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Founding family watches in dismay as three-year-old school closes

Sims Fayola International Academy, in far northeast Denver, is closing this year.
Sims Fayola International Academy, in far northeast Denver, is closing this year.

Jordan Robinson was not initially enthusiastic about the idea of an all-boys school. But when you’re an 8th grader, “your parents make most of your decisions for you,” he said.

And his mother, Yashakia Robinson, had made up her mind. “The public schools were failing him,” Robinson said. No matter how hard her son studied, she said, teachers were constantly telling her he was falling behind.

Robinson, who had moved to Denver from Mississippi when Jordan was in kindergarten, was considering relocating to Chicago so her son could attend an all-boys public school there.

But then she met Dedrick Sims, who was planning to open Sims-Fayola International Academy. Robinson attended an open house and was impressed by Sims’ pitch: Public schools aren’t meeting the needs of male students, especially young black and Latino men. Sims-Fayola would be a new model, tailored to meet boys’ needs.

In 2012, Jordan enrolled in Sims-Fayola International Academy one of the school’s founding freshmen.

The Robinsons relocated from Lakewood and bought a house in the far northeast part of Denver to be closer to Sims-Fayola.

“We invested,” she said. She and other founding parents helped with everything from recruiting to painting school walls.

Jordan Robinson also invested. He says he quickly adjusted to the all-boys environment and came to appreciate the sense of brotherhood.

Jordan Robinson, a junior at Sims-Fayola, was one of the school’s founding freshmen.
Jordan Robinson, a junior at Sims-Fayola, was one of the school’s founding freshmen.

He has thrived academically. This spring, he was wearing a gold tie, reserved for Sims-Fayola’s honors students. He was looking forward to being one of Sims-Fayola’s first graduates.

But this fall, word got out that the school might be in financial and academic trouble. In November, the Sims-Fayola board voted to close the high school, and in January, it announced that both the middle and high school would close at the end of this school year.

Read more about Sims-Fayola and the school’s closing.

Yashakia Robinson was furious. “In his junior year, you’re told he won’t get to be a senior at Sims-Fayola, which is everything you dreamed of,” she said. “You wanted to see him walk across the stage as a Sims-Fayola man.”

“I understand the data says this or that, but I also understand what was working,” she said. “And I know that had they given them a chance it could have worked.” She said several families had even investigated whether the school could remain open as a private school.

Denver Public Schools and Sims-Fayola staff worked with families to make sure all of the students had places to go. But Robinson wanted her son to be able to maintain at least some of the relationships he’d developed at Sims-Fayola.

So she and a half dozen other families of juniors at Sims-Fayola coordinated with each other and school officials to enroll their children at nearby Collegiate Prep, a co-ed charter school.

“Jordan will be fine,” Robinson said. “Everything he’s learned at Sims-Fayola over the last few years, he’ll take that with him.”

Jordan said that while he is frustrated that the school is closing, he is not overly concerned about the transition. “It’s a place to graduate.”

Robinson said that despite the abrupt ending, she would do it all again. She says she still believes in the value of all-boys education.

But she wishes her son had had a chance to graduate from a school they – and others – threw their hearts and souls into.

“Don’t think our boys failed,” she said. “Our boys didn’t fail. We failed our boys.”

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