I attended the final meeting of the Horace Mann African-American Community Task Force this evening. The meeting was not as well attended as the last one I witnessed, but it was productive. They have a deal.
The ACIC is still in the building and operating, but they will leave peaceably so construction can begin. The District would like them out by the end of next week. You may be surprised to learn that they have not made any preparations to move. They haven't even begun to plan their exit. They asked if they could stay until December 31. The answer was no.
Africatown may lease space at Columbia or Van Asselt for a year and they may lease one of the portables at the Mann site until February. That remains to be seen. They don't want to cease operations, but I don't know if their financial resources will extend to leasing District property.
The deal, such as it is, was actually made between Mark Perry and the NOVA community and the Africatown community. The District is merely going along with it. In the deal, the ACIC will get dedicated space in the renovated Mann building for administrative offices and for storage. They will also get to use some of NOVA's space - classrooms and larger meeting space - when NOVA isn't there: before school, after school, weekends, and summers. That's when the ACIC programs will need the space anyway since their students are in school during the school day. Those will be shared space.
This deal, as I wrote, was struck between Africatown and NOVA. Wyking Garrett, and others, were very clear to say that they have no trust issues with the NOVA community. In fact, they praised Mark Perry and the NOVA community for reaching out and seeking partnership. The community does, however, distrust the District and they want something clear and in writing about what the District is committed to doing. The District has been vague and non-committal, not granting anything in writing nor promising anything that they wouldn't offer a stranger. The District is not giving Africatown anything. No space at Mann. NOVA gets it all as far as the District is concerned. NOVA can share if they want, but that comes from NOVA, not from the District.
Wyking Garrett made an important statement. The activities of the ACIC wants to see at the Mann building are district activities. The District has already stated their intent to engage families, to deliver culturally responsive curricula, and to provide professional development towards cultural competency. These are all things that the District says they want to do. These are all things that are in the Strategic Plan. The ACIC wants the District to commit to doing that work - instead of just talking about it - to do it at Mann, and to start doing it without delay. The ACIC wants to partner with the District on developing these programs and curricula. They believe that they have what the district needs to accomplish their goals. Will the District partner with them? Authentically? We'll see.
That work starts with the formation of the Success for African-American Students Advisory Committee (SAASAC) which the superintendent has directed his staff to form. The Advisory Committee will be charged with reviewing academic and disciplinary data for African-American students district-wide, looking at the curriculum for black history in America and making recommendations for programs. It's unclear if that charge includes the work that the ACIC wants to do with the District. It's unclear if the District will actually allow the Advisory Committee to do any of the work that they are charged with doing.
The immediate conflict is resolved. The District has yet another opportunity to build trust - or destroy it. The NOVA community has showed their open-handed generosity, their humanity, and their commitment to social justice. And the ACIC will have space for their programs at Mann.
Their programs include before-school and after-school educational programs, a summer educational program, some extra-curricular programs, a homeschool resource program, and community building activities.