Csar Chvez Academy Dips Into the Melting Pot

Detroit elementary school principal Abelardo Batista has a different vision from that espoused at all-black Paul Robeson Academy across town. For Mr. Batista, a diverse student body is an important piece of his school's educational strategy.

The Csar Chvez Academy has no plans to offer a Latino-centered education, despite the fact that the three-year-old charter school has a 70 percent Hispanic enrollment.

On the contrary, Batista is adamant about wanting a multicultural experience for his students. "I'm Latino myself, but what I would want for my child or any child of the future is not to be isolated," he says.

That's why he's concerned about attracting a racially diverse student body to the school, located in a heavily Hispanic southwest corner of the city. Right now, blacks constitute about 10 percent of the 443 children at the elementary school, but Batista hopes to double or triple enrollment in the near future. "I can't teach African-American culture to my students," he says. "They can only learn it by immersion" in a school with students of diverse backgrounds.

Terrye Blevins, principal of Csar Chvez Middle School, has a different perspective on the multicultural question. Until two years ago, she worked as assistant principal at Paul Robeson Academy and enthusiastically supports its Afrocentric curriculum. However, she insists, she sees no difference between the ultimate goals of the two schools.

Yes, she agrees that it's important for kids to experience an ethnic mix. But she adds that whether the setting is integrated or segregated, what really matters is "teaching children to have respect for one another."

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