Better Options for JPS’ Boys of Color? | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Better Options for JPS’ Boys of Color?

Dr. Cedrick Gray, Jackson Public Schools superintendent, believes COSEBOC can help JPS and its boys of color make better decisions at school and school-related events.

Dr. Cedrick Gray, Jackson Public Schools superintendent, believes COSEBOC can help JPS and its boys of color make better decisions at school and school-related events.

Dr. Cedrick Gray, the eternally upbeat bowtie-wearing superintendent of the Jackson Public Schools, says there was a time when he was a hardheaded little boy coming up in Memphis.

"When I was growing up, we did whatever we saw was happening in the street," Gray said. "Those are not good options when you're in a school building or at a sporting event. We need more options. We need to teach our young men how to draw from those options and make better decisions."

The Coalition of Schooled Educating Boys of Color conference at Jackson State University in April was an opportunity for Gray, about 20 JPS administrators and a dozen principals to study promising practices from around the country of how to improve educational wellbeing for boys and young men of color, Gray told the Jackson Free Press.

COSEBOC aims to "connect, inspire, support and strengthen school leaders dedicated to the social, emotional and academic development of boys and young men of color," and offers training and support to schools to implement programs.

Gray has led JPS since 2012, and said COSEBOC will perform a district-wide assessment of how well the state's largest urban school district is addressing the needs of boys of color and make recommendations.

JPS is already using "boys' groups" in several schools, including Bates Elementary, Cardozo Middle School, Blackburn Laboratory Middle School and G.N. Smith Elementary.

"We are engaging in several places, but I really want to see how we can make this lift district wide," Gray said.

Gray, a former middle-school teacher and principal, says the groups' activities range from simple things such as "how to tie a tie and shake a hand" to mentoring, "tougher tutoring," and sharing their dreams and aspirations with adults.

One of the ideas that came out of COSEBOC for Gray was a reminder to promote cultural diversity at the district level.

"When you walk into a school building at Christmas time, the bulletin board should not only reflect what's familiar to them," Gray said. "I want to make sure we're having a specific and targeted approach and not relying on efforts just from the teacher."

Reinforcing positive self-images becomes more important the older students get, Gray said. By the time they get to middle school, students are testing out increasing levels of autonomy.

"We have to provide them the tools to make better decisions as an adolescent so when that spark comes into them and they want to do something that emotion is telling them to do, (they) say, 'Stop for a moment. What are the other options? COSEBOC, I do believe, can help us with that," Gray said.

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