Jumoke Academy is one of eight Connecticut public charter schools celebrating its 20th school year. The Hartford charter school opened its doors in 1997 and now serves 708 scholars from pre-k to 8th grade. Jumoke operates 3 campuses around the city. Having this option in the city for so long has been paramount to ensuring that families have access to a quality school.
“The charter school option in the last twenty years has become extremely important, particularly if charter schools are functioning and functioning well,” said Dr. Troy Monroe, Jumoke’s Executive Director. Dr. Monroe also emphasized how important having alternative public options is for families.
“Look at the most recent test scores. Our students outperformed the district on the state exams, and that’s been the pattern for some time now,” Dr. Monroe said. “This isn’t to disparage what’s going on in the district, but the results show that charters are a viable option for children in our urban centers.”
According to Dr. Monroe, one of the reasons charters have been so successful for the last 20 years is because they reflect the values and growth parents want to see in their children. Jumoke sets high expectations for its students, and the staff works tirelessly to make sure children are given the tools they need to succeed. Students know they can be whatever they want, and they are supported along the way to make sure it happens.
“We celebrate achievement regularly at Jumoke. That is key to our school culture.” Dr. Monroe explained.
Jumoke’s program gives students a chance to dive into areas like art and music – areas that are often overlooked in traditional district schools. Parents love Jumoke because they know their children are loved and supported, and that the staff cares about the whole child as well as the homes they come from.
“Jumoke Academy is a family school that nurtures and educates children,” says proud Jumoke parent Dennis Morris. “It gives children the opportunity to rise to their fullest potential. My children are prime examples of that. My daughter graduated two years ago and is attending Ethel Walker School on a full scholarship. My son is also doing very well and is on pace to achieve similar success.”
Morris’ testimony is similar to that of many Jumoke parents. “Time and time again parents have thanked us for what we’re doing. They are so appreciative to have this option in their community, and that their children can be themselves here and grow. And they know their children are succeeding at Jumoke,” Dr. Monroe explains.
Dr. Monroe has been with the school for the past three years. Prior to his time at Jumoke, he worked with traditional public schools around the country. He was as an administrator for a number of middle and high schools and previously taught English for English Language Learners (ELLs).
Coming from the world of traditional public schools, Dr. Monroe initially didn’t know much about charters or the work that they do for kids in our nation’s most vulnerable areas. He believes a lack of information about charters leads many in the traditional public school world to feel a sense of competition rather than teamwork, despite the shared goal of shaping children into the best, brightest, and most successful versions of themselves.
Looking ahead to the next 20 years of Connecticut charter schools, Dr. Monroe has plans to continue to strengthen the program at Jumoke. His hope for the future is to finally receive equal funding to the traditional district schools.
“I’m very proud of the work Jumoke has done for the children in the Hartford community. But so much more could be accomplished if our schools and our children were given the same financial opportunity as other district schools. As we move into the future of charters, this is something our lawmakers have to address. Schools like ours have changed lives for 20 years. We should do everything we can to make sure more lives are changed for decades to come.”
On June 4, 1996, Governor John Rowland signed the law establishing public charter schools in the state of Connecticut. In doing so, he transformed the lives of tens of thousands of families in our state who, thanks to charters, have had the opportunity to choose a different kind of public school for their child.
There are eight charter schools in Connecticut now celebrating their 20th school year - that's two decades of life-changing education. These schools offer a unique perspective of how far we've come, and how far we have to go to provide more high-quality options to the kids who are still waiting for that chance.
Over the next few months, we'll be sharing some of their stories, highlighting their students' accomplishments, showing what makes them diverse and different, and how their educators are working to make lives better for the families they serve.