MLK High conflict-resolution staff hits the streets seeking facetime with incoming freshmen

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Do the right thing.

Since the beginning of summer, Kim Ivery has relayed the simple — but heartfelt — wish countless times to her daughter Lexus, a rising freshman.

She desperately wants her youngest to start fresh after a rocky middle-school experience.

“You’re going to high school now,” she’s told her. “You’re becoming a young lady. All that fighting and stuff, you have to leave it behind.”

Staffers at Martin Luther King High School, Lexus’ next academic stop, feel the same way and they recently visited the family’s East Germantown home to say as much as part of a one-of-a-kind orientation effort.

Face time

As a dog barked outside, Thomas Stubbs, one of the school’s conflict-resolution specialists, sat at the dining room table with a thick, manila envelope in front of him. Lexus’ entire school-behavior record inside.

“I have all of this now, but when you come in, I want you to be just like this,” said Stubbs, holding up a blank sheet of paper. “It’s not a party. It’s different. Everything from here on out is going to prepare you for the outside world.”

For weeks now, MLK’s conflict-resolution staff has been cruising around to houses in West Oak Lane and Germantown to talk about school-year expectations with pre-identified problem students from King’s main feeder schools.

Principal William Wade has been in tow whenever he’s had free time.

Goal of the initiative

The idea is to kickstart dialogues and relationships that, hopefully, will help lead to academic success at MLK and calmer hallways come Sept. 8 which, at this point, is scheduled to be the first day of school.

“We’re a school that is concerned about their futures and how better to show that then to be all in?” said Wade. “We’re in your homes. We’re communicating with you. We’re going to call your parents.”

Nearly 100 students — roughly a quarter of the fall’s incoming class — were targeted for home visits this summer.

Most graduated from Theodore Roosevelt Elementary in Germantown.

A mixed reception

It hasn’t always been easy to connect with parents and guardians to schedule sit-downs.

Some simply haven’t been interested while others just couldn’t be reached.

More than a couple phone numbers and home addresses from the district weren’t up-to-date, perhaps left unchanged since kindergarten.

Setbacks, said Wade, were expected. Forming relationships with parents has always come with challenges.

He and his staff still see a whole lot of sense in the tedious, sometimes-frustrating work they’ve been doing nonetheless.

The bigger picture

Academically, MLK still not where Wade wants it to be.

The mobile-orientation program is part of a larger push to ensure that the school’s ninth graders are heading down the right track by the end of freshman year.

“If we can get them over the ninth-grade hump,” said Wade, “research shows that the light bulb goes on for most students and then, they’re on cruise control looking to get to some post-secondary options.”

Showing students that the school is invested in their day-to-day experiences at King is seen as one of the keys to accomplishing that goal.

“We don’t want to think of them as a product,” said Stubbs. “They actually are people and we want to talk to them and get to know what they want.”

Parental reaction

After chatting for nearly an hour, Ivery breathed a small sigh of relief.

A school had never come out to the house. She was glad MLK had.

“I really feel grateful for this,” she said of the home visit. “I really like this so someone can come here and meet this little girl and get on top of her and make sure she does the right thing while she’s at King,” said Ivery.

Lexus’ father, Kevin Alexander, nodded his head as he sat on a stool behind his wife.

“It shows that they care,” he said softly.

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