North Las Vegas school to educate headstrong male pupils

When Tami Bass opens the Willie H. Brooks Soar Academy in August, she wants to offer a "different type of environment" that is sensitive to the ways boys learn.

The all-boys charter school, located on the campus of Zion United Methodist Church in North Las Vegas, will be the first of its kind, state officials said.

The Nevada Board of Education granted the academy its charter in January because it pledged to work with boys who are disciplinary problems, said Steve Canavero, director of the state’s Office of Charter Schools. Because it will serve a special population, the school is an exception to state law that otherwise makes it illegal for a public school to discriminate on the basis of gender.

Soar Academy will stress high standards of conduct. Students will be required to wear uniforms of black blazers, white dress shirts and ties. Tennis shoes will not be allowed except for gym.

When socializing, students will be expected to address each other formally, using the title "mister" and a last name, Bass said. The use of first names will be discouraged.

Students also will be expected to assist women and senior citizens by opening doors and offering to carry things for them.

"All those things that we take for granted, some people never learn," Bass said. "If they never see it, they never dream to be it. It’s our job to show them what they can be."

Bass hopes the school can serve as many as 250 students. The academy will start with the sixth grade and gradually add grades until it’s a 6-12 school.

Bass believes the academy’s emphasis on traditional gender roles could go a long way toward reducing social ills, such as teen pregnancy or dropping out of high school.

"I believe there is a divine hierarchy in place, and we’ve gotten away from it. That’s one of the reasons we are seeing so many problems," Bass said.

"Men are born to do certain things as I believe women are born to do certain things. We need to get back to the basics," she said. "There won’t be the confusion and sheer anger I see in our young people."

But Bass does not think that men must always be in charge and women must follow.

"All of us are called to lead, but you have to stay in your lane," Bass said. "I have a lane, you have a lane."

The state’s first all-boys charter school is named after a woman, Bass’ maternal grandmother, Willie H. Brooks.

As a charter school, Soar Academy will receive the same per-pupil funding as other public schools and be given more flexibility for innovation than regular public schools have. Canavero said the state does yet not have an all-female charter school.

Many schools in the Clark County School District offer classes that are all-male or all-female, but their overall enrollment is mixed.

Bass is a lawyer who works for a mental health agency, United Family Services, and teaches political science and criminal justice classes at the College of Southern Nevada.

She also helped start another charter school, the 100 Academy of Excellence. She left that school for "philosophical reasons."

She does not want to use a private contractor, unlike the 100 Academy, to run the daily operations of the Soar Academy, which will be managed by its board of directors.

The new charter school will lease space from the former day care center of Zion United Methodist Church, 2108 North Revere St., North Las Vegas, about two blocks north of West Lake Mead Boulevard.

The school, however, will be secular, following the same curriculum as other public schools. Canavero said the school can lease space from a church as long it’s just a business relationship.

Bass acknowledged that national studies on the effectiveness of single-gender education have been mixed. But she also believes that schools must become more creative in educating boys, who "are certainly in more dire straits than young women."

"I believe we should leave no stone unturned considering we’re last in the list in the country (for education)," Bass said. "There’s nothing we shouldn’t try here in the state of Nevada to get us where we need to be. Nothing."

Contact reporter James Haug at jhaug@reviewjournal .com or 702-374-7917.

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