Fort Worth district's moves to start all-boys school at Dunbar 6th Grade rile some in Stop Six

FORT WORTH -- Some Stop Six residents are unhappy that Fort Worth school administrators started planning to transform the Dunbar 6th Grade Center into an all-boys school without consulting the community first.

About 60 people gathered Thursday night at Greater St. Mark's Missionary Baptist Church to discuss what they know about the plan and to vent frustration.

Last month, school trustees had been scheduled to vote on administrators' plan for an all-boys campus. But speakers said that proper notice had not been given about the change and that even campus staff were unaware of the plans. The item was removed from the agenda.

Greater St. Mark's pastor, the Rev. Mark Kirkland, serves on the Dunbar 6th Grade Center's site-based management team. He said he worried that the district was trying to get the change approved without input, noting that the wording on last month's agenda was vague.

"Even if something is good for me, give me the opportunity to learn why it's great for me," Kirkland said.

Lawyer Bobbie Edmonds, also on Dunbar's management team, said the school is a historical landmark for the community and houses a museum of sorts that documents Stop Six history. Changes "should be taken with caution," she said.

Edmonds and Kirkland urged people to attend the next school board meeting to speak to trustees. The group discussed taking legal action if necessary to make sure the area is properly represented.

A district official was invited to attend the community gathering, Kirkland said, but he was told Thursday that she had to cancel for another meeting.

District spokesman Clint Bond said officials learned of the meeting only a few days ago and were still making plans for its own community forum with Trustee Christene Moss, which will be at the school Jan. 20.

Moss, who was not at the church's meeting Thursday, has long been an advocate for single-gender schools and for trying new ways to raise achievement scores of African-American male students.

"I think once they hear the plans and how it will be, it will be something that the community will welcome," Moss said in an interview. She noted that the Dunbar name would remain in the boys' academy if it opened there.

This year the school district opened an all-girls school.

The Dunbar 6th Grade Center at 5100 Willie St. started as Sagamore Hill Colored School in the mid-1920s. By 1938, it was renamed the Paul Lawrence Dunbar Elementary-Junior High School. It became a junior high/middle school in 1968 after Dunbar High opened.

Controversy erupted after community members asked for a new middle school to address overcrowding but a 1977 bond package included only renovations.

In the settlement of a desegregation lawsuit, a federal judge ordered the bond money targeted for renovations be used to build a middle school. That school opened in 1982 to serve seventh- and eighth-graders, while sixth-graders remained at the Willie Street campus.

Eva-Marie Ayala, 817-390-7700