Denver Pyle Children’s Charities buys computers for ROMEO Preparatory Academy

ROMEOROMEO Preparatory Academy is getting a much-needed technology boost thanks to the Denver Pyle Children’s Charities Foundation.

The charity has donated about $4,000 for laptops and a desktop computer.

“We’re happy to help out kids in the community,” said Eddie Clement, a member of the foundation’s board. “The money we work hard to raise is for the kids. We feel this is a good organization that needed us.”

ROMEO opened its doors this year at 2515 Bonham St. with the goal of helping those students who can excel in a smaller learning environment. The academy currently has 15 students, with a maximum enrollment of 22.

David Barker founded the school with his own money and has been working on a volunteer basis to get it going. He is a 10-year veteran of public education in Dallas, both as a teacher and a principal. The Metroplex has many options for students, he said, but for Paris, it’s either public school, home school or a private school.

“There needs to be an alternative for kids to be able to excel,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with the public schools. Some kids just need a different environment.”

ROMEO Preparatory Academy’s size allows for more focus on the individual student, Barker said — not just instruction, but also mentoring and coaching. The school also offers athletics with six-man football, basketball and track.

ROMEO is an all-boys, a ninth- through 12-grade school. Classes are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. There are also mandatory meetings that take place outside school hours, such as workshops on math, writing and reading. Students follow the state’s recommended graduation plan, as opposed to the minimum plan, and must make at least a 75 in a class to pass.

Around 80 percent of the curriculum is handled online through an e-learning program called OdysseyWare, which Barker said is accredited through the Texas Education Agency. The program also includes Bible classes.

“There has been some controversy with some of the local schools saying our kids can’t receive a diploma,” Barker said. “Our kids receive credits just like a traditional school. Our kids can attend college just like a traditional school.”

Most students who come to ROMEO are behind grade level and behind on credits needed to graduate. The academy’s program is designed to help them catch up.

Learning is augmented with frequent field trips, such as a recent visit to Dallas for locations such as Paul Quinn College and the South Dallas Cultural Arts Center. They will create presentations based on what they learned on the trip. Barker is also planning a college tour during spring break from here to Atlanta, Georgia, and back.

The school’s founder was born and raised in Paris. He graduated from Christian Fellowship Academy, received a basketball scholarship and earned his bachelor’s degree in English from Wylie College in Marshall. Despite his literary background, the school’s name is not a Shakespearian reference. ROMEO is an acronym for “Responsible Outstanding Men Empowering Others.”

“Some people thought that since I have a degree in English, I was a fan of Romeo and Juliet,” Barker said.

The public is welcome to visit and see what the school’s doing, Barker said.

“I’m thankful for the people who have accepted us here in Paris,” he said. “Even though our school is 100 percent African-American, any student regardless of race is welcome at ROMEO Preparatory Academy.”

Denver Pyle Children’s Charities Foundation gets most of its money from the annual Uncle Jesse’s Big Bass Classic at Pat Mayse Lake. Rather than donate money to organizations for general use, funds that come from the foundation are earmarked for specific purchases. The charity has helped a range of organizations, including Special Olympics, the Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers and Big Sisters and the Red River Down Syndrome Society.

“They are a tremendous blessing,” Barker said. “Our students greatly appreciate the gift from Denver Pyle Children’s Charities. I want to continue to build a partnership with not only them, but others in the community.”

For more information, visit the ROMEO Preparatory Academy website.

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Jeff Parish Jeff Parish is a high school English teacher and journalist. He has worked for the Greenville Herald-Banner, Dallas Morning News, The Paris News and Galveston County Daily News, among others. For comments, feedback or suggestions, you can email him at jeff@eparistexas.com.