WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- - Tamarind Avenue will soon have a school that is the first of its kind in Palm Beach County. The current Roosevelt Full Service Community Center is the future home of the Roosevelt Leadership Academy for Young Men, the first all-boys public school in the district.
Fall of 2013, about one hundred sixth graders will be the inaugural class of the first single-gender public school in Palm Beach County.
Vanya Allen lives nearby, and as the mother of three children, she is interested in the potential of such a program.
"So many brilliant children in this area, and I know them, I talk to them, I work with them, and there is nowhere for them to go," Allen said.
Assistant Superintendent for Safety, Culture and Learning Environment for the district, Dr. Joseph Lee, says the program is a reflection of successful single-gender programs in other states. He has studied similar programs in Dallas and Atlanta for inspiration. He says, single-gender programs frequently allow students to have fewer distractions and develop better leadership skills, while improving success in school.
The Tamarind neighborhood, Lee believes, will benefit.
"Especially for students of color, we have found that they have not achieved at the level of their counterparts," he said.
Recently released graduation data shows that graduation rates in Palm Beach County Schools have improved steadily over recent years, but black students continue to lag behind the general population. In 2008, the graduation rate was 49.8% for black students in the district. That rate rose to 64.8% in 2012. The overall graduation rate for students in 2012 was 77% in 2012.
The "STEAM" school will focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. Starting with sixth graders, each year going forward, another class of students will be added, eventually carrying the first class through graduation.
"What we find is that the at-risk young men in that particular neighborhood are the ones that we need to focus on. What can we do to affect student achievement," Lee said.
The Roosevelt school will be open to any male in the district, and students are encouraged to apply for the lottery system. Administrators say they are considering placing single-gender schools in other parts of the district, which would potentially add all-girl programs.
Allen is excited about the potential for her own children.
"I think having an institution of science and mathematics right in this area would do a lot for the young men, and subsequently for the young ladies as well," she said.
A community input meeting will be held Tuesday, December 11 at 6 p.m. in the Roosevelt Full Service Community School Cafeteria. The address is 1601 N. Tamarind Avenue.