Community produces results at Stewart AcademyWritten by Michael Driehorst | | firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third of a five-part series about the New Schools, New Neighborhoods (NSNN) coalition, a mostly volunteer, private- and public-sector effort to revitalize the city of Toledo by focusing on the neighborhoods impacted by Toledo Public Schools’ Building For Success construction. From the initial April 5 overview story through a detailed look at the first four schools and neighborhoods on which the NSNN is focusing, Toledo Free Press will review progress made since late 2002, when the effort began, and report on the coalition’s next steps.
Whether you believe that it “takes a village to raise a child,” community support for a school definitely is invaluable.
With more than 30 neighborhood and Toledo community partners, the Ella P. Stewart Academy for Girls has plenty of people and organizations looking out for it.
“Whenever we need something, we just have to call on one of our partners,” said Stewart Academy Assistant Principal Suzanne Muggy.
The old Stewart school was dedicated Nov. 9, 1961, as a co-ed building and became an all-girls academy at the start of the 2003-04 school year. As part of the Toledo Public Schools’ (TPS) Building For Success program, students moved into a new Stewart Academy, 707 Avondale Ave., at the start of the 2008-09 academic year.
It is one of four Toledo school-neighborhood areas targeted by the New Schools, New Neighborhoods (NSNN) initiative: a public-private coalition started in 2002 that is designed to revitalize the city of Toledo by focusing on the neighborhoods impacted by TPS’ Building For Success construction.
Stewart Academy has an enrollment of 250 students in grades kindergarten through six. The school maintains two classrooms in each grade and has a maximum of 22 students in each classroom. Stewart is the only all-girls elementary school in TPS, and enrollment is open to any girl in the district.
According to a March 2007 report by NSNN, TPS estimates that 60 percent of the Stewart students live within the neighborhood. That report also estimated the Stewart central city neighborhood population at 2,235 residents.
‘A good example’
“The location of the school is not necessarily important to determine its strength. If you have the necessary amenities for students, tools for teachers and staff and security, you can have quality education,” said Jimmy Gaines Sr., executive director of Organized Neighbors Yielding Excellence (ONYX), the community development corporation for the Stewart neighborhood. ONYX was founded in 1989.
“[Stewart Academy] is a good example of what can be accomplished,” he said.
One example of the recognition of Stewart’s success came in May. The Northwest Ohio Black Media Association honored Stewart Academy during its annual Impact Newsmaker Awards ceremony.
Stewart was the first urban all-girls, public school in the United States, according to Muggy, who is a member of the National Association for the Single-Sex Public Education Advisory Board.
She said students have definitely enjoyed the new building.
“When the students walk into the brand-new building, they feel better about themselves. There are new amenities and technologies like smart boards in the classrooms,” she said.
Thirty community businesses, associations and other organizations are partnering with Stewart Academy in a variety of ways. The Toledo Museum of Art, for example, works with the school to coordinate programs that relate to lessons being taught in the classroom.
“We were eager to reach out to schools in our own backyard and wanted students to be familiar and comfortable with the Toledo Museum of Art (TMA),” explained Lynn Duty, coordinator for elementary programs.
One example of the museum-classroom coordination, Duty said, was with fourth grade, which learned about giving back to the community. For its part, TMA taught students about Edward Drummond Libbey, one of the museum’s founders. The students made glass tiles at TMA and then gave them to some of the Stewart Academy partners as a way to say thank you for their help.
The 2008-09 academic year marks a new partnership between Stewart and TMA, and it’ll continue for the upcoming school year, Duty said. The museum also will be starting a similar program with TPS’ Lincoln Academy for Boys.
Other examples of school and community activities with Stewart Academy include:
- A greenhouse and 64-unit vertical garden system being built this summer, spearheaded by ONYX and Local Initiatives Support Corporation. Muggy said students and volunteers will be involved in growing herbs, vegetables and flowers that will be available to the community. “We hope to create a farmer’s market for neighbors so the program can be self-sustaining,” she said.
- A pilot Rocket Club program with fifth- and sixth- grade students where students learned about aerodynamics, assisted by the UT Department of Engineering.
- University of Toledo funded a meeting of 15 Stewart students with Nobel-Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, who was invited to the city by Stewart students.
- A working Fifth Third Bank branch at the school, with students acting as branch managers, tellers, coordinators, etc
The school also maintains math and chess clubs, has a soccer team, along with many other school activities and programs.
All through this, ONYX has been active in improving housing, sidewalks and other infrastructure in the neighborhood, as well as working with Toledo police on neighborhood security, providing financial and personnel support and other types of leadership for Stewart, Gaines said.
‘Everything I expected’
At the end of the school year, ONYX Board of Directors Chairman WilliAnn Moore, a longtime supporter of Stewart Academy, was the keynote speaker at the sixth-grade graduation. ONYX and Moore also were honored by the school when it named its new playground after the organization.
“Stewart Academy is everything I expected it to be because I expect a lot,” Moore said. “The young ladies have come up to meet that challenge, and there’s been a lot of community partners to guarantee their success.”
In addition to the students and community partners, Muggy said that parents are an integral part of the school’s success. Before accepting students, Muggy said that parents are interviewed to ensure they know what’s expected of them and their students for things like attendance, behavior and academics.
Tiffany Biddle is a Stewart parent. Her daughter, Khadijah Hasan, attends Stewart.
“I did consider other schools at first,” Biddle said, “but they were pretty much knocked out when we visited here.
“[Stewart Academy] is a very good school. I like the building; the environment is very positive, and there are plenty of positive role models to look up to.”
Muggy said the school typically has 30 to 50 students on its waiting list.
“We have wonderful support from the [TPS] board and administration, and without the support of our community partners and parents, we could not do what we do,” Muggy said.