Four Schools 1
Four Schools: A multicultural Comparative Analysis Research Paper
Kenneth A. Parr
May 30, 2010
Human Diversity in Education
EDU 391 B
Dr. Joi Patterson
Four Schools 2
The purpose of my research paper is to report on my experiences at four local schools.
The reason why I visited four local schools was to compare the human diversity within the
schools through interviewing teachers and through personal observations. The following four
schools represent a cross section of the following four categories: 1) Charter—Thea Bowman
Leadership Academy, 2) Faith-based—Christ Baptist Academy, 3) Public urban—Roosevelt
Career and Technical Academy, and 4) Public suburban—Campagna Academy. I chose these
particular schools because I have at least some knowledge, but not a clear understanding of
these schools. My knowledge comes from former co-workers who worked at these schools or
former students who attended these schools.
Thea Bowman Leadership Academy is located in Gary, Indiana. It is accredited by the
state of Indiana as a public charter school. The enrollment is 1300 and of this 1300, 1% is
considered multiracial, 1% is Hispanic, and 98% are African-American. Christ Baptist Academy
is also located in Gary, Indiana. However, it is not accredited by the state of Indiana. The
enrollment is 104 and there is no public ethnicity data available. Roosevelt Career and Technical
Academy is located in the traditional African-American section (Midtown) of Gary, Indiana.
Roosevelt’s accreditation status is probationary. The enrollment as of the 2008/2009 school year
was 721. There were 0% multiracial, 1% Native American, 0% Hispanic, and 99% African-
American. Campagna Academy is located in Schererville, Indiana. It is accredited by the state
of Indiana as a public charter school. The enrollment is 147 and of this 147, 6% are considered
multiracial, 18% are white, 1% Asian, 13% are Hispanic, and 63% are African-American (see
Comparative Analysis Charts, p. 5).
My first visit was Thea Bowman Leadership Academy. The building was new and
beautiful as are most of the charter school buildings in Gary, Indiana. Aesthetics are a strong
recruitment tool in a city where there are several dated and crumbling public school buildings.
Teachers all wear business attire. Students wear uniforms at Thea Bowman. Shirts must be
tucked-in and saggin’ pants is not allowed. However, I saw a few students saggin’ and also a
few students stripped down to their undershirts. These are the same attempts at non-compliance
of uniform rules I have seen in public non-charter schools in Gary. The classroom I observed
was Mr. Thakar’s Physics class. There were fourteen students present, seven girls and seven
boys. One of the boys was Hispanic, but the rest of the students were African-American.
Fourteen students in a science class is exactly half the number of students allowed for a science
class (28) according to the Gary teacher’s union. The teachers at Thea Bowman are not
unionized, but the class size was still less than 28 regardless of union guidelines.
The teacher I interviewed at Thea Bowman was also Mr. Sameer Thakar, a Pakistani-
American. This is his first year teaching at Thea Bowman Leadership Academy. Before this
assignment, he taught on the graduate post-secondary level. The curriculum for his Physics class
is based on the Indiana state standards for Physics. The school has a school improvement plan
and he meets with staff every Wednesday to work on it. Teachers have planning period time like
unionized teachers, but unlike Gary union teachers he must stay ½ hour after the end of the
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school day. Gary unionized teachers on the high school level are only required to stay 10
minutes after the end of the school day. What Mr. Thakar found unique about the school is that
it is a relatively new school, but has already won a state championship in basketball and this year
is their first graduating class.
The second school I visited was Christ Baptist Academy, the only K-6 school I visited.
The exterior of the building reminded me of a reception hall attached to a church (which it
probably was before it became a school). Inside, the building looked like a modern school just
large enough to suit its purpose of one classroom per grade level. The teachers (all women to my
knowledge) dress casually, jeans and t-shirts. The students all wear uniforms, but a mixture of
uniform colors. The classroom I observed was Ms. Blanford-Jones’ combination 5th and 6th
grade class. Her class size was ten and there was no ethnic diversity. All her students were
African-American which is consistent with Gary, Indiana school populations (see Comparative
Analysis Charts, p. 4). The lesson being taught while I was observing was Language Arts
combined with a Health and Safety type curriculum, How to Live a Healthier Lifestyle.
Ms. Blanford-Jones, an African-American, was also the teacher I interviewed at Christ
Baptist Academy. She is a veteran teacher at this school. Ms. Blanford-Jones feels the school is
so unique because of its class size. The largest class is Kindergarten at 22 pupils. Their
curriculum is a Christian-based curriculum called ABEKA. Bible study is part of the curriculum.
Christ Baptist Academy doesn’t have a documented school improvement plan. Instead, the
teachers set goals at the end of the year. Some of the goals this year are for the students to score
at a higher grade level and for the school to become more financially independent and not
depend so heavily on church members for donations.
The next school I visited was Roosevelt Career and Technical school. Portions of the
new annex have been falling down since I was a student at Roosevelt high school 35 years ago.
The building was built on reclaimed swamp land as was the surrounding neighborhood
(including my childhood home). Standing water has practically destroyed the new annex’s
foundation and the math wing fell completely down a few years ago. Teachers dress casually,
but students wear uniforms (as do all students in the Gary School system). The classroom I
observed was Ms. Rochell Hazelett’s Algebra I class. All her students were African-American.
One student came to class with saggin’ pants and an attitude and Ms Hazelett promptly put him
out. This is the only time I witnessed a student being put-out of class during my four school
Ms. Hazelett, an African-American, was also the teacher interviewed for my research.
During the interview, she wanted to talk more about the young man (Wesley) she put out of class
more than my other questions. According to her, his mom died in December and he has not been
right since. She also said that should not be an excuse because he was stealing his mom’s car
last year, breaking into homes, and going to jail. Ms. Hazelett emphasized that Wesley is a very
intelligent boy though. The particular class I was observing was an accelerated Algebra class.
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Ms. Hazelett has been a family friend all my adult life, which is why she spoke so informally
with me. She did however take time to give her opinion of the curriculum. She told me the
curriculum was Core-40 driven when it was time to take Core-40 testing and ISTEP driven when
it was time to take ISTEP testing. The structure of the school is now 7-12 like all Gary public
high schools. The school improvement plan is current and reflects their 7-12 status. Roosevelt is
unique because it is the only school in Gary designated a Career and Technical Academy. Ms.
Hazelett cut our interview short because she had a meeting with the principal during her planning
period. The principal wanted to explain the teachers’ future. 51% of the teaching staff is
scheduled to be terminated because of poor student achievement. Ms. Hazelett thought this was
unfair because this was her first year at Roosevelt. She felt she inherited the problem because
the school she left, Dunbar-Pulaski middle school, made AYP and her job would not be in peril
if that school had not closed.
The final school I visited was Campagna Academy. The first thing that struck me was
the expansive campus. I was late for my classroom observation and interview because I went to
one of the cottages instead of the administrative building. Teachers dress casually and the
students wear uniforms that are the same color combinations as Gary high school students, navy
blue polo shirts and khaki pants. The only difference is Gary is flexible on the type of top. T-
shirts and button-down shirts are permitted in Gary as long as the items are navy blue. The
classroom I observed was Mr. Robert Kuprenas’ Algebra class. There were only five students
present with the rest on a end of the year field trip. All five were African-American, but I
noticed an obviously higher percentage of White American students throughout the school than I
did at the urban schools I visited. The five students in the classroom were similar to the students
I encountered when I taught at Chase Alternative school in Gary. Sometimes they unexpectedly
blurted-out about something unrelated to the lesson. Sometimes they did not. It was a mixed-
bag of behaviors.
I also interviewed Mr. Kuprenas, the only White American of the four teachers I
interviewed. Mr. Kuprenas is a first year teacher at Campagna Academy. I found it ironic that
both he and Mr. Sameer Thakar are first year teachers and that both he and Mr. Thakar work at
charter schools. I wondered if there was high turnover rate at charter schools. He told me that
the curriculum was not very organized when he arried and he had to piece together lessons for
the students. I asked him if he planned on returning next year. He said he planned on returning
and organizing the curriculum better. This suggests to me that curriculum is set by the
individual teachers or because he is a new teacher, he is unaware of the downloadable Indiana
state standards and resources. Mr. Kuprenas told me that staff works on the school improvement
plan during staff meetings. They also get release time, pay, and expenses paid for professional
development. He emphasized that that is something Campagna does well. Also, there is in-
service professional development. Staff is given eight non-teaching days, but those days are not
all for professional development. Campagna Academy is unique because it is an alternative
charter school and it is also a residential facility.
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Comparative Analysis Charts
Thea Bowman Leadership Academy (Gary, IN)
Accreditation Status: Public Charter, Accredited
Christ Baptist Academy (Gary, IN)
Accreditation Status: Not State Accredited
No available ethnicitydata
Urban public school:
Roosevelt Career and Technical Academy (Gary,
Enrollment (2008/2009): 721
Accreditation Status: Probation
Suburban public school:
Campagna Academy (Schererville, IN)
Accreditation Status: Public Charter, Accredited
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May 13, 2010
May 19, 2010
May 19, 2010
May 28, 2010
Four Schools 7
B. Blanford-Jones, teacher interview, May 19, 2010
R. Hazelett, teacher interview, May 19, 2010
R. Kuprenas, teacher interview, May 28, 2010
S. Thakar, teacher interview, May 13, 2010
Indiana Department of Education. School data, school snapshot.