Verna and Simon Johnson, two seasoned teachers, used their retirement savings to start the Caring and Sharing Learning School in 1998. Even 25 years later, the district of Florida’s pupils from that school continue to have the highest learning improvements.
When it comes to Whites outperforming Blacks in academic achievement, Alachua County had the biggest discrepancy. However, the story has been altered by the students at this institution.
According to Verna Johnson, pupils in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade are typically the ones who excel in placement programs and obtain college degrees.
“We are taking children who people have said were untrainable and letting them know what they can do,” the 82-year-old said. She also added that they let the students know and understand “to not let anybody tell them what they can’t do.”
When the couple was about to retire in the late 1990s, they made the decision to spend their funds to purchase a 12-acre plot of abandoned homes, and they later used the area to build their school. They started off with 31 kids and currently have 255 enrolled, 92% of whom are Black.
Even after the COVID-19 Pandemic, when school closures caused a sharp drop in math and reading test scores across the country, the school persisted in supporting its pupils’ academic success.
The school Principal, Curtis Peterson, said, “We know exactly what each student knows and what they need to know at any given time. We pretest students at the beginning of every unit and group them together based on their results, then we teach according to the groups that they’re in. At the end of the unit, we test them again to see how much they have learned.”
Peterson boasts that the students’ intellectual prowess is essential to the success of the school and was appointed as its principal in 2008. A very involved Peterson visits each classroom several times per day to check on the development of the pupils. He stated that he and his teachers are committed to continuing to develop the potential in each and every one of their kids.
Marlaisha Vereen, one of the school’s success stories, claimed that the institution saw her enormous potential before she did. The 19-year-old, who attended the school until the sixth grade, intends to enroll in law school after finishing his undergraduate studies.
Peterson noted again that, what the school is really doing is providing hope for kids and families who may not know their own capabilities. According to him, “With hope you can achieve anything.”