Laura Geller, NBC Richmond, March 6, 2015
Half of the teachers at one Richmond middle school are reapplying for their jobs. The move is part of a plan to improve academics at Martin Luther King Middle School, one of the most notorious in the district.
The new Martin Luther King Middle School was a $40 million investment into the community. The state-of-the art facility has smart boards in classrooms and Wi-Fi in the building.
Students look out the windows of the beautiful building to their homes, which are in some of the most dangerous housing projects in the city. Some of the crimes and behavior issues witnessed there invade the school.
“It’s not safe,” one teacher working at the school last year told us. “It’s not safe for the students. It’s not safe for the staff. The type of treatment where we come every day to a hostile environment.”
So how hostile is that environment? According to the state database, last year MLK had 1635 disorderly or disruptive behavior offenses.
Martin Luther King’s statistics makeup 16% of RPS’ total for these disruptive offenses. If each school in the district shared the total equally, that percentage should be just under 2.5%. MLK has eight times that amount.
“It’s out of control,” Shonda Harris-Muhammed, who represents the school on the school board, reacted.
We asked Harris-Muhammed how the district can attract teachers to this kind of environment.
“You can’t,” she responded. “You have to promise them something that we can’t technically give and that’s intensive training to deal with student discipline issues.”
Harris-Muhammed says often times, those issues start at home.
“We need to have these courageous conversations because when they come in here and they want to tear up this school or any school, they can’t stay with us,” she added. “We got to stop spoon-feeding people. We have to hold parents accountable.”
[Editor’s Note: 99 percent of the 706 students at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School are black.]