Ron Clark and Kim Bearden met in 2000 when Disney honored them both as Teachers of the Year. They became fast friends as they shared their passion for students and creative teaching. In the fall of 2004, Clark and Bearden met to hold a serious discussion about something that they had casually chatted about numerous times over the previous five years: Clark wanted to start a school of his own - one that would be unlike any other. At that time, the school had no name, no funding, and no facility. However, Clark and Bearden’s vision for the institution were tangible from the very start-- they shared common beliefs and ideas, and they knew that they were called to move forward. Bearden gave Clark her word that she would help him with the endeavor, and the dream began.
Clark and Bearden actively recruited board members who shared their vision and passion. Once they had a team of supporters, Clark and Bearden began to scour the city in hopes of finding a school site. After looking at close to fifty properties, they came upon an abandoned, dilapidated warehouse in South Atlanta. They were told it was no place for a school; they knew it was exactly what they had been looking for. Their mission was not only to lift up their students; they wanted to lift up a community as well.
In November of 2005, Ron Clark purchased the warehouse using earnings from the sales of The Essential 55, and they moved one step closer to making the dream a reality. Extreme renovations were completed on the building while the fundraising and operational processes were set in place. Throughout the months that followed, Clark and Bearden visited countless businesses, foundations, community events, churches, and civic and neighborhood planning meetings to share their dream with anyone who would listen.
From February to March of 2007, two hundred students were interviewed to determine our first class of students. During this same time, hundreds of employee applications were received. Countless interviews were held for faculty and staff over the subsequent months, and a world-class faculty and staff was established.
On March 17, 2007, the inaugural class of sixty students was announced. Thirty-two sixth grade students and twenty- eight fifth grade students with varying strengths and challenges were selected. On September 4, 2007, a high school marching band, drum line, and color guard joined us as we welcomed the inaugural class of the Ron Clark Academy. Sixty bright-eyed, beautiful children joined us in a magical celebration as they spun the Great Wheel, became "slide certified," and discovered their house assignments.
Since that day, we have become a true family. We have challenged, motivated, disciplined, and inspired these students, and we have grown to love them for their amazing gifts and unique abilities. We truly believe that we have future world leaders at our school, and we are honored to teach them each and every day.