Somerset Academy Eagle Campus - Black families find understanding, trust

Somerset Academy Eagle Campus principal Tunji Williams believes education is a two-way street, a partnership between school and family, with the parent as the child’s first teacher.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Dorian Smith wanted a more academically challenging environment for his daughter, D’Yani, so after third grade he moved her from her struggling neighborhood school to a magnet school.

Because of staff churn, though, that school wasn’t working out either. So, in the middle of fifth grade, Smith turned to a college-prep charter school other parents had been telling him about for years.

Now D’Yani is a sixth grader at Somerset Academy Eagle Campus, and excelling.

Smith described the school as having “more of a home vibe.” It’s smaller, warmer, and more structured, he said. It sets high expectations for student performance and communication with parents. And it matters, he said, that in a school where 96% of the students are Black, so are nearly 70% of the teachers and administrators.

“It boils down to a little more understanding and a little more trust,” said Smith, a police officer. “Sometimes you need that familiar face to relate and connect a little better. That’s not to say there is a guarantee that because of that your child is going to prosper. But it helps. Once you ease the comfort level, it’s easier to learn.”

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