Citing increased violence, achievement gaps and skyrocketing suspension rates, some JCPS leaders say the district is failing to serve its young black male students.

But a proposed district-wide alternative school is aimed to help them.
On Tuesday, district leaders met at the VanHoose Education Center to answer questions about the "Males of Color Academy," which parents think is the kind of program the district needs right now.

"They will be victorious," Rosz Akins told parents and community members who packed Tuesday's JCPS work session. "They will be well-mannered. They will be the x-factor that beat the odds."

"I see pastors here tonight that are tired of burying young African-American males," said Akins, who was met with applause

The proposed program is geared toward black male students, ones who slip into the district's wide achievement gap. In its first year, the academy would enroll 150 sixth graders, starting with the 2018-19 school year*

It would cost an estimated $766,236 and tailor a "culturally relevant" curriculum.

"Our sons have more to life than just violence," said parent Naseera Lewis, who is raising a teenage boy on her own. "We have a lot of young men who are crying out. This could be a beginning of a program that could show them that they are scholars and more than just a number in the streets."

"The data states we have a problem," board member Diane Porter said.

According to the district's numbers, achievement scores among non-white male students are significantly lower than their white male classmates. The same group's out-of-school suspension rate is more than three times higher.

"We cannot continue on this path," Porter said.

But other board members still have questions, like the program’s long-term costs, enrollment criteria and where it would be located.

"We have seen failure in the past," said board chairman Chris Brady. "We certainly want to avoid that in the future, and we want to make sure we are asking all the necessary questions to set this up for success."

The board will take a vote at its next meeting on June 27.

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