The city’s public school district is planning to open an all-boys elementary school to elevate the academic performance of black and Latino males.
“Typically black and Latino males are associated with poor academic performance, high dropout rate, poor attendance rate, and high suspension rate,” said Aubrey Johnson, assistant superintendent, during Wednesday’s school board meeting.
Johnson handed out a sheet showing various statistics highlighting the plight of African-American and Hispanic males while highlighting the potential good an all-boys school is likely to accomplish.
He said black children represent 18-percent of preschool enrollment, but 48-percent of suspension. White children make up 43-percent of preschool enrollment and 26-percent of suspension, contrasted Johnson using data released by the United States Department of Education.
“Even before they start school they are at a disadvantage,” said Johnson. He wants to change that by keeping black and Hispanic males, whose parents choose to enroll them into the all-boys choice program, in school for longer period of time every year. “We’re suggesting extended day, extended week, and extended year,” said Johnson. An extended day will keep students in school until 4 p.m. giving the school an hour to teach the students study skills, said Johnson.
He also wants to keep students in school during the weekend: Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. for mentoring. “We want our young men to be in school during the weekend because we know they do get in trouble after school hours and on the weekend,” said Johnson.
During the summer he wants students to go on field trips to colleges and take part in community projects that build character. Johnson recognized that keeping students in school for an extra hour every day, compel them to attend on Saturdays, and give up some portion of their summer to education will not be an easy task.
“There needs to be a partnership with the family, with the parents,” said Johnson. “The way we envision this program is our parents need to commit fully to the program.”
Johnson said parents need to be fully committed to the irregular school hours. However, before he can obtain parental commitments, he needs to obtain the district’s commitment for a school that will cost approximately $804,655 to launch with an enrollment of about 60 students in grades 3-5.
“How do we squeeze these in amidst the deficit we have?” asked Christopher Irving, school board member, during Johnson’s presentation. Johnson’s school is just one of three elementary school choice programs district officials intend to roll out next year; the others are a performing arts school, and a dual language school.
State-appointed district superintendent Donnie Evans said each student comes with a dollar figure that follows them wherever they go. When 60 students decide to attend the all-boys school the funding will follow from their respective schools. “The funds follow the kids,” said Evans.
Irving said he supports the programs, but the district should pay attention to its finances before beginning any expensive endeavors. Like Irving other school board members expressed their support for all three elementary choice schools.
“We need to change the way we educate our children,” added Flavio Rivera. He said it’s refreshing to see new ideas being put forward by district leaders.
“I’m over the moon happy,” said Manuel Martinez. He too cautioned that budget constraints may adversely impact the new programs.
“It’s great to see all these programs,” said Lilisa Mimms. She wanted to know when an all-girls school will be considered.
Johnson said next year. “That will go live next year,” said Johnson. He said planning to launch a single gender female school will begin next year.
Chrystal Cleaves wanted to know whether the school will accept students at the recommendation of school principals if it fails to secure the needed number of students.
“We do not want this program to be in the mindset of an alternative program,” said Johnson. “We have a lot of people that want to be part of this program.”
Johnson said students will be selected through a lottery process in March for the next school year. Education officials have yet to determine where to house these programs, but are hopeful there will be ample space once the two new schools that are under construction come online. Johnson will need space, for he hopes to expand the program every year to include an extra grade level until 12th grade.
Errol Kerr wants a demonstration of parental commitment by compelling parents to either attend a forum or take part in an exercise that will showcase their commitment in enrolling their students in what could be a very selective school.
“We need to start setting the table,” said Kerr. ”We haven’t been getting the support we want from parents. Kerr said he was forced to serve during a bingo event to enroll his two children into catholic school.
Johnson agreed with Kerr.
“After the lottery there is a possibility we will have community meetings with parents,” said Johnson. “Let’s say we have 10 parents who do not show up that shows a sign.”