LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS 11)--The achievement gap continues to be a concern nationwide as minority students are at risk of being left behind.
JCPS is hoping the new W.E.B. DuBois Academy will help to close the gap locally. WHAS talked with district leaders about the focus of the school, myths that have been circulating.
10 FACTS, NOT IN THE ON-AIR STORY:
- The school logo is a lion wearing a crown. The goal of the school is that each “young lion” will become a “king with the ability to achieve greatness.”
- The W.E.B. DuBois Academy Creed is: “I was born to achieve greatness. I will not be defined by my mistakes, but my willingness to accept correction to learn and grow. My greatness will be a result of my work ethic, mentorship, and support. I will achieve all of my goals. I will be accountable for my actions and responsible to positively impact my community. I was born to achieve greatness, and I will determine the man I become. ONE PRIDE. ONE BROTHERHOOD."
- School Location: that’s still to be determined. District leaders say all options are still on the table – it could start in the wing of an existing school, or get its own building.
- JCPS leaders say there are already schools in the district failing on the diversity index -- something that people don't get upset about. The Dubois Academy won't add any more segregation to the district (Note: the city of Louisville is still segregated in a lot of areas. This means if a majority of students go to school in their neighborhood, those schools will still be segregated. It is well known that the district does spend a lot of money and resources to bus students to choice schools, but not everyone in the district leaves their neighborhood for school) . The district does want people to know that male students are welcome at DuBOUIS.
- Principal Gunn isn’t new to education. He started with Teach for America in St. Louis before coming to JCPS. In all, he’s taught for 16 years and has been the principal at both Foster and Byck.
- Each student attending the school will fill out a survey. The first question on that survey is what do you enjoy for extracurricular activities? The district will be using that to determine what activities the school offers to students when it opens.
- The school will start with 150 sixth graders and add a new sixth-grade class each year until it is a full middle school.
- The rest of the school administration will be hired in early January.
- School administration will work with JCTA to select teachers for Dubois. They will have the ability to select any teacher they feel is an optimal fit, regardless of seniority. Gunn’s goal is to hire teachers and staff who have the mindset and skillset required to disrupt the status quo and dominant narrative that suggests young minority males are not capable of learning at the same levels as their peers.
- Get more information at https://www.jefferson.kyschools.us/DuBois.
His passion for teaching starts close to his heart. “I tell anybody who asks, is the smartest man that I know, my hero, my idol,” explained Robert Gunn, the principal of the W.E.B. DuBois School. When the bell rings next school year he’ll be thinking about his father, who dropped out of school.
“I remember telling him, 'daddy, I should have been your teacher', and he is the reason why I teach.”
A reason he is determined to change the life of every young man who wears this Dubois Academy uniform.
“I think all kids are the best students. I think all kids are the brightest students, so I think our community, we need to start looking at what’s best for all kids,” said Gunn.
The future school has been criticized by people who think it will be a place where only high performing students will be accepted, but that is far from the plan of Principal Gunn.
“I was a struggling student,” he explained.
He’s not exaggerating – his sixth-grade report card shows lots of Cs and Ds. Gunn believes the new academy can help every student at every learning level.
“We want to have a good mix of students. Those who are high achievers and then those who, quite honestly, some other schools will look at on paper, ball it up and throw it away, but those are the Robert Gunns of the world.”
The curriculum at the new school will focus on multiculturalism and a worldview that emphasizes the history of black Americans.
“So we have to create schools and cultures and climate where students feel welcome,” said John Marshall, JCPS Chief Equity Officer. “ And welcome doesn’t just mean, ‘hey, welcome to the school.’ [Instead} they see themselves in the curriculum, they see themselves in the staff, they see their voices, or they feel as if their voices are being heard”
There’s another myth Marshall wants to break. He says all students will benefit from Dubois Academy regardless of their background.
“It actually will broaden the understanding of the plight and progress of the people in which you were not raised in that culture. To leverage privilege to actually empower and inform can be something that a white child could definitely benefit from.”
The curriculum being developed especially for DuBois will impact the entire district.
“This is to be a demonstration school, so other teachers can come and see the practices and see the curriculum and see the things that are going on and take back to their school,” said Marshall.
A curriculum Gunn hopes will dispel a myth heard way too often.
“Young men, especially those of color can’t learn and achieve at high levels,” said Gunn.
Principal Gunn is so enthusiastic about his future students, it’s hard to talk with him and not get excited. His passion for life can even be seen in how he ends each conversation.
“It’s a great day to be alive.”
If you are interested in sending your student to the W.E.B. DuBois Academy, you can apply to any other JCPS school. The application process is currently open.
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