Principal Bernard Gassaway of Boys and Girls High School met with his cabinet and staff recently to inform them that the school received an F grade on their recent progress report issued by the Department of Education. While not satisfied with a failing grade, he reminded staff that they are in the early phases of the implementation of a strategic plan to transform the school.

This plan to transform Boys and Girls High School into a full service Community School was approved by the Boys and Girls High School Advisory Council. It was also presented to Chancellor Dennis Walcott. Inherent in this plan is the creation of learning communities that will address the various needs of students currently enrolled at the school.

This year, three additional learning communities were created. They are the Booker T. Washington Transfer Program for students who are over-aged and under-credited. The Scholars Academy was created to enable high performing students to accelerate and obtain college credits. Finally, a YABC program housed at the school is for over-aged fifth-year students who are allowed to work during the day and attend school in the afternoon. This program is specifically designed to combat the 38 percent four-year graduation rate for the class of 2012.

Additionally, Boys and Girls High School has established the CARE Center, which is a network of community-based partners that provide support services to students. The CARE Center came into existence out of recognition that many of the students are faced with social, emotional, economic and mental health challenges that have a direct impact upon their ability to perform well in school. Some of the services include counseling, job readiness, mental health, substance abuse counseling, reproductive health and attendance outreach.

Other academic and cultural enrichment partnerships are being developed to support student achievement. Just last week, the school hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its newly renovated library, now called a media and research center. At this event, Gassaway presented plans for an outdoor state-of-the-art greenhouse and an indoor hydroponic lab. The school also recently received a million-dollar grant to renovate our science labs, and next year, major construction will begin on a full-scale medical center to service students and their families.

According to Gassaway, “While a significant number of students enter our school with poor academic history and attendance, I am fully committed to transforming Boys and Girls High School into a top urban high school, but it will not happen overnight. I am not one to make excuses and I am totally transparent. Our goal is to meet students where they are and to address their social and academic needs.

“Under the full-scale community school model that we have developed, we have the ability to do that, and we are making progress. I only ask for time and the resources to implement the plan. I have done in-depth research on this model, and I know that it works and it will work at Boys and Girls High School. I trust that the community will continue to support us during this period of redesign and transformation.”