Tue Mar 2, 2021

Davis Academy ‘still fighting to be here’ – Charter school seeking location

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Parents will soon receive postcards inviting their children to attend Davis Academy, a grades 6-8 charter school scheduled to open in August, school cofounder Yolanda Davis said earlier this month.

Each postcard will have a postage-prepaid reply card attached. Interested parents can fill out and return the cards to apply for their children to be among the school’s first classes during the 2021-2022 year.

The long-term plan is to add a grade each year until the school has grades K-8 by the 2027-2028 year.

The school has not yet secured a building, but staff hiring is to begin soon, Davis said, and “We’re still fighting to be here.”

Restorative justice

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Davis hosted a Facebook live presentation Thursday, Feb. 4, with school cofounder Nichad Davis. The two are not related but met in law school at Campbell University, where she said they found that they shared goals of “bringing back community” and “changing the world through education.”

Yolanda Davis attended Whiteville City Schools through ninth grade but graduated from East Columbus High School. She is an accountant and lawyer with experience in the nonprofit sector. 

Nichad Davis, a Greensboro native, told the Facebook audience that a major focus of Davis Academy will be “restorative justice,” a style of dealing with behavior problems through mediation and conflict resolution. Instead of a “zero tolerance, punitive, super-militarized” approach, he said, educators should ask, “Who’s been harmed, and how can we remedy it?

“A lot of harm happens before there’s a conflict,” he said, often in the home. Punishing behavior does not address the underlying harm.

Davis said that “circle practice” will be part of the academy’s school day, in which students will share experiences and resolve conflicts. He related circle practice to Ubuntu, an African philosophy of “collective identity.” 

Both founders facilitated mediation in Wake County Schools, Yolanda Davis said; students were allowed to tell their side of a situation and in some cases had 10-day suspensions reduced to three days as a result.

Nichad Davis said he hoped Davis Academy’s methods would divert students from “the school-to-prison pipeline.”

P.R.I.D.E.

In response to listener questions, Yolanda Davis said the charter school’s curriculum will incorporate science, technology, engineering and math with the arts and other subjects, rather than specializing in any one field.

She did not respond to email questions later from The News Reporter about curriculum, restorative justice or to which districts application postcards would be mailed. She also did not say whether her cousin, Shonda Davis, was still going to be principal of the academy as originally planned. Shonda Davis did not take part in the Facebook event.

However, Davis Academy’s application to the State Board of Education in 2019 said that curriculum would be based on the N.C. Standard Course of Study.

The school’s application described “an elongated literacy block consisting of 80 minutes of standards-based instruction as well as an additional 40 minutes of remediation.” 

The application said the school would use the Ready North Carolina Mathematics curriculum and Smithsonian science programs. “Social Studies will be taught through a social justice lens based on five domains: Identity, Diversity, Citizenship, Justice and Activism,” while aligning to state grade level standards. 

Yolanda Davis said in her online talk that Davis Academy students will take yearly tests to assess their learning, but how the school provides that learning can be “a completely different story.”  

Listeners asked about the school’s location. Davis told them the state board had approved the academy to open in Columbus County; if the board cannot secure the preferred location at the former Chadbourn Middle School, it can locate elsewhere. The Columbus County Board of Education voted earlier this month to accept the county government’s offer to purchase the former Chadbourn Middle School and three other vacant campuses. 

She told listeners they could support Davis Academy by applying, encouraging others to apply, contributing to fundraising efforts underway and sharing ideas. 

She asked those interested to visit davisacademy.us.

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