Principal Clifford Thompson sits in his office going over schedules and plans for his incoming students at the 100 Black Men Community School.
The all-male public charter school sits next to the Hellman Recreation Center on Malcolm Avenue in Oakland and has mission to combat dropout rates, raise test scores, and deal with behavioral issues that are often associated with young Black males. Each day, students arrive in their uniforms of khaki pants and white shirts excited to start their day.
“The three areas we are looking to improve this year are in communication, coordination, and implementation,” said Dr. Thompson. “We are teaching with a hands-on approach when it comes to science and medicine, so that all the kids will get understand to how muscles work, as well as how health issues like diabetes are affecting our community.”
The curriculum will include languages – Spanish, French, and Mandarin Chinese. Students are also being sent home with academic planners that monitor their homework progress. The school teaches K-2nd grades and 4th-7th grades. Next year, it plans to add 3rd grade and will eventually add grades to grow into a K-12.
Dr. Thompson has worked in education for over 30 years, primarily in the Oakland Unified School District where he has taught everything from French to math and was principal at the Conservatory of Vocal and Instrumental Arts in grades K-8.
Thompson says what separates 100 Black Men Community School from other charter schools is that it was created specifically for issues facing Black males, such as neighborhood violence, lack of positive male role models, and street culture.
An example of this is that most of the instructors and administrators are Black males. The school was started and financially supported by the Bay Area chapter of the 100 Black Men nonprofit organization.
In 2012, the Oakland school board approved the school’s charter and housed it in the former Thurgood Marshall School. The school was modeled after the Eagle Academy for Young Men, started by the 100 Black Men New York chapter in 2004, where graduation rates are over 80 percent compared with 30 percent for Black males across New York City.
With 150 kids currently enrolled, Dr. Thompson sees expansion as inevitable and is inviting members of the community to join with parents and teachers to establish bonds with the newly formed charter school.
“It’s more than just giving our kids positive role models,” said Dr. Thompson. “It’s about them having a sense of community and wanting to give back when they reach success in their lives.”