A Brave New Education for St. Louis Public Schools and Judge Jimmie Edwards
Today marks the first day of public school in the newly-inspired Innovation Concept Academy. The St. Louis community, and America-at-large, owes a lot to the courage of one man – Judge Jimmie Edwards. In less than six months, he has embarked on what others might say would be nearly impossible: 1) to assume ownership of a new community school that exists outside the lines of a public school, 2) to unite a diverse coalition of public and private interests together to enrich the learning environment, and 3) to lobby for real, no excuse community change for youth who need it the most.
From a political perspective, the Innovation Concept Academy hits on all five of the recommended steps on which now Governor Jay Nixon campaigned last year. His five points were: to invest in public school options using public-private partnerships, to recruit talented teachers to challenged districts, to reduce class size, to re-establish local community support, and to make sure that alternative schools are available and effective. The Academy seeks to challenge all of the obstacles facing those children who often get lost in the public school system without effective mentors, dedicated instructors, and guardian engagement.
This Tuesday, we accompanied Rex Sinquefield with Judge Jimmie Edwards on a walk-through of the Blewett school facility. We are excited to report that the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis will be partnering with the Academy to build a dedicated room to teach chess with its curriculum. It is our hope that students can improve their math, science, reading, and critical thinking skills using a life sport like chess in a variety of environments (for classroom instruction, after-school partnerships, supplemental learning, and as a means to connect to our greater community). If successful, such a model might provide a road map for urban progressives, mayors, governors, and civic patrons to do the same around the country.
In the coming months, Room 103 will transform itself with the opening fall classes into a dynamic place to learn the game of chess. Public school teachers, including educators as part of the AFT Local 420 Teacher’s Union have agreed to fill the classroom with ambitious goals of instruction (and smaller class size). The Metropolitan Police Department of the City of St. Louis are moving in a sub-station to assist the facility with mentoring and community needs. The community arms have even opened to accept other instructors from a wide variety of parish school environments. The manner by which so many organizations, from MERS Goodwill to local celebrities, have come together, can help pave the future of new school design.
Good luck Judge Edwards and Innovation Concept Academy. Our children, our entire community, and our nation of neighborhoods, needs your model to succeed.