City school officials made a leap of faith when they transformed the George Street Elementary School, located near the Murphy Homes public housing project in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods, into the George Street Academy of Mathematics and Science.
School officials are betting that heavy doses of math, science and technology courses in classrooms full of high-tech computer gadgetry and educational games will give inner-city children a head start on the road to readiness for the modern workplace.
The strategy of opening a sophisticated math and science program in a neighborhood devastated by on-going cycles of drugs, violence and poverty sends a powerful message to the children who grow up there:
"You count. You can be somebody if you try. Where you live doesn't have to limit what you can be. And the road to something better begins with getting a good education."
To save the school you've got to start with the kids. Investing in education means more than just putting money into school buildings and books.
It means investing in the whole child -- in his or her social, emotional and moral development as well as in the tools of academic training.
Certainly kids need math and science if they are to be prepared for the demands of the modern workplace. But the workplace makes other, equally rigorous demands that relate not so much to what one knows but to who one is -- that is, the character of employees.
Educators used to take it for granted that character education was part of their mission and that the development of the total person was the ultimate yardstick by which the success of their efforts would be judged.
Sadly, this idea too often gets lost amid the hoopla of new educational "methods" or new pedagogical buzz-phrases. Right now, science and math are "hot." But the basics never change.
Kids need teachers and role models who can set clearly defined limits and make them stick, who offer guidance and support for the confusion of growing up, who give freely of their time and attention, who make it their business to know every child's name and something good about that child.
No bureaucracy can do that, only educators can. If the new George Street Academy of Mathematics and Science starts out with that basic truth firmly in hand, it can hardly fail.