School choice debates are often framed around competition; public district schools vie against public charter schools and private schools to enroll students. However, in Austin things look a little different. The public district celebrates the variety of schooling options available to parents, including Gus Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy.
Last week, the Austin Independent School District announced their plans to provide transportation for any student wishing to attend Gus Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy. The announcement was made at a press conference, which the Austin American-Statesman covered.
The school is a all-boys campus serving grades six through eight. Artist Tyson, an 8th-grade student, was invited to speak at the press conference. He told the audience that Garcia’s single-sex composition was a major factor in its unique value.
“Something we get that you don’t obtain at other schools is brotherhood. The teachers here are phenomenal, but they are not our only educators. Our brothers teach us,” said Tyson. As a single-sex school, its culture and curriculum are tailored to its students. And, like other schools that families choose, it reaps the benefit of buy-in from that selection process.
The Austin district is eager to capitalize on this successful initiative. The school has room to grow in its enrollment, and officials are expecting that the decision regarding transportation will increase the number of students in attendance by at least 120. With enrollment currently at 400 students, this would represent growth of 30%.
Tyson is an example of a student whose family was so drawn to the mission of Garcia that they moved into the district just so he could attend. He summed up the trajectory that the school strives to move students through: “Boys yesterday. Men today. Leaders tomorrow.”
The school’s focus on developing students as young men, as well as scholars, clearly resonates. Sterlin McGruder, Garcia’s principal, said he regularly spoke with parents who wanted to enroll their children if not for the issue of transportation.
Now, thanks to the efforts of the Austin Independent Schools District, more students will benefit from the unique and holistic culture that exists at Garcia.
The Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia conducted an extensive field research project in ten sectors of American secondary education. This field research included “pedagogical schools,” which Notre Dame sociologist David Sikkink, writing in The Content of Their Character, describes as “attempts to realize a full-orbed vision of education that [includes] a guiding mission or philosophy and fairly precise guidelines for school structure and teaching methods.”
Gus Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy has just such a defining mission:
In an environment of brotherhood, the Gus Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy develops scholars who are empathetic, service-oriented problem-solvers—lifelong learners who succeed in high school, college, career and life.
Tyson also noted that he is “surrounded by positive influences, particularly by men of color” and is taught to be a leader.
Education Week provides an interactive snapshot of the location of public single-gender schools for interested parents and educators. As it turns out, Gus Garcia operates in the state with the most single-gender schools.