Friday, June 14, 2013
Superintendent Eric Becoats proposes all-boys academy
I’m sick of looking at the numbers.
3,002 black males were handed short term suspensions during the 2011-12 academic year. That’s compared to 560 Hispanic and 259 white males. Of the 363 students who dropped out of Durham Public Schools that year, 233 were black.
There are enough statistics to make you upchuck. The worst part is the continuing widening of the gap between white and black academic achievement. Even more frustrating is how the hard work and dedication of countless people seems futile in crushing the trends. There have been successes, but not enough.
The cries from the community boom the ache of the nation. No, Durham is not alone, but Durham is entrusted with addressing the dismal state of black and brown males. The rise in incarceration, crime and poor academic performance combine in a way that forces a deeper dialogue related to a more active response.
This mess has to stop. Not later, but as soon as possible.
Durham should be grateful for the leadership of Superintendent Eric Becoats. Becoats has forced a conversation that may be viewed as counter to the agenda of an integrated public school system. Becoats is pressing the creation of an all-boys academy. Becoats plans to open the academy during the 2014-15 academic year.
Due to state laws, DPS will open an all-girls academy to counter the argument of discrimination based on gender. It’s certain that many parents will opt to send their daughter to that school, but the real need is for black and Hispanic boys in need of the type of attention and structure that an all-boys school provides.
Critics of the all-boys academy assert it segregates students. It’s the same claim by those disputing the expansion of charter schools. Many contend the charter system is a suitable endorsement of schools separated by class and race. Those fighting for an all-boys academy contest the impression of enforcing a similar agenda.
On surface, it is difficult to dispute that assertion. Most people are invested in the notion of a public school system filled with students from every demographic. Parents are also concerned that their children aren’t compromised by their endorsement of that agenda. Selecting schools becomes a tussle between their vision for the community and concern for their own children.
Most parents have been granted options. Parents with resources are able to select from a long list of education options – from private, charter and home schooling. The academic performance of their children is often measured by the force of their resources – be it knowledge of options, economics or the time to commit to offering the support their children require.
The cry for integration is relegated to talk regarding ways to encourage white parents not to walk away. Integration is no longer about satisfying the needs of all children, but it has become more about conciliating the interest of white parents.
Thus, public schools have been rich in efforts to formulate strategies to segregate white students within the existing public school system. Magnet schools are designed to lure white students after countless threats to select among the numerous education options. These magnets are packed with an overwhelming majority of white students while black and brown students continue to grapple within a system designed to maintain the status quo.
The claim of re-segregation is disingenuous when understood within the context of Durham’s ongoing labor to contend with the myriad of consequences regarding race, gender, class and cultural disparity. We are credulous in thinking all systems mend all needs. The history of Durham’s public education system since merger proves a willingness to adapt and concoct new ways to address the needs of those in danger of walking away.
Why not do the same for those being suspended and who dropout? Why not strategize for those students most at risk of being lost due to poor academic performance and disciplinary problems? Why not grant the same energy and support for those most troubled rather than to hide behind rhetoric that counters the work done to protect a few?
Becoats proposal was included in the strategic plan approved by the board of education in 2010. “DPS will explore the feasibility of opening a college-preparatory/public boarding school to serve minority males in partnership with the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC),” the plan reads in goal 12.6. It’s time for the school board to honor its commitment to the strategic plan.
The original plan has been modified due to cost. Becoats isn’t proposing a boarding school. That would be nice, but the system can’t afford that option. Although we can’t afford a boarding school, we can’t afford not to make minority boys a priority.
Let’s show them we care.