Hartford, CT 06112
Editor's Note:All 4 candidates are participating, but space will limit attendance. The debate -- from 1 - 2:30 p.m. -- will be run by students and moderated by FoxCT's Laurie Perez. Best to call ahead.
“What makes Jumoke successful is exactly the type of reform EVERY public school needs: discipline, strong academic emphasis, and emphasis on programs and activities that enhance their children’s sense of responsibility, social skills, respect of self and others. It’s not rocket science. It’s getting back to the basics and demanding excellence. Jumoke does that quite well.”
- Stan Simpson, The Hartford Courant
In the mid 1990’s, students in Hartford, CT were struggling academically. Test scores were low, and the educational options available for the city’s children were next to none. Thelma Ellis Dickerson, a former State of Connecticut employee and civil rights activist, was frustrated and looking for solutions. Her goal was to start a school to provide options for those children as well as close the achievement gap that plagues Hartford and its more affluent suburbs. “Jumoke,” which means “everyone loves the child” in Yoruba, was a philosophy taken to heart as she fought for improved conditions and academic standards for Hartford schools.
In 1997, under Connecticut’s new public Charter School law, Ms. Dickerson founded Jumoke Academy in Hartford’s historic Blue Hills neighborhood. Jumoke began with classes ranging from Kindergarten to Third Grade. Most of its first 125 students were years behind statewide academic goals, and unable to gain ground. To bring these children up to basic levels and take them beyond, Ms. Dickerson and her administrators created an intensive and innovative program that encompassed a strong reading curriculum, a dedicated and creative staff, activities that encouraged academic and personal success, and a family-centered community that empowered parents, students, and neighborhood advocates. Everyone involved collaborated to make the school, and its students, successful – a true embodiment of the “Jumoke” philosophy. Over the past 14 years, the collaboration has continued and, as a result, the school has grown immensely, both in size and achievement.
With 432 students currently enrolled, there are now two Jumoke Academy Charter Schools. Jumoke Academy Elementary School educates students from Pre-Kindergarten to Fifth Grade. Jumoke Academy JAH-SMaRT Middle School is an academically rigorous school for Sixth to Eighth Grade students and prepares them for success in high school and beyond. In order to help additional students, and continue to academic success, plans to open an early learning center and high school are being explored. The achievement gap is closing for Jumoke Students. In fact, Jumoke Academy Middle School’s Connecticut Mastery Test scores are now either on par with or exceed the scores of some of the wealthiest suburbs in the state. We have been consistently recognized by ConnCan, a non-profit educational reform advocacy group, as one of Connecticut’s top 10 public schools in performance gains and minority/low income scores.
The biggest challenge we face today is one that has confronted most Americans: that of financial stability. Currently, we receive only 65% of the per student funding that is afforded to Hartford, the same city that is home to the majority of our students. We also lack many of the classroom tools (such as smart boards) and school resources (like technology labs and libraries) that other districts take for granted. Yet, as can be seen from our test scores and by visiting our classrooms, our children are leaps and bounds ahead. By properly funding successful schools, such as Jumoke Academy Charter Schools, our students will have access to even more learning opportunities, and the achievement gap for urban students can be a thing of the past.