Partner Spotlight: David Banks, CEO of the Eagle Academy

August 26, 2013

David Banks

Recently we were lucky enough to sit down with David C. Banks, President and CEO of the Eagle Academy Foundation, which runs the four award-winning Eagle Academy schools for inner city young men from the inner city. We are proud to have David as a member of Scholastic’s FACE Advisory Council.

Tell us about your schools and your overall mission.

When we opened the Eagle Academy for Young Men in the Bronx in 2004, it was the first all-boys public high school to open in New York City in more than 30 years. The school was a response to the national crisis that we have seen with young men—particularly men of color who have very low graduation rates and high incarceration rates. The original group that launched our flagship school was One Hundred Black Men, an organization of business, political, and community leaders. They also saw fit to start the Eagle Academy Foundation, which drives the work of our schools. We’ve since opened schools in Brooklyn, Queens, and Newark. Next year we will open in Harlem, and the following year, we will open in Staten Island. That is our work.

How do you get families involved in the Eagle Academy?

We’ve been able to figure out how to get parents really engaged and part of part of the process with us. That’s number one. We have regular parent association meetings with food and refreshments on Saturday mornings. We keep it accessible. We don’t have parent meetings at seven o’clock on a Wednesday night. We don’t do that.

Do all the parents attend?

We have a differentiated approach, so we don’t just have one large parent group. Every grade has its own leadership and its own grade-specific agenda that they deal with at their gatherings, which I think is very important. A 12th grade parent doesn’t want to sit in a meeting listening to a 6th grade parent talk about what’s going on with middle-school science. We also do raffles at all of our meetings. It adds a little excitement.

And on Saturday mornings, our school is kind of a community center. There are booths set up outside the auditorium where different groups like the library or early literacy orgs might be giving out materials, health screenings take place, local vendors sell wares. On Saturday morning, Eagle Academy is the place to be!

Many of your students come to you with below-grade reading skills. What approach do you take to bridging the gap?

We do interventions as early as possible beginning with our summer bridge, where we have the young men for three to four weeks in the Summer before they ever begin their school year at Eagle. Right there we begin to build a spirit of brotherhood. We also run the various diagnostic exams and see where they are academically, and then each school kind of designs their own academic intervention strategies for each student. Students who are struggling in math or reading, whether it’s a learning disability or a lack of familiarity with the subject matter, these are the things that we would kind of observe early on.

Family involvement in homework, setting routine, expecting strong effort, as we know, is essential to students’ academic success. How do you communicate these strategies to parents?

Our teachers come in and speak on a regular basis to our parents about the kinds of things that are needed for the kids to be successful. Then we have parents mentoring other parents. These are parents who are doing very well and have overcome certain challenges with their kids. We see commitment to education and positive approach to reading and school spreading from family to family.

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