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Village Academy

This is a menu of the topics on this page (click on any): Project summary, name and give a brief description.    How this project has affected the lives of children and youth    The partnerships and collaborations involved    Haitian    qualitative and quantitative outcomes of this project    Name the primary contact(s) for the project   .

Project summary, name and give a brief description.

"Village Academy" is a deregulated public school, owned and operated by Palm Beach County School Board, built to address the specific needs of at-risk elementary students and families living within the low-income neighborhoods of Delray Beach. The school incorporates the Beacon Concept Model developed in New York that provides for a guaranteed 15 to 1 student teacher ratio, with extended school days from 7:30a.m. to 7:00p.m., one half day on Saturdays and an expanded school year inclusive of the first 8 weeks of summer. It operates within a governance structure that includes a full partnership between the school district and the community that it serves. The "Village Center" provides support services on campus designed and coordinated by MAD DADS, Inc. of Greater Delray Beach. The center component provides parent support, capacity and community building, and youth development activities directed at resolving issues that negatively impact a supportive learning culture.

How this project has affected the lives of children and youth

A community planning process, coordinated by MAD DADS in 1998, focused on the alarming statistics documented under a report from a County-wide committee called "Weathering the Storm." The report documented the poor academic achievement of minority youth and the harsh disparity between minority and non-minority students in Palm Beach County. Residents acknowledged the steady decline of the academic performance of minority youth from this community, attributing the problem to the closing of community-based schools, commenced with bussing for desegregation purposes. Students in Delray Beach are bussed to 13 different schools. The problems are compounded by a perceived lack of parent involvement in their children's education. Principals and teachers have acknowledged that minority students coming from Delray Beach arrive without basic skills in core classes, and cannot perform at grade level.

The planning process brought together residents, community leaders, community-based organizations and service providers over a nine-month period addressing a myriad of issues associated with this disenfranchised community. The collective voice emphatically targeted the establishment of a community school as their top priority. This process created a momentum that has pushed residents and parents to assume a proactive role in raising the academic performances of their children.

The result is the first new public school built within a predominantly African-American neighborhood in over 25 years. The "Village Academy/Center" opened in August 2000 with the first 240, Kindergarten - 2nd grade students. The school was built with a capacity to house 500 students in grades K-5, with a plan to add grades 3-5 over a three-year period. Palm Beach County funds the standard operating costs. The community, MAD DADS and their philanthropic partners are responsible for $1.2 million dollars annually in support of the adopted standards and center programs. Funding for the center and its standards is committed through 2004.

The partnerships and collaborations involved

The grass roots neighborhood planning process was assisted by Partnership for Neighborhood Initiatives (PNI), postulated on "Breaking the Cycle of Poverty for Children: A Twenty Year Vision." The MacArthur Foundation, Topsfield Foundation, United Way of Palm Beach County, Quantum Foundation, City of Delray Beach and private philanthropist, Art Kobacker, provided critical resources and technical assistance to ensure the effectiveness of this community initiative. The plan focused on the inner-city minority community that is 90 percent African-American and Hispanic and 10 percent Haitian, representing 8,000 persons or 70 percent of the minority population living in Delray Beach. More than 120 residents living in the targeted area participated in the nine-month long planning process.

Assisted by S. Bruce McDonald, a former School District Area Superintendent and Dr. Albert Mamary, former public school superintendent in Johnson City, New York, the Village Academy/Center envisioned a comprehensive community and academic program. Supplemented by a broad range of community and family services offered in partnership with other agencies, the center fully supports each students success; recreational and cultural extracurricular activities; physical and mental health care and nutrition and family case management.

After hearing the concerns of the neighborhood, supported by the city, the School Board approved a $7.6 million dollar construction budget in January 2000. The school was constructed in a record six months, opening its doors in August. Art Kobacker, pledged the first $400,000 for the center services, which was matched by the Pugh and South Florida Annenburg Foundations.

A very active community Student Advisory Committee and Parent Teachers Association, in partnership with the school principal and staff, govern the Village Academy/Center. The goals established for Village Academy/Center is to have 95 percent of the students graduate from high school, and 80 percent of the graduates continue their pursuit of higher education.

qualitative and quantitative outcomes of this project

The success of the Village Academy/Center is documented monthly. The fundraising efforts have been just as fruitful. The community's positive response and support is overwhelming. Since 1999, the MAD DADS Board of Directors and its Executive Director, Chuck Ridley, have raised $1.67 million dollars through foundations, charities, local sororities and fraternities, businesses and private philanthropists, for the academic model and center services. In addition, the board recently received notice of approval from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers for a $2.7 million dollar grant award designated for the 2002 through 2004 school years securing the future of Village Academy for the next three years.

The school now boasts that 56 percent of the parents are active in the PTA. Under the initial assessments, 80 percent of the students enrolled were performing below grade level but at the end of the first semester, that number was reduced to 50 percent. The pride and enthusiasm of students and school staff is evident when you visit the school. Parents are more confident and informed, therefore, taking a proactive involvement in school issues.

ABC Nightline highlighted the Village Academy in January 2001, for being a good example of a community breaking through barriers of a major bureaucracy, getting them to adjust their policies and decisions to the needs of the community. Chuck Ridley, Executive Director of MAD DADS, received the Community Justice Service award this past month, recognizing his efforts in bringing broad-based community support, crossing racial lines, benefiting children and parents who would not normally get the attention they deserve and need. He, along with Tom Siccone, Board member, are the recipients of this year's Sun-Sentinel Newspaper Community Service Award acknowledging their work in bringing Village Academy to fruition and creating a strong partnership with the Literacy Coalition, providing one-to-one assistance for parents.

Name the primary contact(s) for the project

Charles "Chuck" Ridley, Executive Director, MAD DADS, Inc. Of Greater Delray Beach.

Art Kobacker

Tom Siccone, Board of Directors.

Barbara Brown, First Principal.

Jody Gleason, Palm Beach County School Board, 3340 Forest Hill Blvd, Suite C-316, West Palm Beach, FL 33406-5869.

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