WEST PALM BEACH — Florida’s only African-centered charter school will shut down. A 4-2 vote Wednesday by the The School District of Palm Beach County Board sets in motion a June 30 closure of Joseph Littles-Nguzo Saba charter school.
“The school board has failed our students miserably,” Amefika Geuka, the 16-year-old school’s founder. “I’m challenging the school district’s right to hold our black students hostage. It’s not our school that has failed; it is the school district that has failed. It is on the record that they have failed to educate black students. It is up to the black community to pick up the torch.”
Its part of a conspiracy to keep education away from blacks, Geuka said in an interview before the vote.
“I’m not subject to the ‘victim’ mentality or mindset,” said Geuka, “But whether or not the district singled out our school – absolutely they singled us out.”
“Quite frankly, I’m convinced this has a lot to do with a design for African-American students to fail,” Geuka said. “Schools must fail our students in order to fill up the prisons. It’s the reasons for privatizing our prisons. They have to fill them up,” he said.
E. Wayne Gent, Palm Beach County Public Schools superintendent, had recommended the school’s charter not be renewed – the second schools chief to do so.
Geuka was notified two weeks ago by telephone and by letter that the district is proposing the school’s doors be closed at the end of this school year in June.
The district’s charter department said the school got dismal scores on its mid-year and renewal reviews, failing half of the compliance requirements on both cases. It also cited consistently bad grades on the state’s Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), as well as its financial woes. The reviewers said the school’s expenditures exceeded its revenues.
Joseph Littles-Nguzo Saba got two Fs and a D in the past three years.
Before that, it received only C grade, after consistently receiving a D grade since schools began receiving letter grades. The reviewers said they found no evidence of a plan in place to turn around the school’s performance, no evidence of students who performed poorly on reading getting specialized instruction and no evidence that special needs students were receiving their required services.
The school board was set to vote on the closure recommendation last week but, at the last minute, the school submitted documents countering the district’s findings. It was given a reprieve so school board members could read the response.
This isn’t the first time the Joseph Littles-Nguzo Saba school is facing closure. In 2010, then superintendent Art Johnson cited the school’s financial troubles and its failure to meet academic standards as reasons he wanted to revoke the charter. But, after months of pressing his case, Johnson reversed himself as the board was set to vote.
Johnson told the board he would be willing to give the school what would amount to a “last chance” to get on track – in essence keeping the school’s doors open But, this time, unless something drastic happens, the school’s chances of remaining open are slim.
Geuka said he’s been told unofficially that the vote would be 5-2 in support of closure, with the two black school board members voting to keep it open.
Geuka said he and his family have given their all to the school despite little support from the community.
“I’m at peace with whatever happens now,” he said. “We’ve fought the good fight. The black community has not supported this school. We’ve had to fight this battle alone.”