MLK High beginning to fulfill its Promise

Principal William Wade of the Promise Academy at Martin Luther King High prepares the school for a block party Wednesday after rain forced the festival inside.
Principal William Wade of the Promise Academy at Martin Luther King High prepares the school for a block party Wednesday after rain forced the festival inside. (DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: September 07, 2012

MARTIN LUTHER King High School is preparing for its second year as a Promise Academy, and parents so far are happy with the changes.

What was once a school marred by poor academic performance, little discipline and no community partners is being turned around under the district Promise Academy initiative, which provides more resources to struggling schools.

Principal William Wade and his team, who welcomed parents, students and the community to an event at the school Wednesday, have established structure, started community partnerships and ensured students are engaged.

"There's definitely a notable change," said parent Conchevia Washington, president of MLK's School Advisory Council.

"It's exciting. I'm a parent of an incoming senior [Tiffani, 17], so I'm hoping this will be the best year for her."

The hope the school now has might have seemed like wishful thinking just a couple of years ago, when MLK was in the middle of a political firestorm.

The School Reform Commission had approved a $12 million contract to school operator Mosaica - which had been recommended by parents and community members - to run MLK.

But Mosaica pulled out after former SRC Chairman Robert Archie set up a meeting with company officials and state Rep. Dwight Evans. Evans pressured the company to back out, according to a report by the city's chief integrity officer, Joan Markman.

Evans then successfully pushed for former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman to back Foundations Inc., a longtime political backer of Evans.

When the backroom negotiations were made public, Foundations pulled out and the district decided to run the school itself using the Promise Academy model.

Today at MLK, structure is set with a uniform policy that includes ties for boys and girls. The typical school day is also longer than at most other district schools.

"We are dialed in to every child and what their needs are. We have a very dedicated staff that's going to do that," Wade said, as he hugged students and parents visiting the school.

"I hold them very accountable. Accountability is a messy thing sometimes, but it keeps us all clean in the end."

A community cleanup day planned for Wednesday was nixed by the weather, but a scheduled block party was moved indoors to the school, on Stenton Avenue near Haines in West Oak Lane.

The fair featured community partners such as the advocacy group Parent Power, which offered reusable shopping bags filled with grocery items, and maintenance/repair company Elliot-Lewis, which provided backpacks stuffed with school supplies.


Contact Regina Medina at medinar@phillynews.com or 215-854-5985. Follow her on Twitter @ReginaMedina.

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