Swimming Upstream, Not Waiting for Superman

by October 5, 2010

America is beholden to grass roots pioneers whose activism, organizing, and ministry have raised the bar for giving back. In the pattern of Marva Collins, Mary McCloud Bethune, and others who have contributed to a …

great heritage of empowerment and freedom through education, Houston’s own Beatrice Mayes is championing a legacy of achievement in our community. Since 1966, her leadership as founder, principal, and namesake of Houston’s oldest continuously-running school of its kind, Beatrice Mayes Institute Charter School (K-8), has ushered academic recognition and progress as few schools have achieved. Recognized as “Exemplary” 7 out of the last 10 years and ranked in the top 1% among all schools in Texas, what sets Beatrice Mayes Institute apart is Mrs. Mayes’ teaching style and approach to education.

“It’s a family thing… Relationships are very central to us,” says Beatrice Mayes, “The fabric is different because of our staff devotion and commitment to children mastering the well-rounded discipline as opposed to test teaching.” Mrs. Mayes is fully involved in every classroom, hands-on, asking “How can I help the teacher,” and sets the expectation by talking with every class before matters get to discipline. As the renowned thought leader coaches teachers on how to use their own style, creativity, and autonomy to best deliver the end result for each child, there is no bureaucracy.

The heart of the faculty is shown by teachers that come at six a.m. when classes begin at eight a.m. What distinguishes the exposures offered is not simply K-8th graders learning Spanish or first-grade scholars reading novels, but how this gem of a school takes everybody as its own. Mrs. Mayes’ son and Chief Executive, Thomas Mayes, says “On their best day, we don’t know what unique challenges the students will throw at us, yet we have to get them to excel. Every day is a struggle, but we don’t give up. We work together and get it done.” Quite a few men on staff coach the young men, support them like family, and are not going to let them fail. The open door policy enables ‘Men with Divine Purpose’ to provide strong mentorship to the middle school men and assist in the overall mission. One Hundred Black Men is a sponsor for this year’s “Fathering the Future” Symposium at Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church. The 2010 Conference on Urban Education at Reliant Crown Plaza aims to engage family, faith, and community leaders on their roles in response to changes in family structure, educational policy, and school administration. Strategic partnerships have been fostered with Houston Endowment, Wells Fargo, Chevron, Tour de Hood, and Junior Achievement.

One Economy, a broadband tech training collaboration with Comcast, will provide a screening of filmmaker Robert Townsend’s Internet TV series, ‘Diary of a Single Mom’ for parents and outside community to address how matters people deal with everyday may offset what happens in the classroom. Family involvement as firm supporters in their child’s learning relationship and emphasis on character are key. Parents are proud when they see the difference from where their child was and the results in development. So much is invested into each one that graduates are grateful to walk back through the school’s doors to reconnect with the heart of this sacred family.

Notable graduates include Dr. Kenyatta Gibbs of Texas Children’s Hospital Board, Dr. Billy Gilbert M.D., and Erica Graham, candidate for Civil Court Judge. Mrs. Mayes first began tutoring a young man that was so far behind in every capacity that his mother was frustrated. The child returned to public schools 2 years ahead. Beatrice Mayes Institute Charter School and its early education center, Wonderland Private School (Pre-K), were born when Mrs. Mayes went from being unsatisfied working everyday for someone else to quitting her job to pursue her gift for children and teaching. Now at capacity with 430 students in Houston’s Historic Third Ward, more capital relationships are needed to implement expansion plans for this remarkable academy.

Nationally recognized for dozens of honors awards for outstanding achievement and excellence in education, Beatrice Mayes keeps a song on her heart, “I Will Trust in the Lord.” Strong vision, passion, and purpose shape this servant-mentor who is compelled by these words from Psalm 138:8, The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me.” The mark of a leader is to produce results undeniable to the world and leave a message embedded in a people committed to carry it forward. Mankind reaps dividends from the active partnership between community, parent, teacher, and student where a new generation adopts a culture of rising to the challenge of academic excellence. Certainly, the future leaders from Beatrice Mayes Institute Charter School are swimming upstream for scholastic achievement, not waiting for Superman.

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