Board meeting scheduled November 30 at 5:30 at Virtue arts 1829 Dean Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32216



New all-boys charter school begins


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. –Students in Duval County are heading back to school Monday and about 170 students are heading to a brand new school.

Valor Academy of Leadership is officially opening their doors as the newest charter school in the county.

It’s an all boys school and will start off with grades 6,7 and 9th.

The community came together and expressed concern over the years about a lack of educational options for young men, and that’s how this new charter school got started.

“I feel good because I can be a gentleman to my mom and my other sisters,” said 6th grader, Edrick Cummings.

Edrick Cummings couldn’t be more excited for the first day of school. A new year at Valor Academy, the newest charter school in Duval County.

He and his 7th grade brother Leroy Searver are two of the nearly 170 boys who will be a part of the school’s history as it opens its doors for the first time Monday morning. Their mom, Mary Williams says not only does she expect the college prep school to better prepare them for college, but she hopes they become better people.

“That they really walk in confidence, walk with their head held up know that they will be future leaders,” said Williams.

Leroy Searver thinks it’s awesome that he will be one of the school’s first students.

“I’ve never been to a school when it’s first opening so I think it will be a great experience,” said Searver.

Principal John Taylor said the school’s mission is to teach students to be self aware, humble, appreciative and respectful. His motto is that teachers influence the students, not programs, adding finding the best possible teachers was his number one priority.

“Every school teaches math and history, but it’s actually the people who deliver the content and care about the youngsters that truly make a difference. So for us, that has been a focus and programs are talked about and discussed but people, not programs make a difference and Valor has embraced that understanding,” said Taylor.

Both Edrick and Leroy plan to play sports and said they are ready to balance extracurricular activities with their school work.

“Practice at home and when I’m at school pay attention and don’t play around,” said Leroy.

Valor Academy is still enrolling 6th, 7th and 9th graders for the 2014-2015 school year.

Additional grades will be added as 10th grade will be offered for the 2015-2016 school-year.

For the 2016-2017 school year, Valor Academy will provide elementary, middle, and high schools, when grades K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 8th and 11th are offered. Valor Academy will add 12th grade and the first graduating class will commence in 2017-2018.

Valor Academy starts school year with mandatory dress code

Click here to watch the segment on First Coast News

The initiative is called “Dress a Scholar,” and is the product of focus groups held throughout the surrounding community. Allen says being decked out daily will instill a more driven state of mind for their students. Jimmy Marlow, First Coast News

‘Dress a Scholar’ to help boys at new Jacksonville charter school

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By Beth Reese Cravey Mon, Aug 4, 2014 @ 3:37 pm

Provided by Valor Academy of Leadership These are the uniforms for boys (left) at Jacksonville’s soon-to-open Valor Academy of Leadership and at a sister school for girls to open in 2015.

A new public charter school for boys on Jacksonville’s Northside is seeking community support to provide uniforms for its underprivileged students.

About 200 students are expected to be enrolled in sixth, seventh and ninth grades when the tuition-free Valor Academy of Leadership opens Aug. 18. About 90 percent of those students come from economically disadvantaged families, according to the school.

Tax-deductible donations made online to the Dress A Scholar Program will be used to purchase school uniforms. Donations of any amount are welcome, but packages are available to partially or fully dress one or more scholars.

Valor Academy was founded to close achievement gaps, especially for black and other disadvantaged students, and prepare them for college without the distraction of the opposite sex. Requiring uniforms “promotes high standards of self-awareness, meticulous appearance and presentation, and the self-confidence that represents a leader,” said spokeswoman Julie Dion.

But most of the students and their families cannot afford the uniform.

The full package, which costs about $228, has a blazer, two pairs of pants, two shirts, physical education top and pants, a polo shirt, two pairs of socks, two ties, a belt and backpack, according to the school.

Patrick Griggs is CEO of Aire Master of Northeast Florida, which provides an array of cleaning services. He has donated funds to cover two boys’ uniform needs.

“Frankly, so many things about Valor Academy are crucial to the positive impact on our boys,” he said. “If I can in a small way such as this … help two to reach their potential, then I am committed to doing it.”

Students whose parents complete the free and discounted lunch program application in their enrollment kit receive a free uniform starter kit.

“The uniforms contribute to a safe and secure environment by eliminating barriers or cliques that are typically formed by a scholar’s clothing and/or jewelry. … The use of uniforms inspires students to have a sense of pride of their academy,” Dion said.

Filed under: News

First Coast News – Northwest all-boys charter school nearing completion

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Construction is wrapping up at a new charter school in Northwest Jacksonville expected to make a huge impact for young men. Dozens of crews are working around the clock to finish remodeling Valor Academy of Leadership on Soutel Drive. Twelve classrooms including a lab will be filled each with roughly 23 students starting August 18.

The school was originally only going to teach sixth and ninth grade, but added seventh grade after many parents requested it. The school will be the first single-gender college preparatory school for males in Jacksonville.

“Working with single gender males is very special to me as a father of sons,” said Principal of the school, John Taylor.

Taylor says this school is special because leaders and community members in Duval County asked for it after noticing a need.

Mary Williams just moved to Jacksonville with her family from Virginia. Her boys were initially registered at Highlands Middle School in the same area.

The cafeteria under construction(Photo: First Coast News)

“We have gone through public schools, they have gotten into their share of trouble a lot of times,” said Williams.

She was concerned after seeing Highlands’ preliminary 2014 school grade is an “F,” according to the Florida Department of Education, but then she found out about Valor Academy of Leadership.

“It focuses on the male and I know not just here within the Duval area but all around that there is a high dropout rate for male students, primarily African Americans,” added Williams.

Director of Operations for Profectus Learning Systems Cal Walton says they’ve been rebuilding and remodeling for six weeks and the school will be equipped with everything the students will need to succeed in the classroom.

“We’ll have the smart boards and all of the technology required in a modern day classroom in each classroom,” said Walton.

Outside module classrooms walkway will be covered with a canopy roof.(Photo: First Coast News)

From the main building, to the outside module classrooms, there’s two and half acres, but behind the school there’s room for growth.

“We have seven and a half, almost eight acres to work with to expand,” added Walton.

Williams says she can’t wait to let her boys know where they are going to school.

Valor Academy of Leadership is still accepting students for this fall. You can registeronline by clicking here or call 904.469.8195.

On Saturday July 19 the school will be hosting a family barbecue at Jenkins BAR-B-Q from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. There will be games and prizes. It will also be a chance for parents to learn about enrollment opportunities and meet the leadership team and teachers at Valor Academy of Leadership.

dress a scholar test 2

First Coast News – Charter school aims to change graduation rate for boys


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Renovations are underway at a building off Soutel Drive and once complete a Public Charter school will open its doors to over 200 African-American male students.

Valor Academy of Leadership CEO Tunji Williams explained in Duval County only one in three African American boys are graduating high school. It’s a statistic that’s alarming to Audrey Smith who has a son in the fourth grade.

“He’s heading down that road, the one that you all are trying to keep him from going astray, he’s going right on down to it,’ said Smith.

Smith says it’s hard to keep her son out of trouble and she worries about what will happen when he goes to middle school. The Valor Academy of Leadership is opening up the school in Northwest Jacksonville to target boys in the sixth and ninth grades, like Smith’s son.

“It’s really hard for them to transition from elementary to middle and it’s the same thing from middle school to high school,” said Williams.

The Public Charter will have single gender classes and aims to provide personalized learning to students in high poverty, high minority neighborhoods.

“We did a target market analysis and we found that a lot of the schools were low performing in this area, that’s not to say that anything was wrong with the schools, it’s that we know we needed to focus on this brand of kid right now,” said Smith.

In a study conducted by U.S. News and World Report, at William M. Raines High School only 17 percent of students were proficient in reading, 27 percent proficient in math. Jean Ribault High School also in the area, had 24 percent reading proficiency and a 31 percent proficiency in math. Both schools are predominantly black and have over 60 percent of students on free or reduced lunch.

“The community spoke out, there was a call to action, we answered that call,” added Williams.

Smith is thinking about enrolling her son at Valor when he reaches sixth grade. Every day she teaches and cares for toddlers up to preschool age at a daycare by Ribault and hopes schools like this one can prevent the local kids from becoming a statistic.

“Watching the way that they are coming up, you be like, ‘Lord if somebody ain’t out there trying to reach them to try and help them who is?’” added Smith.

The enrollment deadline for Valor Academy is May 30th. Then the school will do a lottery to randomly select 120 6th graders and 100 9th graders for the upcoming school year.

YourJax Spotlight on Valor Academy

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In 2009, several hundred community leaders, parents, students, various members of community organizations, came together to talk about education in Duval County and specifically education as it impacts minority children, particularly African American males.

In Duval County one out of three African American males graduate from high school. The reason why I chose Valor Academy for my son, Cornell, really is because of their nurturing environment. They don’t call them students, they call them scholars, and they do home visits to sit down and just really get to know the family, get to know the scholar, find out the goals.

Another thing that i really like is that there will be males that are actually great role models for him to look to. Valor Academy of Leadership is an innovative, yet radical, approach to solving an ongoing issues in the urban area of Jacksonville. We are simply responding to a call to action, an answer to the community and we intend to bring a new urgency for males to close the widened achievement gap. Prefectus, which means progress in Latin, allowed me to travel the US and look at urban schools with academic achievement issues, sending them to ours. …best practices has attained good results.

Valor Academy will create college and career minded young men who will be ready for success when they graduate. We are a college preparatory school, not an alternative school. a choice option for parents and scholars looking for an institution with a strong culture where academic failure is not an option. The definition of valor is strength of the mind or spirit, enabling a person to face challenges with confidence. Our sole mission is to prepare tomorrow’s leaders today. Through male mentorship, positive role modeling, character development, and a rigorous academic program that will motivate and enrich the students at all academic levels. We can certainly be a remedy to the community dilemma. i am a man of valor, seeking an opportunity to inspire young men who walk a common path with us at Valor Academy of Leadership.

For the 2014/2015 school year. We are launching our middle and high school with grades six through nine, this upcoming August. Bring us your sons, grandsons, nephews, and cousins, and all allow us to ignite a monumental change in the lives of our young men and reverse the alarming statistics that one out of three males graduate on time after entering ninth grade. Since two thousand nine, we’ve conducted a series of community focus groups to find out how the community feels. Valor is really the response to the community’s plea with regard to this type of school. So when we conducted the focus groups, the question continued to be asked, what about the girls? Which has now led to the concept of our all girls school, which will launch next year, Virtue Arts and Science Academy. Each day our students will be dressed for success and as you can see, the girls will wear the uniform here and the males will wear the uniform here. I’m very excited. I’m very excited about the school and I’m grateful that they have come into our lives in Jacksonville area, thank goodness. He’s definitely excited as well, which is not often, he’s not excited to go to school, so for him to be excited to go to school, it’s a great thing.

So we’re very excited about Valor Academy and, as well as Virtue, and what it will represent, what they will represent in the community and we encourage the community to support the school, which they can do in a number of ways via volunteering, mentoring. Also, there are many opportunities for financial support, so we encourage the community to support our efforts.