WEST PALM BEACH – Despite falling short on enrollment numbers, the Palm Beach County School District’s first single-gender school will open this fall after all.
The Roosevelt Leadership Academy for Young Men, an all-boys school focusing on the black male, will open in August but will not be housed at the former Roosevelt High School located along Tamarind Avenue in West Palm Beach, as community leaders had hoped.
Instead, the school will share space at the Roosevelt Community Middle School, 1900 N. Australian Avenue, a few blocks away.
School board members refused to commit to spending the $6.7 million needed to renovate the old Roosevelt High School building despite pleas from community members, who wanted the academy to be located at that site as a tribute to Roosevelt High’s past as one of the most successful predominantly black high schools in Florida.
Roosevelt High was Palm Beach’s premier black high school, opening in 1950 during segregation. In recent years the school became the Roosevelt Full Service Center, an alternative school, until the Joseph-Littles Nguzo Saba, the state’s only African-themed charter school, relocated there three years ago on a year-to-year contractual basis.
‘FIGHT NOT OVER’
Debra Robinson, vice-chairwoman of the School Board of Palm Beach County and whose brainchild is the all-male academy, wanted it at the Roosevelt High. Robinson eased up on that demand in order to get the academy off the ground.
“The fight is not over until we win for our children,” Robinson said in a phone interview Monday. The goal is still to have the academy at the Roosevelt High building, she said, adding, “But we’re pleased it’s going to be up and running. They will have their own little village at Roosevelt Middle School.”
Roosevelt Middle is a magnet school focusing on math, science and technology. Many of its students use I-pads provided by the school to complete their assignments. “It will be a good fit,” Robinson said.
In total, 60 boys registered for the all-male academy, short of the 85 the school district initially said was needed in order to open the school. The community originally planned for the school to start out with 100 sixth-grade boys.
School Superintendent Wayne Gent decided to open what is being called a “pilot program” for the academy and house it at Roosevelt Middle.
The purpose of the Roosevelt Leadership Academy for Young Men is to alleviate problems associated with black boys, though the program will be open to boys of all races. It will be modeled after the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy, a magnet university preparatory school in Dallas, Texas.
At a series of community meetings on the academy, scores of black male teachers said they are willing to leave their schools to teach at the all-male school. Many saw it as an opportunity to help young black boys become successful black men.
School Board Member Marcia Andrews said she is glad the program is getting off the ground.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction. These are our boys, who are most at risk. I’m excited about it because we didn’t want to lose the whole program. I’m willing to do anything to make sure it’s a success,” said Andrews, who is a graduate of Roosevelt High.
The academy will open with sixth-graders, with plans to add a grade each year until grade 12. The curriculum will be the S.T.E.A.M. model, focusing on science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics. Five teachers, who are currently being recruited, will be hired at the start. Jo Anne Rogers, principal of Roosevelt Middle, will also serve as principal of the academy.
Daphne Taylor may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org