The Male Leadership Academy was designed for boys like Ellijah Palmer and Cail Glaze.
Ellijah, 10, has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Cail, his 7-year-old brother, had already been suspended for misbehavior as a first-grader in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
The academy, a private elementary school founded by Nations Ford Community Church, has teachers trained to work with the behavioral challenges that can throw male students off track. All lessons incorporate movement, activity and competition, which Head of School Carlos Johnson says work well for boys who struggle to sit and listen.
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Their mom, Chidarrell Palmer-Glaze, says the $6,000-per-child tuition put that option out of reach on her salary as a caseworker for the Mecklenburg Department of Social Services. Last year, when the boys were at Starmount Elementary, she learned that North Carolina Opportunity Scholarships were available to help her switch them to a private school.
Each boy qualified for $4,200 a year through the income-based voucher program, designed to give low- and moderate-income families access to schools that wealthier families can afford. This year the Male Leadership Academy has 30 students, 10 of them receiving state scholarships. Each class has no more than a dozen students, and each boy will be matched with a male mentor.
The public money put private school within reach, Palmer-Glaze says: “Instead of purchasing a new vehicle, I can invest in their education.”
While she still calls herself a public school supporter – her older daughter will go to Mallard Creek High – she believes this is best for her boys. The money will be available as long as Palmer-Glaze meets the income guidelines and the boys stay in private school. The academy hopes to expand to middle school, which would mean Ellijah won’t have to change schools again next year.
“It’s just a new beginning for them,” Palmer-Glaze says. “I want to see them succeed.”