GARY — Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt of the Gary Community School Corp. and the president/CEO of EdisonLearning presented a daring plan to work together, along with the Indiana Department of Education, to continue improving Roosevelt College and Career Academy.
The Indiana State Board of Education held a public hearing Wednesday night at the high school to give residents an opportunity to comment about the school’s future and how to improve the academic performance of students. Members of the SBOE made no comments, and will make a decision at a later meeting.
After six consecutive years of failure, the Indiana Department of Education, led by former state Superintendent Tony Bennett, selected EdisonLearning in 2011 to improve educational opportunities at the high school. Although the law had been on the books since 1999, the state had never taken over a school before.
Pruitt and EdisonLearning President/CEO Thom Jackson stood united and said they wanted to create a Roosevelt that was “reflective of the voices of all stakeholders.” They recommended a collaborative plan that would allow the Gary schools, EdisonLearning and the Indiana Department of Education to work together.
Pruitt and Jackson talked about creating a transformation zone, allowing the district to look holistically at school improvement by forming a transformation zone where other schools would feed into Roosevelt.
Ivy Tech Gary Campus President Marlon Mitchell and Purdue University Northwest’s Roy Hamilton said they supported the collaborative plan.
Mitchell said there was an opportunity to use the 427,306-square foot building for a variety of services. He said the community supported additional services in the vast building including the GCSC administration relocating to Roosevelt, an integrated arts program, an alternative school, a sports hall of fame and the Civil Rights Hall of Fame.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and retiring Gary Sen. Earline Rogers both supported the idea of collaboration.
Several Gary Roosevelt students signed up to talk. Senior Princess Tucker said she supports keeping the school open. Tucker said before EdisonLearning took over, she used to get in a lot of fights but she said she’s learned how to be a better person through EdisonLearning. “I went from fighting every day to making As and Bs. I’m the valedictorian,” she said.
Jackson said this plan is just the beginning, and he and Pruitt have been working together for 18 months. He said there are still numerous issues to work out.
Jackson also talked about the challenges EdisonLearning faced when it took over Gary Roosevelt in 2011. He said 75 percent of students did not read at the appropriate grade level, and 87 percent were not at their appropriate grade level in mathematics. He said in the last two years, student achievement has increased 26 percent in mathematics and 12 percent in English.
He said some of the challenges have included a 65 percent attendance rate, more than 100 instances a month of disciplinary and truancy cases, antiquated cooling and heating systems that do not function properly, disorganized learning spaces, bathrooms that were in disrepair and grounds that had not been properly managed.
He said attendance is now up 25 percent, and EdisonLearning hired a full-time truancy officer to work with students and families. Jackson said discipline and truancy cases have been reduced by nearly 70 percent, and EdisonLearning has increased cleanliness and organization within the facility.
If the state board approves the proposal, Jackson and Pruitt said they would clearly identify roles and responsibilities, hire a transition officer, develop a transition and implementation plan, a strategic timeline and a communication plan.
Raquel Alexander is a 20 year old senior at Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy Humboldt Park, and is from the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. She has been in the program for two years, and is now focused on graduating in June and continuing her education.
In order to save money, Raquel plans to attend Truman College and study Criminal Justice. Her goal is to then transfer to Loyola University and major in law. Raquel will then apply to Law School at DePaul University and hopes to eventually practice law in the city of Chicago. Raquel plans to contribute directly to the change she wants to see in her community.
In addition to her studies, Raquel enjoys both music and the arts. Her specific interests are Pop Rock and drawing as she grew up learning about both from her father. She also believes music and art are relatable to her life, and serve a therapeutic purpose.
The Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy in Durham, North Carolina celebrated Winter Graduation on January 19, with 14 new graduates. While the students came from many different backgrounds, they all had the same story -- they had disengaged from high school and saw the importance of earing their high school diploma.
Among the graduates: Heather wants to go on to Wake Technical Community College, while Diamond plans to go to school to pursue a career in medicine. Demetrius started the semester 16 credits shy of graduation and earned EVERY credit he needed in one semester. Jennifer is a wife and mother of 3; her little girls cheered for their mom as she walked across the stage. All of students were grateful for MJBA and the staff who pushed them, cheered them, and coached them to the finish line.
Since the inception of the program, more than 1,100 non-graduates have earned their high school diplomas from Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academies. Eight-six percent of the graduates from the Class of 2015 are attending college, trade school, are employed, or are serving their country in the military.
Seventy-five percent of the people living in the United States today – were not even born when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was taken at the age of 39.
While he was certainly the leader of the most significant social movement in America’s history, and a great orator whose eloquence and inspirational quality advanced the cause he dedicated his life to – he most certainly was more than a historic figure, or a statue in a park, or the namesake for a federal holiday.
Martin Luther King, Jr. at his essence – was a teacher.
Six months before his death, Dr. King spoke to students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia – which years later would become an EdisonLearning partnership school. His message nearly half a century ago, still rings true today:
“I urge you to study hard, to burn the midnight oil; and I say to you, don't drop out of school. I understand all the sociological reasons, but I urge you that in spite of your economic plight, in spite of the situation that you're forced to live in – stay in school.
And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn't do it any better.”
Dr. King’s insightful understanding of the paramount role education plays in society would today label him as an advocate of “disruptive learning.” Just as we seek to change the conversation about education, he published his thoughts in the Morehouse College student newspaper in 1947:
“The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.
We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character--that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.”
As we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this weekend, let us also embrace his call to action together as an organization, and as individuals:
“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.”
After completing 8th grade, Titochie Figures dropped out of school. For more than a year, his educational future looked bleak, and it was more than likely that he would never earn his high school diploma.
However, in September of 2014, Titochie enrolled at the Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. Starting out with zero credits towards graduation, and initially struggling to become acclimated to the school’s culture and learning environment, Titochie finally hit his stride.
With the guidance and encouragement of the MJBA Englewood academic team, Titochie successfully advanced through his course work to the point that on January 12 – Titochie Figures became a high school graduate, and will be joining the Work Training Program at the Chicago Urban League.