Maxfield Elementary School is one of four schools located in the Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood. The other three are Benjamin E. Mays, Jackson Elementary and the Saint Paul City. On May 10th Maxfield Elementary is celebrating its 125th anniversary.
In the last five years the principal, teachers, students, parents, elders, and community members have joined together to usher in a new chapter of the school’s history, bringing it back to the glories of the old Rondo community’s proud historical past and heritage. This return to pride and progress has gained momentum and cohesion through Maxfield’s partnering with the Cultural Wellness Center (CWC) five years ago.
The CWC was enlisted by Elder Mary K. Boyd and Principal Nancy Satchel to bring hope to a longstanding problem that was plaguing Maxfield along with countless other schools across the country. The problem was that African American students were overwhelmingly and tragically failing to thrive in the schooling environment.
Elder Boyd states, “Maxfield provided a solid beginning for many who have gone on to great power in this community in spite of the odds against them.” Examples include Michael Wright of the Golden Thymes Café, Bill Murray, Curriser Mae Adams, Setchem Thesmaat Stewart, and Hatyba Aasutinit Massey. The majority of these elders are now actively participating in the CWC’s School of Elders at Maxfield.
Other well-known Saint Paul elders who attended Maxfield include Dr. David Taylor, Linda Griffin Garrett, Bob Lewis, and his sister Carolyn Smaller. Lewis remembers being among the first graduating class from the existing building.
In the vast majority of cases, students in the predominate African American classrooms of Maxfield Elementary in recent years have had tragically low academic performance, attendance was just as saddening, and behavioral incidents were nearing the worse in the entire state. Prior to the CWC entering Maxfeild, the problems the school was having with its more than 80 percent African American student population seemed to be a hopeless and inescapable reality.
Despite the endless effort and desire of school officials and parents to help the children and to reverse this heartbreaking downward spiral, they were witnessing most of their students fall victim to failure. The teachers and their entire education system’s resources described feeling powerless to the deeply engrained forces that was fueling the pain and degradation on a significant group of our African American future leaders.
The Cultural Wellness Center is a culturally specific organization that gives our greatest focus to African American people. We have a longstanding history of work and healing in, and of, the African American community. We have researched and studied our deepest roots and discovered the place and time of our origins.
As we researched deeper and came to know our place of origins with great clarity, we discovered the great power and beauty of our nature. Our search revealed that within the knowledge of who we are lies everything we need to have in order to hold our power and beauty together forever. It is culture that held us to greatness, as we held it with greatness.
With the knowledge and culture revealed in the truth of the origin of African American people, the Cultural Wellness Center is an institution built to bring the knowledge of our original culture back to the people so we can again stand in our intellectual greatness.
This reintroducing of culture to African Americans is exactly why the elders and the principal selected CWC to come into Maxfield Elementary School. Statements from elders and community members, as we considered the solutions include the following:
- We know with precise awareness what forces were at work to prevent young Black children being capable of the transformation we are now witnessing in Maxfield.
- We know only culture can counteract the severity and uncontested wrath of the environments the children are ever experiencing.
- The nearly hopeless reality Maxfield staff and teachers were facing in their attempt to educate Black children, is being faced by nearly every other predominantly Black school in America.
- The failure is not in the children, it is in the curriculum, the methods of delivering the knowledge, and the de-culturalized knowledge itself.
With this realization, Maxfield Elementary School has begun to transform over the past five years and the signs of success are many. Just to mention a few:
- Over the past two years, student suspensions at Maxfeild elementary school decreased by 44 percent.
- Students at Maxfield improved reading scores by six percent and math scores by 9.9 percent in one year.
- Over the past three years, Maxfield Elementary School has achieved a 350 percent increase in parents attending annual goal-setting conferences for their children.
- Maxfield experienced a 27 percent increase in attendance at family night in one year.
- Over the past two years, incidents of physical fighting at Maxfield decreased by 46 percent.
This community honoring celebration is a shout out to all elders, parents and grandparents. We seek you and family members of the past and future to join the efforts for turning ourselves around through claiming this school, once again, as an anchor for healing and building a future for us in the Promise Neighborhood.
Michael Rambo is our hosting emcee for the evening dinner and program. Our celebration will begin at 5 pm.
Congratulations to Maxfield Elementary school and its community for your endurance and hope.
This article was provided by the Cultural Wellness Center.