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Utopian Academy For The Arts| Georgia Approved Charter Middle School » Utopian Academy Scholars Stand Up For Single-Gender Education In Class Debate

Scholars at Utopian Academy for the Arts went head to head recently in a lively debate over the value of single-gender education at the college level. The lesson, a battle of the sexes, pitted eighth grade girls against sixth grade boys. The girls spoke against attending single-gender colleges and the boys argued in favor of the benefits of campuses like Spelman and Morehouse College. The English/Language Arts students had to discuss whether single-gender colleges were obsolete.Scholars stood in front of a packed room spouting statistical data and psychological research on learning behaviors to support their viewpoints as their classmates cheered – and snapped- in approval.”Before the 19th century, single-sex schools were commonplace,” said Delphil Hollis, a sixth grader.Desmin Kudzin, his classmate, offered some teaching philosophy to support his position: “Single-sex education allows teachers to match their instructional technique to the behavior and learning style of students.”Kudzin’s comments were punctuated by thunderous applause.Tavon Beal said that if single-gender schools work for students in middle schools like Utopian, then they would surely be even more beneficial to college students looking for environments with few distractions. “There is teen pregnancy in college; that is why girls should be in a different classroom,” Beal said. “If boys and girls were in different schools everyone would be focused on their education.”

Utopian Academy Scholars Stand Up For Single-Gender Education In Class DebateDSC_3100

“I conducted an opinion survey,” said Sydney Williams, an eighth grader at Utopian Academy . “Of 40 students surveyed at school only 3 percent said that they would attend a single-gender college.”

There are only four nonreligious-affiliated men’s colleges in the country, including Morehouse in Atlanta. The rest have gone co-ed. More women’s colleges are beginning to also open their doors to students of the opposite gender, said Brittani Gates, an eighth grader at Utopian. “Single-sex colleges are obsolete.”Only 2 percent of women in higher education attend women’s colleges, national college enrollment data shows.“I conducted an opinion survey,” said Sydney Williams, an eighth grader at Utopian Academy . “Of 40 students surveyed at school only 3 percent said that they would attend a single-gender college.”Williams said she was against single-gender education in college because “it reinforces gender stereotypes” and doesn’t allow students the opportunity to learn how to interact with people of the opposite sex.Gates added that co-ed colleges prepare students for life. “In co-ed institutions you can share ideas and learn from each other.

(Still, single-gender schools like Spelman College have a higher graduation rate for females than co-ed universities. Approximately 76 percent of Spelman students graduate within three to six years, which is 14 percentage points higher than the national average graduation rate for women, according to data released the National Center for Education Statistics.)

Language arts teacher Ebonne Craft said she was impressed with the research and presentation skills of the eighth grade girls and sixth grade boys who filled her classroom. “I am very proud of you.”The debate was then judged by teacher Dayan Jacques, who announced that the eighth grade girls had won the contest. “You offered great facts to support your arguments.”Artesius Miller, executive director of Utopian Academy, visited the classroom to watch the action. He praised the efforts of students and teachers who prepared the lesson. “They did a great job,” Miller said.

 

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    August 31, 2015August 31, 2015
    RIVERDALE - When 300 students at Utopian Academy for the Arts reported to classes last week, there was no sign on the lawn letting them know that they had reached the right place. The name of the school had been removed by order of the City of Riverdale.This week the sign is still bare.The City of Riverdale has prohibited Utopian from using its school sign to welcome visitors or identify the building until administrators secure a business license. School officials, however, maintain that Utopian is a public school so a business license is not necessary. The debate has caused the school to accrue fines in the hundreds of dollars for violating city code. Administrators say the fees and threats are just another attempt to “bully” Utopian into pulling out of Riverdale.“They don’t want people to know that a school exists at 6630 Camp Street,” said Artesius Miller, executive director of Utopian. “They have stripped us naked and said basically ‘You all will not have anything so that people will know that you are even here’.”Similar tactics last year resulted in delaying the opening of school for more than a week. A Clayton County fire marshal denied administrators, teachers, and students the right to access the building saying that Utopian needed a last minute inspection among other things to occupy the premises. Utopian lost 80 students after its delayed opening.Utopian’s rocky start inspired legislation to protect state-approved public charter schools from similar stall tactics. The "Utopian Academy for the Arts Act," which went into effect in July, prohibits local governments from requiring public charter schools approved and inspected by officials with the state Department of Education to be forced to obtain any other licenses from local government entities to operate their school.The law does not protect a charter school’s signage, however.In the weeks before classes began this school year, a City of Riverdale code enforcement officer left a violation notice on Utopian’s door warning administrators to take action immediately: “Remove banner until permit is issued and apply for a business license.” Miller said that a member of the Clayton County School board advised him that other county schools in Riverdale are not required to have a sign permit or a business license. “Every time that we have attempted to have some type of signage, we were told that we needed a permit or we were being fined because we are not affiliated with the Board of Education in Clayton County,” he said. [columns] [column half][pullquote left]

    Where Is Utopian Academy for the Arts? City Prohibits School From Using Sign[/pullquote][/column] [column half]

    “It got really nasty,” Miller said of a recent surprise visit from code enforcement before school began."

    Miller said that he has received calls and notes from the city warning that Utopian has accrued fees in the hundreds of dollars for violating city business license and sign codes. “It got really nasty,” Miller said of a recent surprise visit from code enforcement before school began. “The guy came and tossed the [fee list] in the face” of a school supporter.Miller took video footage of the visit that shows a code enforcement officer telling him and a school supporter that an inspection of the school’s signage was necessary because “the Georgia Department of Education does not look for stuff like this on buildings.”For the second year in a row, Miller turned to the State Charter Schools Commission for reinforcement. Miller got a letter explaining to the city that schools authorized by the commission are indeed public schools, not businesses.“Utopian Academy for the Arts is a public charter school authorized by the SCSC- a state level authorizing entity under the authority of the state Board of Education,” wrote Gregg Stevens, general counsel for the commission.“Accordingly, Utopian Academy for the Arts should at all times be treated like a public school with the privileges, rights, and obligations afforded thereto …” Utopian opened in August 2014. It was denied the right to exist by the Clayton County School board in 2011, 2012, and 2013 when the district rejected its charter application. The local denial was over-ruled by the state in October 2013. The state Charter Schools Commission granted Utopian Academy the authority to serve kids for five years as a state charter school. It was the first charter school to win approval from the new commission.[/column] [/columns] State Rep. Valencia Stovall, who supported the opening of Utopian in Clayton and co-sponsored the new law protecting charter schools from harassment, said it was “disheartening” to learn that Utopian is still having trouble with local government.“They should be treated as any other public school opening in the city,” Stovall said. “Instead, they have been hit from both sides from the City of Riverdale and the Clayton County School Board.” Stovall said that in addition to racking up fines from the city, Clayton Schools is exercising its right to charge Utopian much higher rent than the building’s earlier tenant. Utopian pays $3,000 a month to use the building compared to the Riverdale Development Authority, which had a lease allowing it to pay $1 annually for 20 years.School leaders say they refused to be forced out of Riverdale by local leaders who see them as competition. “Being in this fight for so long has been a tedious journey for me not only as a board member, but also a parent,” said Sharon Daniel, who chairs Utopian’s governing board. “We will not give up. We will educate the City of Riverdale.Utopian is a public school. We have a right to be here.” CLICK HERE FOR THIS RELEASE IN A DOWNLOADABLE FORMAT