Toledo Public Schools hopes to turn its lowest-performing school into a pipeline for the city’s next crop of leaders.
Samuel M. Jones at Gunckel Park Elementary will be converted next year into a high school with single-gender wings, a move that expands on the district’s single-gender elementary schools. The school will be called the “Leadership Academy.”
Superintendent Romules Durant said the move is an extension of the district’s transformation plan, with TPS expanding on successful programs and eliminating those that are ineffective.
“We are beginning to groom students for tomorrow’s leadership,” Mr. Durant said.
The Leadership Academy will serve as an expansion of the district’s two single-gender elementary schools, Ella P. Stewart Academy for Girls and Martin Luther King, Jr., Academy for Boys.
Both those schools are currently K-8, but they will become K-6 schools under the new model. TPS Chief Academic Officer Jim Gault said that students who attended and excelled at those schools are leaving the district for Catholic high schools because they want to stay in a single-gender environment.
The academy also will be the district’s third magnet high school. Both the Toledo Technology Academy and Toledo Early College High School are among the highest performers in the Toled Public Schools’ district.
Jones Elementary will be converted to a grades 7 through 12 school. It will include grades 7, 8, and 9 next year, then add a grade each year after that. The school will have a boys’ wing and a girls’ wing, with students taking classes with peers of the same gender and having opportunities for co-educational activities.
The school will be a districtwide magnet school, so students from across TPS can attend.
Students who now attend Jones will have four options: They can attend nearby neighborhood schools Marshall Elementary or Pickett Academy, or they can attend magnet schools Stewart Academy or MLK Academy.
Jones is the lowest-performing school in TPS, and district leaders noted that the four schools that parents can choose from perform better than Jones, some significantly.
The Leadership Academy will have no athletics, but students can play sports for their home school. Extracurricular activities will be focused on academic enrichment. District leaders said these will include debate and chess club, among other options for students.
Students who attend the academy must join the Young Men or Women of Excellence, student leadership groups that have been spearheaded by Mr. Durant. District leaders also promised a rigorous curriculum.
The new school will focus on developing entrepreneurs, using business and financial literacy curricula.
“[The academy] will be primarily based on this business model,” the superintendent said.
Mr. Durant called the setup unique, as most high schools are either single gender or co-ed.
Research is mixed on single-gender schools, but Mr. Durant is a supporter of the concept; he said about a year ago that he wanted to expand the single-gender concept in the district to the high-school level.
Despite the mixed research, Mr. Durant points to the success of the district’s boys’ and girls’ schools and his belief that the concept may be particularly suited to areas of concentrated poverty.
TPS held a community forum on Monday evening at MLK and plans to hold forums at Jones and Stewart on Wednesday.