Charter school fights to stay open PDF Print E-mail
Written by DAPHNE TAYLOR   
Friday, 07 May 2010
amefika-geuka_web.jpgOne week after President Barack Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation recognizing May 2 – May 8  as National  Charter Schools Week,  the only African– centered public school in the state of Florida – a charter school — is in a battle for its life. 

Joseph Littles–Nguzo Saba Charter School, located in Riviera Beach, just outside West Palm Beach, is fighting to retain its charter.

In a school board meeting set for May 12, Art Johnson, superintendent of the School District of Palm Beach County, is set to recommend to the school board that the school’s charter be terminated, effective June 30.  An informal hearing is set for May 12 as well, prior to the official school board meeting.

The district initially notified the school in February of the superintendent’s intentions, but recently sent the school’s attorney an amended notification, further expounding on his grounds for termination. Although the recent letter is more expansive, in both letters, the superintendent cites the school’s financial troubles and its failure to meet academic standards as the reason he wants to revoke the charter.

Amefika Geuka, founder of the school, said he hopes the community will show its support.  “A best-case scenario is that we have a massive show of support for this school and what this school is attempting to do for black children.  We do want a show of support at the hearing. I mean massive,” Geuka said.

The hearing is set for Wednesday, May 12 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. And although supporters will not be allowed to speak during the hearing, they can sign up to speak at the official school board meeting later that afternoon.

“It would certainly help if we had a substantial turn out, willing to express support for our school and its mission and purpose,” he added.

Many supporters say they believe the school district should have a vested interest in keeping the school afloat. 

“Ours is the only African-centered public school in the state of Florida.  Why would you want to close the only public school in the state that has an opportunity to address these children on their own terms?” Geuka said.

He said he has been told the superintendent wants to terminate the charter because the school is in financial distress, it owes debts, and it has not met academic goals.  The school has been given a “D” grade consistently since 2004. 

Geuka admits the school has financial woes and is in debt, however, he states that he, his wife, and the school’s principal, have all utilized their own personal funds to keep the school afloat.

“We have pointed out, that if you analyze what we’ve been doing with the student demographic that we get, the “D” that we get with those children is fully equal to a “B” or an “A” at other schools,” Geuka explained.

He says 90 percent of the  student population is considered intellectually unteachable or has behavioral problems.

“Add to that, we’re under-resourced, inadequately housed – so if we can take these children – under these circumstances, and not get an “F,” it’s a miracle,” he said. 

Principal Delores Smart said the school accepts many students who have been forced to leave the regular schools.  For many, Nguzo Saba is their final hope. 

Geuka says he doesn’t make excuses for their predicament, but he wants the district to recognize the school’s successes.

The 11-year-old K-8 school follows the curriculum of the school district, but infuses African-centered studies.

Louis Jean Baptiste, a first-generation Haitian-American, says he was a “problem child” until he enrolled there. He became a student leader and went on to graduate from high school in three years. He is now an honors student at Florida A & M University with a 3.8 GPA.

Parent Tange Henry said that since enrolling her children at the school, for the first time ever, her first-grader and sixth-grader come home eager to do homework.

“I’ve never seen that in my children before. He (the superintendent) needs to take a better look at what this school does for children. They do so much for the kids.” Henry said she will be at the school board meeting on May 12 to vouch for the school.

Geuka said there’s a bigger issue at stake, and that is one of black people supporting black schools – financially or otherwise.

“The only thing that stops our black schools from being exemplary or outstanding is that we don’t get the best of our own children – whether it’s in sports or athletics or in academics,” he says.

He enrolled his own child in the school because he wanted to set an example that he wanted students from intact families and where education is a priority, to also enroll in the school. His son is now a presidential honors student at FAMU.

As for the future of the school, Geuka says this situation does not signal the end. “We’re not about to roll over and play dead, no matter what decision the school board makes May 12th,” said Geuka. He said the school is prepared to take legal recourse if necessary.

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Photo: Amefika Geuka
Comments (4)Add Comment
Assistant Professor of Business Administration
written by John Billingsley, Jr., May 12, 2010
The Nguzo Saba Charter School is offering these young minds discipline, determination and desire for success. Somethings do not change, such as bigotry and apathy.

We spend more money building bigger and better jails to incarcerate the young minds we refuse to educate. What will happen to the children if the Nguzo Saba Charter School is closed? Street gangs? Drugs? or Prison? Maybe that is the "defining moment" the West Palm Beach School Board and Superintendent Art Johnson has in mind.

Our prayers go out to the community as it supports the Nguzo Saba Charter School today.
Concerned Citizen
written by Stuart Krantz, May 11, 2010
Interesting premise by Mr. Akusani. I, being white, would like to know if other Blacks and/or African-American's agree? I thought the schools were doing a better job of teaching across cultures? Regardless, if what is true about this school is that their children are coming from behind and getting hope, direction and fire in their bellies, then I think it's an effort worth saving. Just as the School Board / Federal Governments would do for any other unachieving school (Such as Miami Edison - no I don't have any connection there.) Good luck to Joseph Littles–Nguzo Saba Charter School and all Floridian and American Schools. The country doesn't seem to be giving you the support that I would expect our great and powerful American country to do.
Charter Schools Need Support
written by Paula G., May 07, 2010
As someone who spent 3 years or so trying to establish a charter school I can tell you that it is a struggle. Charter schools across the Nation need financial and political support. People are so caught up into entertainment that they do not wish to acknowledge that is the PARENT'S responsibility to first educate the child. Then they must cooperate with the school's to create academic success for their children. Communities need to rally behind their schools to help improve them. People barely turn up for school board elections.

The Value of this Charter School to Black Children
written by Hadassadajah Akusani, May 07, 2010
I would personally like to see this school remain open and keep its charter. It is almost virtually impossible for those not of African descent to understand the criticalness of this school and its mission to black youth who are brought up in a country's school system that teaches them nothing about their particular history and culture. When, therefore, a child knows nothing of where he/she comes from, its next to impossible to know where they are going, thus, many end up on skid row which leads only to the streets, gangs, violence--and subsequently prison. Is this the subliminal intent? Being brought up in American schools, as black youth, is not sufficient when the curriculum is primarily about European and other cultures, and devoid of any knowledge of self. Being "American" is synonomous with being White. For black students to excel in life and become assets to 'their' community and country, they must know who they are, otherwise they will only grow up to continue populating the vast prison system. Anyone who contributes to this demise is making a bold statement that this is the REASON behind terminating the ONLY CHARTER SCHOOL IN THE STATE that addresses this need, absent in so many other locales. This is not good state or country policy. It sends a bold statement also that the lives and future of these "American" citizens of African descent are not valuable. In truth, it continues the 'theme' of the Dred Scott Decision, that these youth are not valued in this country as worthy ciizens. If this is the case, then SHAME ON YOU!!! And some wonder why it is difficult for Blacks to be proud of this Country.

A concerned CITIZEN
Hadassah Akusani
Asheboro, NC

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