The Moyer name should be enough to give Delaware charter school another chance

Will there be a 2015-16 school year at Moyer Academy?  John Watson weighs in with some thoughts.

Here is John Watson’s commentary:

There is more bad news for the Maurice Moyer Academic Institute. That’s the new name. But regardless of its new name or new Principal Keenan Dorsey, Moyer just might be closing again.

WHYY Newsworks reporter  Shana O’Malley tells us that Delaware Department of Education Secretary Mark Murphy will make his recommendation on whether or not the charter school should be close. The new decision date will be Thursday Oct. 9th.

New principal Keenan Dorsey is asking for more time. He wants at least until the end of the school year to prove they are making progress. He said the best case scenario for him to hear would be remediation, which is pretty much a probationary year to say “lets see how things go this year and make a decision based off of that”.

Dorsey went on to explain that shutting down Moyer would be “counterproductive of every thing i’ve been able to do so far.”

Moyer was opened in 2006 with local attorney Theo Gregory at the helm.  I visited the school from time to time and attended local community meetings there with the students parents. Things were going very will until Mr. Gregory left to pursue other endeavours. He is now president of the Wilmington City Council.

But after he left Moyer things seem to go in the wrong direction.

Three principals have been assigned to Moyer over the past year before the school hired Dorsey. He faced a steep challenge with only 23% of students having proficient scores in reading on state exams, and only 10%  were proficient in math.

But Dorsey wasted no time in making the needed changes. He replaced 90% of the schools teachers and kept the middle and high schools entirely separate. The News Journal reports that Dion Hutt, a math teacher who was kept on board had only one word to describe hat has changed at Moyer: “everything.”

He added “it’s like a completely different school. There’s a culture here now that students are expected to take learning seriously.”

Dorsey says he is the seventh principal at Moyer since the new charter. He explained that is the reason for the problems there. He told WHYY Newsworks, “Last school year alone they went through three. When I look at the test scores, that reflects chaos, and it was chaotic at the top. I could see how it could be hard for the students because there was no stability of leadership. It lacked leadership.”

Although the school year has just begun, Dorsey says he has received compliments from parents and the community for the changes that have been made.

And he also said closing Moyer won’t necessarily improve the students. “These families chose to come to us because they weren’t satisfied with what they were getting. If they close us down, they’re just going to go back  to the place they left. What sense does the make?”

That sounds like a man who can finally do the job so seriously needed at Moyer, which serves almost entirely black students who come from inner-city, low income families, and have been failing year after year. Keenan Dorsey grew up six blocks from Moyer. He is a graduate of Howard High School, and is now working on his doctorate.  He said this is his neighborhood and he wants to give some thing back.

The Delaware Department of Education Charter School Accountability Committee has already recommended that Moyer be closed because of it’s poor academic performance.

But I say, when the Department of Education Secretary Mark Murphy make his recommendation, it should be to not to revoke Moyer’s charter. 

And there is one final things for all of those involved in this. Moyer Academy is more than just a school. It’s a monument in memory of its namesake, Maurice J. Moyer.  He was born on August 8, 1918 and died on March 6th 2012. He was a civil rights leader, who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1955, he  was assigned to start Delaware’s first Black Presbyterian Church. When he died, Delaware Governor Jack Markell ordered flags in Wilmington and New Castle County lowered in honor of the longtime civil rights leader.

The state closed Moyer the last time in 2010, giving it a new charter in 2011. This time the state should do all it can to help Moyer and Principal Dorsey in his efforts to keep it open with a successful student body. 

—–JohnWatson is a long time observer of issues in Delaware from his time as a Wilmington talkshow host.  He is 2014 Delaware Press Association Communicator of the year. Contact him at Johnwatson1506@comcast.net.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.