Kuumba Charter School Embraces Wilmington as its Campus
Defying myths about urban people, urban families and how to achieve Charter School success.
(page 4 of 5)
“There’s no such thing as scheduling a parent-teacher conference,” Laws says. “If I need to speak with someone, I can walk right into school. If my son is doing math homework and I don’t understand it, I can get a tutorial right from
one of the teachers.”
Parent Tahira Lyons, whose two Kuumba students also would have attended low-performing schools, points out that teachers send home weekly lesson plans so parents can plan their own homework, and they’ll refer her to educational websites and other resources to help her brush up. She also notes that Kuumba has done wonders for her young son’s confidence. Shy by nature, he asked his mother if he could testify to the Department of Education when Kuumba’s charter was up for renewal last year, just like
his big sister did.
Of the six schools chartered in 1998, only Kuumba and two others are still in business. The state yanked the charters of the under-performing schools—though traditional public schools that perform as poorly stay in business. Kuumba avoided the same fate by recognizing problems and correcting them before the state could penalize it. Noticing its academic improvement, Howard Career Center and the Brandywine School District have implemented Singapore Math in all schools. Kuumba has succeeded so well, in fact, that even though it will take on 150 new students and add a seventh grade next year, there still isn’t enough space for all the families who want to be part of it.
“In the community, the school represents hope for the city of Wilmington,” Avery says. “There’s a hope that we can have good schools. It represents an example that urban kids can be scholars and have high personal achievement.”
Avery believes that, among other reasons for Kuumba’s success, including parental involvement, two are of special note. One is that Kuumba nurtures city kids in a protected environment until they need to face the big, bad world of middle school and beyond. The other is the school’s partnership with Christina Cultural Arts Center, where she has served as executive director for more than 20 years. “I’m adamant that a single charter school, to be successful, should be aligned with an experienced partner,” Avery says. She points to Wilmington Charter, which, with the resources of Red Clay School District behind it, has become the best public high school in the state.