How reform impacts the community is playing out in a very fundamental way at Jumoke Academy at Milner, where the direction being taken is pushing all stakeholders to focus on the bottom line: Are the students learning?
For the parents and students of Jumoke at Milner, the presentation delivered by Michael Sharpe, CEO of Jumoke at Milner to the members of the Black and Latino Caucus, could not have been more aptly named: “A Partnership for Transformative Change: A Year in Review”. Members of the standing room only gathering last Thursday described the transformation they have witnessed and are experiencing first hand.
A group of supporters and parents from Jumoke at Milner now speak of their school in terms of academic performance and grade level. Ana Soto, a grandmother who sits on the School Governance Council, was not sure about Jumoke’s ability to help her grandson, who receives special education services. She was told by Dr. Sharpe “to trust that we will get him to where he needs to be” and says Dr. Sharpe has fulfilled his promise. Ms. Soto could not have been more passionate in exclaiming that her grandson, who a year ago could not spell “the”, is now on grade level.
The changes at Jumoke-Milner go beyond the growth of individuals: Parents see a major change in the discourse taking place in school hallways. It is heartening when a group of parents, students and community members reports to the Black and Latino Caucus that a marked increase in learning is visible at the academy. But even more important are the reports of a culture shift that is reeducating the community on what learning looks like, building an understanding that getting an education does not mean just showing up. The two hour hearing gave the attendees an incredible sense that something significant is happening at Jumoke at Milner; that the needle is moving among parents and students to desire a quality education. A redesign or new school model is just window dressing if the hearts and minds of parents and students are not transformed.
It has been only one year, and only so much can be accomplished in just one year, as many Hartford school redesigns have shown, but signs are positive. And while there are also intense challenges that still exist and will persist at the school for some time to come, one thing is clear: State, District, and community support must continue at the same and increased levels in order for Milner to turn itself around. Jumoke leadership, school leadership, and the school staff cannot do this on their own.