MAJOR UPDATE: The principal of the Indianapolis public charter school, named after legendary civil rights leader Rev. Andrew J. Brown, appeared on Afternoons with Amos to explain the decision to keep the school open on Dr. Martin Luther King Holiday. Thelma Wyatt, who’s been Principal of the school since it opened in 2003, appeared on the program to tell the community why the decision, which shocked many in the community. Wyatt told Amos and listeners that despite the strong performance of her students on the state’s ISTEP tests, results had fallen to where only 70% to 75% of her students were passing, as opposed to the higher percentages they’d had in past years. That impacted the school’s A-F grade which slipped from a “B” to a “D” despite the students’ strong ISTEP performance. Because of the Jan 5-10, 2014 snow storm, Wyatt said her students had been out of school a full three weeks and she was concerned about knowledge lost. So she made the decision, with the approval of the school’s board, to use the King Holiday as a snow make up day. But Wyatt lectured her students about the importance of Dr. King’s life. Recounting her own experiences during the civil rights era. Wyatt is a veteran educator who has spent over 30 years in public education in Indianapolis. Listeners called in to offer support for Wyatt’s action while others were concerned that her actions might weaken or dilute the impact of the King Holiday. (You Can Hear Wyatt’s Full Interview Below). Wyatt’s side of the story helped balance what began with one of the most stunning and shocking calls Afternoons with Amos has ever received. On the King Holiday, during a discussion on public schools being open on the Dr. Martin Luther King Holiday because of the recent snow storm, a caller dropped a bomb. The caller said that the Andrew J. Brown Academy, an Indianapolis public charter school named after the venerable civil rights leader who fought to make Dr. King’s Day a local, state and Federal Holiday, was among the few area public schools open on the January 20th holiday. Afternoons with Amos had been discussing two major Indianapolis area school districts, Avon in the suburbs of Hendricks County west of Indianapolis and the Franklin Township schools on the southeast side of Indianapolis that opened on King Day. But news that the Andrew J. Brown Academy was open on the King Holiday was a stunner to Amos and listeners. And the phone lines exploded with anger and dismay. Unlike the other major schools, Avon, which is 10.0% Black and Franklin Township which is 5.7% Black, Andrew J. Brown Academy is 71.7% Black. This school being open on Dr. King Day struck many listeners and the community as a direct slap in the face to the legacy of Rev. Andrew Brown. The Rev. Andrew J. Brown was one of the stalwarts of the Indianapolis civil rights movement. He directly worked with Dr. King in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Marching with King during his demonstrations in southern states. Rev. Brown hosted Dr. King in his church. After King’s death, Rev. Brown and his Indiana Christian Leadership Conference inaugurated an annual public celebration of Dr. King’s birth at the historic St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church. A service that for many years was carried live on WTLC Radio. Rev. Brown pushed, along with a broad coalition of political, religious, civic, union and grassroots leaders to first make Dr. King’s Birthday a city holiday, then state holiday and subsequently a Federal National Holiday. In 2003, a local group, which included Indiana Black Expo which Rev. Andrew Brown helped to create, and Rev. Brown’s son the Dr. Thomas L. Brown, organized and opened a charter school bearing Rev. Andrew Brown’s name. That school, on the city’s far eastside, remained open on the Dr. King’s holiday, despite the legacy of its namesake to name the day a holiday and day of commemoration, remembrance and rededication to Dr. King’s ideals. That news ignited a storm of reaction. Officials at Andrew J. Brown Academy were asked for comment. Local school officials are not allowed to talk to media and the school’s out of state PR representatives didn’t get back to Afternoons with Amos before they went off the air. We hope to have their on air response later this week. Click the Arrow to Hear Community Reaction to Andrew Brown Academy & Other Public Schools Open on Dr. King’s Day. Runs 46 Minutes ©2014 WTLC/Radio One.
Click The Arrow To Hear Andrew J. Brown Principal Thelma Wyatt’s Explanation for the Decision to Keep the School Open. Runs 28 Minutes ©2014 WTLC/Radio One.