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Dr. Boyce Spotlight: Frustrated Teacher Ventures to Create a School for Black Boys

1) What is your name and what do you do?

My name is D. DeWayne Barker and I have been an educator for ten years. I have taught all levels of high school English, fourth-sixth grade reading and social studies, coached varsity boys basketball and served as a principal at a charter school for four years. I hold a BA degree in English and currently in the process of completing my M.Ed. in Educational Administration at Sam Houston State University.

2) Tell us about your school and what led you to start your own enterprise?

ROMEO Preparatory Academy is a college preparatory day and proposed boarding school designed to cater to the needs of African American males in grades 9-12. The mission of Romeo Preparatory Academy is to provide a first-class education and mentoring program where disadvantaged and under-served young men can reach their highest potential in every aspect. This mission will be accomplished through a strong educational program based upon a structured and rigorous curriculum supported by discipline and mutual respect.

The commitment and involvement of the students, parents, educators, and the community will be utilized to achieve these goals. Romeo Preparatory Academy will provide students with a rigorous course of study to ensure college readiness. All students will be prepared to excel at the collegiate level upon graduating. Students will be afforded an opportunity to take dual credit courses through Paris Junior College and as well as Advanced Placement courses through College Board.

The school will cover all associated costs including textbooks, fees, and exams. Students have the option of participating in football, basketball, track, step team, wrestling and as well as yearbook/newspaper, debate, choir and theater arts. Students are required to complete sixty hours of community service and must have an acceptance letter to a four year college or university in order to graduate. Our focus is not on standardized testing, but educating the “total” child to ensure college readiness.

I decided to delve into starting my own school due to the frustration level of teaching in the public school system. Our students are being short-changed because they are not being taught anything other than how to take and pass a standardized test. When students graduate, which many don’t, they are not prepared for collegiate studies and end spending a semester or two taking developmental courses which do not count toward and degree.

I think there is a better way to design educational programs and curriculums because in America the dropout rate is ridiculous, especially among African males. When I taught senior English, I was in total shock of how many students who could not read and write as they were just passed on because they played sports or because the teacher did not want to deal with them another year. I am not claiming to have a solution to the educational epidemic, but I do think there is a better way and at Romeo Preparatory Academy, we believe that all students can and will learn. Romeo Preparatory Academy is a school of choice and students have to make a commitment and want to be a part of our program.

3) What background do you possess that makes you the kind of influence that our kids need to have in their lives?

I have ten years of experience working with at-risk students and have a passion for helping and educating students, especially African American males. I went through a lot as a kid and managed to turn many negatives into positives. It was extremely hard growing up without any parents and I am so thankful for my grandmother who saw fit to take me in as a newborn baby to care for me. The many disappointments, neglect, mistreatment, rejection and abuse I encountered have put a burning desire in my heart to help others. Often times experience is the best teacher and experience can never be found in a textbook.

4) What have been the greatest challenges you’ve encountered while running your own school? 

I cannot speak on any challenges while running my own school since the school does not open for students until September 2013. However, the greatest challenge in the startup process is selling it to the African American community. The biggest question I get is: “Why all boys?” And when I show them statistics pertaining to Black males and the education arena their whole demeanor changes. Also, I find myself educating parents because many of them simply do not know.

5) What do you think black boys need in order to be successful in this world?

The main thing is for someone to show them love and acceptance. The greatest gift anyone can possess is love. They also need positive role models and mentors that are not on television; they need someone they can sit down and talk face-to-face to. Our boys need stability, structure, and positive reinforcement. Additionally, our boys need a strong and rigorous educational program that will challenge them and prepare them for success once they graduate from high school and matriculate into their collegiate studies.

6) Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Your Black World audience?

I have 20 FULL RIDE scholarships (room & board included) for the 2013-2014 school year at Romeo Preparatory Academy. These scholarships are FIRST COME-FIRST SERVE and will be given to disadvantaged and under-served males entering grades 9-12 next fall. Please email me at dbarker@romeo-knights.org for further information.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and author of the book, “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about College.” To have Dr Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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    Make sure that African-American teachers are vigorously and acutely recruited for this project, and especially African-American males. We must have us teaching us! In the segregated schools of the South where I attended school, everybody in the school was Black, everybody learned. However, when the schools in the north were “supposed to be integrated,” few of the children learned. All the system did was to take the white children out of the schools and place them in other all-white schools, and took our great, caring and nurturing Black teachers out of the schools and replaced them with callous, insensitive, disrespectful, non-nurturing, uncaring, vindictive, incompetent and scared white “teachers” who don’t give a d**n about our precious African-American children. We must understand, aggressively confront, and eliminate the long-term devastation of discrimination in education and seriously consider the enormous cost and great tragedy of ignorance!

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    December 12, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Did I miss where this school is located?

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    There‘s a school in Philadelphia, Boys Latin the founder is Dave Hardy. It is an excellent model and highly sought after with an excellent track record.

  27. PB Short Reply

    November 12, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    Much love to my brother for trying to make a difference…and I know it will be successful until the government gets involved…

    For the last thirty years, I have walked the streets in a lot of major cities trying to encourage our young men and point them in the right directions…

    I usually encourage these men to go back to school and take the hardest courses…

    I always say, would rather be a diesel mechanic or the Engineer who designed the diesel engine?

    We are the world’s greatets scientists…

    I recently convinced a young brother to take up a dual major in college: Accounting & Mechanical Engineering…

    The reasoning behind this was that the young man is highly intelligent…and I informed him that because of the color of his skin, racism is still alive and well in America, and finding a high paying, high profile job will be hard…

    As an accountant, he will understand the American business system, and learn to manage his personal financses,and learn how to read and write contracts at all levels…

    As a Mechanical Engineer, he will have a scientific mind, and will be able to invent things for companies, and for himself to sell…in addition, as he invents things, he will own the patent, and can then sell copy right licenses to his inventions…

    This way, he will not be dependant on the white man to hire him…and he will not be foolish enough to sign away his patents for pennies…

    Until I die, I will continue to help mentor whenever possible as someone helped me many years ago…

    We have what it takes…but not enough to get started…

  28. J. Odie Reply

    November 11, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    This is greatly needed for young black males and I’m glad to be chosen to be apart of it.

  29. This is the answer Reply

    November 11, 2012 at 12:02 am

    All male schools is truly the answer to educating our young black men who are being dumbed down and not educated. If you look at who is filling the alternative schools, many of the schools are filled with young black males. And what kind of education do you really think they are going to get at an alternative school?

    If we don’t recognize this as a crisis, and be proactive now, we will lose a generation of young black men. And the loss has already started.

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