All Boys Charter School Proposed in Fort Wayne

By Maureen Mespell
By Rachel Martin

February 28, 2012 Updated Feb 29, 2012 at 12:42 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – A family of educators proposes building an all-boys charter school, targeting urban youth, on the city’s Southeast side.

"It could revolutionize the southeast side,” that's what co-founders and educators, Thomas, Corey and Cameron Smith say about the proposed all-boys charter school in Fort Wayne. Thomas says it’s one of the first all-boys school proposed in the state. He says he heard another is proposed in Indianapolis, but nothing has been authorized. Thomas says he and his sons proposed the Smith Academy for Excellence (SAFE) because they saw a need for alternative learning and a community-based school on the Southeast side of town.

“We are the founders and initiators of this school,” said Thomas. “We were not proposed by any other organization. Our desire to initiate SAFE was not motivated by a perceived flaw in Fort Wayne Community Schools or East Allen County Schools, but based upon the desire to impact differently a specific group of young people.”

“With recent school closings in that part of town, we wanted to give students there an option that’s close to home,” said Corey Smith.

“Young men need a lot of specific attention, especially in the classroom. We believe we can focus and specialize our attention to those specific needs that boys have in the classroom and hope that will change their progress and increase their achievement level,” said Cameron Smith.

Thomas says they did not apply to the State Charter Board or any other authorizer, except for Grace College and Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Ind. Thomas says it’s because their standards and values meet the same ones they hope to convey through SAFE.

Corey Smith says SAFE’s curriculum will include three “pillars” of education: college preparation, character development, and service learning. He says SAFE will be a liberal arts school that will offer dual-credit college courses. It will have a non-traditional schedule and flexible day, and teachers will use programs and strategies that specifically address the unique needs of boys and their cognitive development. Corey says they want to have personalized learning plans that will focus on each student’s individual need.

“These [plans] will be written documents that are customized based on each young man’s personal needs,” said Corey. “Teachers will use these documents as they plan in making instructional decisions.”

Their goal is for every SAFE scholar to graduate and enter a post-secondary institution. Cameron says the school will provide their scholars with plenty of athletic and extracurricular activities, as well as a mentoring program.

“They just need positive male role models, and character development, and also an instinct of service. We want our young men to be specific about giving back to the community and being a positive part of the community,” said Cameron.

Sports will be available to all grades as well as various clubs and activities like, music and performing arts, and technology, chess and debate clubs. SAFE will offer at least one sport for each athletic season for all grade levels—football and soccer in the Fall, basketball and wrestling in the Winter, and track & field and baseball in the Spring. Cameron says they plan on having mentors work with students on a regular basis.

“We currently have multiple community members and professionals committed to volunteering their time in a one-on-one mentorship with our scholars,” said Cameron. “They include retired educators, business owners, and public service officers, to list a few.”
Currently the Smiths are in negotiations with Leona Group, LLC for a management agreement. They’ve met with authorizers from Grace College numerous times before having any discussions with any proposed educational maintenance organizations. Thomas says they have a location for the school in mind, and they are fully ready to begin. The Smiths say they are looking at some areas around Paulding and Hessen Cassel Roads, and have a contingency plan in place to use the Fort Wayne Christian Center on S. Hanna St.

After authorization, they plan to open SAFE in the Fall of 2012, beginning with 6th-9th grades. They say they’ll add lower and higher grade levels every year, until it's a full K-12 school.

The Smiths will hold an informational meeting where they will go over the entire school proposal and answer all questions in great detail on Thursday, March 1. The public is encouraged to attend. The meeting will begin at 6:00 p.m. at the Renaissance Pointe YMCA, 2323 Bowser Ave.

“Our focus is crystal clear. We know who we want to reach and how we will reach them. We are passionate about young men and we will impact their lives,” Thomas said.

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