poor districts need alternatives now. “They’re tired of failing schools, and charters are seen as places of hope,” he says. “The movie Waiting for Superman really expresses that.”
Miller says a TC course titled “Designing Charter Schools,” taught by the law and education scholar Paul O’Neill (recent recipient of TC’s alumni early career award), has proven particularly helpful—not least because O’Neill introduced him to Georgia’s former deputy superintendent of schools.
“That’s what makes TC so unique,” Miller says. “Whatever field you’re in, the people and the resources open so many doors.”
Unlike many charter founders, Miller, who is just 24, won’t serve as his school’s principal.
“I don’t have the experience. I’ll work in the school in some capacity while I earn my doctorate. Eventually I want to help improve education at the county level and maybe citywide.” He smiles. “It’s my way of honoring my family.”