Students from Dixon School of the Arts were rewarded for academic improvement with a pool party sponsored by Innisfree Hotels

Students from Dixon School of the Arts were rewarded for good behavior and academic improvement on Sunday with a pool party sponsored by Innisfree Hotels. The charter school, which opened in 2010, had the greatest improvement in FCAT test scores out of all Escambia County School District schools in 2011, with a gain of almost 178 points. “It’s almost shakingly scary, in a good way, to see the potential of where we’re going,” said LuTimothy May, the school’s executive director. “The sky’s the limit.”

The school recently changed its name from A.A. Dixon Charter School of Excellence, something May said is a reflection of new strategies and changes in the way learning is approached at Dixon. “We did a massive transformation over this year, and this summer,” May said. “Of course, our charter speaks to the arts, so we wanted to speak to what we represent. We represent art — music, dance, theater, drama, all of those areas are part of what you get at Dixon School of the Arts.”

After the school struggled for two years academically and financially and faced the possibility of being closed by the state of Florida, May said that he wants to be positive and focus on how far the students have come. Innisfree Hotels, which adopted Dixon School of the Arts three years ago, promised students a pool party if they improved their test scores last year. The party featured access to pools at three Pensacola Beach hotels, hamburgers and hot dogs, face painting and rides on the 360 Pensacola Beach Observation Wheel.

“They deserved it,” said Marianne Tibbits, Convention Services Manager at the Hilton Penascola Beach Hotel and event coordinator for the party. “They worked hard. It’s a thank you for last year, and also an incentive to keep up the good work.”

Kalesha Brabley, 21, attended the party with her son, Treven, a kindergartener at Dixon.  “It’s a wonderful school,” she said. “They really work with him.”

Kendesha Woods, 35, has two children at the school, and he said they enjoy the learning experience at a charter school.

“Both of them come home talking about their day, every day,” Woods said. “I think they get more one-on-one time.”

His wife, Shenika Johnson, 31, teaches second grade at Dixon. She said that she is very encouraged and excited about the upcoming school year for all students. “I know that there’s a lot in store for our kids, and I just can’t wait to see what’s going to happen,” Johnson said. “I am more than confident that they will advance.”