Give us an Introduction of yourself and your experience in Education.
I am Mirza Azim Beg, the Principal of Charlotte Islamic Academy. I bring over 50 years of experience in education. To be exact I started teaching in a high school in June 1960, at the age of 17 after finishing my Bachelor in Science from Karachi University. Later, in 1964, I completed B.Ed. with first class first position in the university, becoming Headmaster of a high school at the age of 21. I moved to the USA in 1972, finished my M.A. in School Administration, and started teaching in a top class Catholic High School in Michigan in 1973.
After 27 years of successful career in catholic schools, Huda School & Montessori invited me to become their Principal and I served there for four years before moving to Charlotte in 2004. After retiring from Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools in 2011, I joined Charlotte Islamic Academy as a Math teacher, before becoming Principal in August 2016. In addition to my three college degrees, I am also certified as a Principal in North Carolina. I believe, with experience of working both in Public and Privates schools (including Catholic and Islamic) and having been a teacher, a Principal, a board member, and a parent, I am well qualified to guide Charlotte Islamic Academy towards becoming a model Islamic School.
When was the school founded?
Charlotte Islamic Academy was founded in 1998 as a K-6 school in the building owned by Islamic Center of Charlotte (ICC) with the name of Alhuda Islamic School. The School passed through several ups and downs and finally became Charlotte Islamic Academy in 2007 as K-12 school and moved into MAS building on Shamrock Avenue. Due to unavoidable circumstances, in June 2015, the school moved to the present location on Hickory Ridge Road in Harrisburg. Today, Alhamdulillah, we are an accredited Pre-K to 12 School, highly respected and accredited by AdvanceED (the organization formed by joining previously known NCA (North Central Association) and SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools).
What is the benefit of AdvanceED accreditation?
Accreditation with AdvancED is an international protocol of institutions committed to systematic and sustainable improvement. It builds capacity of the school to increase and sustain student learning. Criteria of accreditation involves a diagnostic process to stimulate and guide continuous improvement with focus on impact of teaching and learning, capacity of leadership, and use of resources.
Our school formed committees involving teachers, parents, board members, and students to do the self-assessment of the school, using rubric provided by AdvancED. Surveys were taken from all stakeholders, student performance data was analyzed and system of governance was examined. After lengthy discussions and painstaking deliberations, a Continuous Improvement Plan was developed. The External Review Team (sent by AdvancED) examined Student Performance Records, Instructional Quality, Learner and Family Engagement, Support Sources for Student Learning, Curricular Quality and Efficacy, and College and Career Readiness Data. In their Exit Summary Report, the External Review Team approved us for 5-year renewal of accreditation by giving us high marks in most categories of their evaluation.
What is the need of Islamic School when we have public schools in our midst?
In my opinion, building Islamic Schools is even more important than building Masajid. While a Masjid serves as a place of worship and provides basic knowledge of Deen, the full-time Islamic School provides an environment where children grow in a culture of Islamic atmosphere, interacting with other Muslim children under the supervision of Muslim adults. They spend long hours in an environment which, on one hand, is safe and secure and protects them from the morally declining culture of public schools. On the other hand, they receive core curriculum education aligned with Islamic background, which not only prepares them for their futures, but also connects their knowledge with their Deen. In an Islamic school, all curricular, as well as co-curricular activities are based on the principles derived from Quran and Sunnah; thus producing individuals who are well versed in secular knowledge, with understanding and practice of their Islamic faith. Our mission statement clearly declares: To educate and inspire students in an Islamic environment to excel in a diverse society. In today’s America, having Islamic Schools, is many times more important than it was before.
What kind of qualifications do the teachers you employ have?
Presently, Charlotte Islamic Academy provides education to 152 students in Pre-K to 12th grade classes under the supervision and guidance of 20 qualified teachers. All teachers at CIA have at least BA/BS degrees; some have Master’s and two Ph.D.’s.
You said you have 152 students, are any of them Non-Muslim? how about the teachers?
At present, we do not have any non-muslim students or teachers, but our school welcomes all students irrespective of their faith. Our teachers are selected on the basis of their qualifications and experience. In past, we had some Non-Muslim teachers teaching core-curriculum.
Is the school funded or managed by any particular Masajid?
In theory, the school is not connected to any Masajid, but is supported by all of them. Most of our financial support comes from Islamic Center of Charlotte. Without continuous support from the ICC community, it would be very difficult for us to continue.
What are some of the goals you wish to accomplish during your time as principal?
We, at Charlotte Islamic Academy, wish to have our own building and enough financial resources so that we can establish all of our programs that enhance learning according to the needs of 21st century. To be able to excel, we need a well equipped STEM lab, a Media Center, and a proper gymnasium. As I look forward towards long-term goals, I envision a school that provides top-notch education, supported by a variety of electives that include Art classes, multiple foreign languages, and a vast variety of clubs that satisfy the needs and interests of all students, Insha Allah.