This past Friday, the staff and students at Possibility Prep Stem Academy in Upper Marlboro were greeted with a letter stating that Prince George's County's first and only all boys public charter school will close its doors after only one school year.
After reading several messages about why the school was closing, it was stated that our Board of Governors did not meet several mandates dictated by the county school board. These mandates included but were not limited to creating academic and behavior intervention programs, fixing building violations and increasing student enrollment.
Being a teacher at the academy has given me a unique perspective on the entire situation. All stakeholders have some fault in the school's closing, but in the end, it is the students who endure the biggest burden.
Both the county school board and the charter board did not develop an effective relationship to ensure the students were given a world class education. I also believe the charter board underestimated the amount of resources needed to effectively operate a school. In addition, the county board did not allocate enough resources for the charter to be successful. It was always understood amongst the staff that the relationship between both boards were extremely volatile which caused a breakdown of communication.
On the school level, educators were not given adequate training by Edison Learning, a for profit educational management corporation. Teachers were not properly trained on how to effectively build a school culture and instruct a population of African-American students. Many instructors came into the building with their same makeshift educational approach, which was not effective. In turn, there were many behavior issues due to the lack of classroom management, which led to decreased enrollment.
There was a critical need of special education services due to a high population of special needs students, but the county only furnished the school with a two-member special education department. Not only was this inadequate but it was also against the law.
A security guard was only furnished half way through the school year and there has never been a counseling department or full-time nurse. There are no security cameras or school-wide intercom system. There was also a major leadership change in the middle of the year and six staff members were transferred due to budget cuts and a lack of enrollment. How does anyone expect this school to be successful?
In the end, it is the students who lose. Leadership bickered, teachers were ill-prepared for the circumstances at hand and the adults focused more on the issues than the education of young men. Even in the midst of all the chaos, I was able to witness the resilience of my youth. They showed up everyday hoping for a change, looking for education, thirsty for a mentor or a positive culture.
If/when the school closes, we would have failed our young men yet again. Adults’ inability to properly plan and work out our differences has caused the youth to fail once more.