In an educational system where the public schools continue to fail a significant number of its students and in certain cases failing certain groups of students more disproportionately than others, a charter school is usually a welcomed sight. The intent of a charter school is an opportunity to provide an innovative approach to fix some aspects of a failed or failing education system; a place where students are placed so that they may be given the special attention provided to kids in a private school and in an environment that enables success.
Several success stories have been well-documented in the New York Public school system. On the other hand, when Dozier Libby Medical High School was inaugurated back in the 2010 academic year, the concept of a specialty school was received with great fanfare. A school where students can be trained and channeled into the medical field, be it nursing, be it pre-med or be it a technical degree where graduating students can immediately start a career, if they chose not to go to college. However, what has happened, continues to happen and has been allowed to happen at DLMHS, is an insult to every resident of the Antioch Unified School District, and a slap in the face of majority of residents who live in the district. This is why:
1. Since inception, an unprecedented 37 percent of all students have either been forced to leave or have seen the writing on the wall and left before they were kicked out. All students, not just African American kids or Latino kids, but of course majority of these 37 percent are African-American. 2. Of the approximately 80 graduating seniors each year, only two African-American male students have ever graduated from DLMHS -- 3. Some 44 percent of African-American students who started at ninth grade no longer attend DLMHS. 4. A whopping 73 percent of English learner students, over 90 percent of whom are Latino students, admitted since the 2010 school year, no longer attend DLMHS -- 5.64 percent of special education students for one reason or another, no longer attend. The above statistics obtained from the Antioch Unified School District confirms that only a selected few who are high achievers are welcomed at DLMHS. That is contrary to what a school funded with scarce public dollars should be.
DLMHS is a school founded with very high hopes. A place where any student, not just high performing non-English learners, non-African American learners -- who gets chosen through the lottery admission system -- will obtain the best support to succeed. What the place has turned to is a place for predominantly smart white students -- a school for the elite.
If you do not fit into that mold, you are classified as sick and recommended for "curing." Curing you ask? This is a room where students who get below-average grades, are sent while other students are having lunch.
DLMHS is a wasted opportunity, which has now manifested into a private club. A private club that has now applied through the back door without input from the school board or community to become a charter school. An institution that has failed woefully at supporting the average and below-average student and now wants to excruciate itself from the public school oversight so that it can continue to exclude 44 percent of its population, while receiving an above proportional share of public funding to cater for its chosen ones.
The East County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) ask the citizens of Antioch, who are disgusted and feel impugned by the leadership of DLMHS, to implore the Antioch Unified School District board of directors to nip this nonsensical act in the bud and immediately constitute an independent community board of education to investigate the documented report of systematic exclusion at DLMHS.
Nancie Castro's success at DLMHS has been well-documented and we do not fault that. However, who would not succeed in such an environment where only the smart few are allowed to stay. This is not the Marines.
If Nancie Castro wants to lead a private school where she does not have to deal with below-average kids, there are numerous schools out there that would welcome her. However, if she chooses to remain at DLMHS, her fiduciary responsibility is to educate all students and ensure that the struggling ones are provided adequate assistance needed and not shown the door.
Enough is enough!
Odessa Lefrancois is the President of the East County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People 1055.