Rosemont Elementary/Middle School’s evolution is truly a Cinderella story. Over the past 14 years, it has transformed from the lowest performing elementary school in Maryland to the Maryland Charter School Network’s (MCSN) 2011 “School of the Year.” School principal Dwayne T. Wheeler, who has led Rosemont for two years, accepted the award during a ceremony held at the Tremont Hotel downtown.

“While many of our charter schools are closing this achievement gap, (Rosemont) stands out among them by eliminating this gap in grades 3-7 in both math and reading,” said Judy Grusso, MCSN fundraising and marketing consultant, in an issued statement. “African American students scored better than the State’s white students … (in these grade levels).”

However, the successful turnaround did not come without struggle. Located on the 2000 block of Presstman St. in West Baltimore, less than 10 percent of Rosemont’s students passed at any grade level and only one in 30 were able to read above a third-grade level in 1998. The school desperately needed reform, but began a slow turnaround that same year when Coppin State University (CSU) assumed management.

CSU immediately went to work, initiating a complete revamp of the school’s staff with development classes, faculty mentoring, and free university courses modified to meet the needs of Rosemont employees. With the help of dedicated staff and CSU leadership, Rosemont was removed from the state’s “takeover” list by 2003.

“The Leadership at Coppin State University believed that lifting up the west side of Baltimore also meant lifting up its schools,” said Tiffany Jones, associate director of office and project management at CSU.

As time passed, Rosemont continued to reach higher, phasing in the middle school in the fall of 2005. Within the first year of their inclusion, nearly 80 percent of the sixth-graders passed the Maryland School Assessment (MSA) reading and math tests, which was the third highest rate in Baltimore City. By fall 2007, the school was a fully functioning elementary/middle school. During this time, Rosemont Elementary/Middle School also converted from public school to charter with the collective approval of the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners.

Rosemont Elementary/Middle School’s academic achievement can be attributed to its smaller class sizes, lunchtime tutoring and an afterschool program. With dedication and cooperation, the school earned a distinguished Great School rating of eight out of 10 and students in grades three through seven have topped the state average scores for the MSA in reading, math and science.

Rosemont students also excel in extra curricular activities, as the school boasts an indoor habitat, international club, and the newly established robotics program.

Courtney Bonaparte

Special to the AFRO