Story Michael Hubbard, Photos by Grant Meeks and Isaiah Williams
Most of us have spent the summer of 2011 seeking relief from the near record breaking heat. But for Nakia Douglas, the principal of the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy, the past few months have been a whirlwind of activity as he and his staff prepared to open the doors of the first all boys’ school in the history of DISD.
The Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy joined the Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School as the second single gender public school in the district. The Academy opened August 22nd with 212 young men in grades 6-9 who will embark on an educational experience which is sure to be life altering.
“I’ve given the following advice to the young men that are coming in,” says Douglas, “First be a willing participant in your education, secondly believe in yourself as much as we believe in you and finally have an open heart and mind to receive the lessons that we’re going to provide as you transition into manhood.”
The Texas Education Agency reported that in 2009-2010 65.6% of the DISD student population was classified as “At Risk” and 86.6 percent were classified as “Economically Disadvantaged.” Those statistics can’t be ignored, though Douglas believes they can be overcome.
“Staying focused on our young men and the mission, we have to develop them into impactful leaders through their intellectual, moral and physical development, which will be the key to the success of the Academy,” says Douglas. He also counts on the Academy receiving plenty of support from the community. “Support from the community has grown”, Douglas says. “We are finalizing partnerships with several groups who plan to support the campus by their presence as well as financially.”
Recent cutbacks in school districts across Texas could have dealt a blow to the non-traditional curriculum planned for the Academy, yet the entire faculty was hired and moved into the new facility on August 15. Douglas, who confesses he always sees the glass as half full, admitted it has been challenging but the original curriculum and programming at the Academy will not be compromised.
“I won’t say the DISD cutbacks affected the program, I’ll just say we became more creative and sought hybrid teachers for the campus. We have fewer staff members but they all have more than one certification and are capable of teaching both middle and upper school courses.”
Douglas went on to say, “We sought staff members that were willing, able and committed to carrying out the mission of the Academy and holding up the high expectations that we have for our young men.
Enrollment for the 2011-2012 school year is closed, but interested parents can have their sons placed on the Academy’s waiting list. “Our waiting list is actually growing. A lot of young men and their parents have recently learned about the opportunity and want to be a part of the Academy. It is flattering when the calls come in and parents want to know what they need to do to get their child admitted.”
Over the summer break Douglas and other administrators spent a week in China studying their school system and seeking a school with whom they could partner. Mission accomplished.
“As a part of our Mandarin program we were looking to establish a partnership with a school overseas. We now have a sister campus, Yubei Middle School located in Chongqing, China three hours outside of Beijing,” he says.
In two years students of the Academy will have the opportunity to study abroad. Mr. Douglas added, “We will start the exchange program with our upper level students, but we want to make sure they develop a fluency in the language which is the reason for delaying the program for two years.”
Douglas and his staff are aware that all eyes will be on the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy and he promises that observers will see a “new breed” of male students. “The general public can expect to see students who realize first and foremost their role within their families; students that have a genuine interest and desire to be successful leaders for our communities,” Douglas says with excitement. “They can also expect our young men to wholeheartedly take on challenges that not only face our campus but our community as well.”
Michael Hubbard is a freelance writer and blogger. A native of Dallas, TX, he is a proud graduate of James Madison High School. Michael brings a unique, hometown perspective to his political and social commentary. You can follow his opinions at mikeondallas.blogspot.com, and Mike can be reached at Mhubbard23@aol.com.