School of the Week: Bates Academy

Bates Academy 8th grader Amanath Khandaker is pondering the options of what career he wants to pursue when he grows up. Possibly a computer software engineer. Or a photographer. Or maybe a published author.

It would not be surprising if he pursued all three….and succeeded.

Khandaker, who carries a 4.0 and is involved in Academic Games, the school journalism program, yearbook, computer courses and more, is the epitome of what Dr. Cleo Moody, principal of Bates Academy in Northwest Detroit, considers to be a well-rounded student and a future leader.

“We’ve had a history of attracting the best and brightest students of the city,” Dr. Moody said. “We’ve had former students who are doctors, lawyers and educators. It just goes on and on. Often when I’m out, I meet people who are former students of Bates Academy, and they have wonderful careers.”

Bates, a gifted and talented program that requires an application, testing and letters of recommendation for admission, is considered to be the city’s premier elementary-middle school.

The school’s history of excellent academics spans more than three decades when school district leaders, including former Superintendent Arthur Jefferson, had the opportunity to visit gifted and talented programs across the nation. They determined that Detroit and its students needed and deserved a program for gifted and talented students.

Initially starting out as a program that shared a building, the demand for Bates’ stellar curriculum soon necessitated a separate, dedicated building. Having moved several times, the school has been located in Northwest Detroit on Wyoming, nestled among picturesque shade trees and a sprawling lawn, for seven years.

No matter the location, or in some cases the struggles with building conditions, the school has churned out thousands upon thousands of bright scholars over its 30-plus-year history, as well as amassed countless awards.

Bates Academy has been honored as DPS’ top Pre-K-8 school in the Michigan Department of Education’s (MDE) top-to-bottom ranking; one of the top 10 schools in the City by Excellent Schools Detroit; as an “A” school by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy; an MDE Rewards School; a “Beating the Odds” school and much more.

Student artists have competed locally, statewide and nationally and had their art displayed at the Detroit Institute of Arts and Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The school’s orchestra is renowned and has received numerous awards. Students often matriculate to the city’s top application high schools, such as Renaissance and Cass Tech, or attend premier private schools.

Educating the Whole Child

“The philosophy of education at Bates Academy is to encourage leadership and excellent academics for students,” Moody said. “We believe a well-rounded experience provides a true education for students. It’s very traditional yet it encourages electives, sports and academics. We also encourage time management with our students so that they are well-rounded.”

That means providing a wide array of elective courses, in addition to the traditional curriculum, and many sports and activities, including Music, Art, Foreign Language Club and a long list of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) opportunities. Students can participate in the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP), Robotics, Science Clubs, Chess, Math Competition and more. The school has two computer labs, SMARTBoards in many classrooms and a renovated library, sponsored by Target Corp. and the Heart of America Foundation, that is lined with banks of computers. Bates also offers many sports, such as girls and boys basketball, volleyball, football and soccer.

Moody and Bates students say the drive to excel among Bates students comes from within them, but is cultivated by strong parent involvement and excellent, caring teachers.

“High parental involvement is a requirement,” Moody said.

And the teachers consider it their mission to cultivate the varied levels of giftedness that lie within each child.

“The teachers are all really good. They push you, teaching you in different ways,” said 8th grader Mckinzie Bundy, another 4.0 student who is interested in forensics and relished taking the school’s Dissection Studies course where she recently had the opportunity to “virtually” dissect a fetal pig.

She also participates in Academic Games, led by math teacher Christopher Holstein, who has been at Bates for 33 years.

Holstein said the formula of success at Bates is very dependent on not only the strong academics, but the extra-curricular activities like Academic Games.

“If you have some extras and fun things for the students, I think they work harder in the other subjects,” he said. ”All kids can strive, but you have to make them love trying to learn.”

Something you didn’t know: Bates Academy recently received a $2.7 million renovation that includes new heating/cooling units and ceiling replacements in all classrooms; bright new paint to stimulate a creative learning environment in all classrooms; full-scale upgrades of the lighting to replace the outdated incandescent and florescent lighting with modern and more energy-efficient lighting; bathroom upgrades;  and a kitchen, servery and cafetorium makeover that includes new lighting, upgraded kitchen equipment, heating and cooling improvements and updated acoustics.

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