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Department of Public Health Attempts to Close Award Winning Educational School Program

Northend Agent's

January 07, 2009

The Department of Public Health issued Jumoke Academy an order to close its pre-k and after school activities program. According to the DPH the academy is not a public school and therefore needs a license to operate. On closer questioning by a Hartford Courant reporter, DPH officials acknowledged that the statute was unclear as to whether Jumoke Academy is a public school or not.

Hartford legislators, Senator Eric Coleman and Representative Doug McCory expressed extreme disappointment that a state agency would close an award winning educational program based on ambiguity in legislative language.

Representative McCory, a strong supporter of Jumoke Academy has consistently expressed pride that Jumoke Academy, located in his legislative district, has been one of the highest performing urban schools in the State for several years running. In school years 2006 and 2007 in a state report by ConnCan, Jumoke Academy was cited as one of the top ten academic performing schools based on CMT data. Jumoke Academy, a hundred percent minority school was also cited as having one of the highest percentages of minority students in Connecticut closing the achievement gap.

Michael M. Sharpe, Chief Executive Officer of Jumoke Academy told a gathering of parents and community members. “I am angry and disappointed! The parents and community have worked hard to develop a school for minority students that is second to none and the response of the state is to close down the program on a technicality? If the DPH came in and said Dr. Sharpe you have a safety issue or a health issue- I would be the first to close the program until a correction is in place. But to ask a school to close down it’s after school math and science tutorial programs, violin lessons, computer club, choir and the school band because the DPH is “not sure” whether we are a public school- shame! The State Department of Education has consistently argued that pre-k education is one of the sure ways to help close the achievement gap between minority and non-minority children. Our last year’s pre-k students entered kindergarten this year with 98 percent of them on grade or above.”

Over the Christmas holiday state workers called Jumoke Academy pre-k parents and told them if they did not remove their children from Jumoke Academy’s program that they as parents would face loosing their supplemental payments for child care, according to several parents. Sharpe replied my staff, parents and the community work hard to ensure that our kids are succeeding academically and socially. These actions are short-sighted and ultimately hurtful to the families and children we are charged with helping.

Representative Andy Fleishman, Co-Chairperson of the Education Committee in a conversation with Dr. Sharpe expressed surprise and dismay at DPH’s actions. Rep. Fleishman said, “It is clear that the intent of the general assembly in creating charter schools was that charter school would be public schools. Rep. Fleishman, McGory and Sen. Coleman have all expressed support in changing the law to clearly reflect that charter schools are public schools.

Mayor Perez also offered his support to Jumoke Academy, stating that the academy should be allowed to operate until the gray-areas of the law is cleared. Allan Taylor, Chairperson of the State Board of Education received information on this matter and stated that he would look into it.

A parent at Jumoke Academy expressed outrage, stating, “This is not just about Jumoke Academy. These actions are an affront to our community. Once again when the community builds a program that is successful and helping our children the actions of the government are to shut it down verses helping it to grow. Everyone in the community should be angry and calling the governor, legislators and public officials and demand that this madness stop.

Reprinted with permission of the NorthEnd Agent's. To view other stories in this newspaper, browse their website at http://northendagents.com/.
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