In May of 2011, there was talk of closing the Paul Laurence Dunbar School in Bridgeport’s East End. Now, two years later, the failing school will be given a second chance.
At Monday’s Board of Education meeting, the memorandum of understanding between the district and Jumoke Academy Inc., was approved by a 7-1vote. Maria Pereira was alone in her opposition.
Last June, Dunbar was invited to participate in the state’s Commissioner’s Network, a program that helps turnaround failing schools by providing additional funding and more flexibility. The school board then held public hearings, which allowed the community to give input on which educational model they preferred.
FUSE, or Family Urban Schools of Excellence, which runs three Jumoke Academy charter schools in Hartford and Hartford’s Milner Elementary, a traditional public school, was chosen by Dunbar’s turnaround committee to manage the school. Highlights of the FUSE model include extended school days, greater parent involvement and more classroom assistants.
Though Dunbar will adopt the FUSE model, the school will continue as a traditional public school.
Last year, Jumoke Academy was given the task of turning-around Hartford’s Milner School after the school was accepted into the Commissioner’s Network. After only a year, there have been modest increases in test scores, with an overall 1.6 point gain on the CMTs.
Dunbar has a long history of problems, including chronically low CMT scores and diminishing enrollment.
If you look at last year’s scores, less than 24% of fourth graders and 13% of the fifth graders were deemed at or above proficiency level in Math. Even more shocking, only 8% of eighth graders met the state’s goal in writing.
Test scores weren’t the only stagnant statistic. Student enrollment plummeted from 727 in 2004 to about 317 in 2011, most likely due to parents pulling their children out of the ill-performing school.
However, parents, teachers, and community leaders who spoke at Monday’s school board meeting have hope for Dunbar.
11-year veteran educator at Dunbar, Virginia Hudson Johnson, said she was “personally excited to be a part of this positive change.”
Other supporters included community leader and parent, Mack Allen, who said he currently drives his children to a different school and at one time was thinking of homeschooling to prevent them from attending Dunbar. Now he admits he is “seeing a lot of positive change coming about,” and urged the district “to give this an opportunity and a chance.”