Being a graduate of McKinley High School, I was supposed to revel in my alma mater’s 52-6 drubbing last week of rival Capitol High School.
While I’m happy McKinley won, I am deeply saddened by what has happened to Capitol. Reports are the school’s football team, thanks to a court order that allowed additional students to play, still could muster fewer than 30 players.
The alarmingly low number of players is a reflection of an enrollment that has slipped from nearly 1,000 students to fewer than 300 in just a few years. Obviously, closing Capitol is on the table. I pray that it doesn’t happen.
A school provides an identity and a rallying point for the community around it. Losing Capitol would be a devastating blow to an area that needs to hold its community together.
Here is my modest, uneducated, unprofessional, probably overly simplistic proposal.
• Don’t change the name again. Don’t call it Pre-Academy, College Prep Academy or any of the feel-good names used in the past. If changing the name were the answer, it seems Harvard in the Park High, Yale by the Interstate or MIT on North 23rd St. would have been more effective.
• Get public and private donors to repair and paint the school on a regular basis. Ask the graduating classes to chip in to buy computers and state-of-art teaching equipment. Ask LSU, WNBA and Capitol High grad Simone Augustus and other alums such as District Judge Wilson Fields to help spearhead a fundraising/technology improvement effort.
• Get a team of professionals who actually specialize in attracting national corporate donors such as Apple, Microsoft, education foundations and others to make the school a national test site for innovation in education.
• Establish partnerships with companies such as ExxonMobil, technical job-training and apprentice colleges, nursing schools, welding schools and entrepreneur training programs. They would establish a real curriculum in which students receive on-the-job training, work part time for pay in a chosen field and have a job waiting upon graduation. The community, however, would have to be assured that this effort wouldn’t be a means to funnel minority students into trade programs, but would be an effort to provide the choice of both a quality education and quality job training opportunities.
At the risk of alienating African-American education leaders who attack efforts to place these job-training programs in minority schools, I ask the question, is it better that these young people drop out of school or wind up in jail, or that they get a chance at a decent job opportunity? The bigger challenge is saving young African-American men from societal ills, and job training is an avenue.
• Provide strong, young innovative instructors, cutting-edge tools of instruction, along with a safe and nurturing environment for those college-track students so their parents won’t feel compelled to send them to magnet schools which have drained inner-city schools of their best students, teachers and dollars.
• Don’t be discouraged if student progress is slow at first. This will be a process that should not be judged by standardized test results but on graduation rates, college acceptance and job-entry numbers.
Folks, feel free to make better proposals for Capitol and other schools like it and send them to whomever will listen. I want a strong Capitol soon so I will feel better when McKinley scores another 50 on the rival school.
Edward Pratt, a former Advocate editor, is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.