At the Barack Obama Leadership Academy, we are dedicated to providing the highest quality educational experience and to developing and building upon the leadership characteristics that are inherent in all children.
Board President – Dr. Winifred Green
Board Vice Chair – Dr. Cheryl Munday
Board Secretary – Tamiko Leonard
Treasurer – Kamau Kheperu
Board Member – Dr. Oluwa Davis
THE HISTORY OF BARACK OBAMA LEADERSHIP ACADEMY
(formerly Timbuktu Academy of Science & Technology)
Barack Obama Leadership Academy (formerly Timbuktu Academy) was created in 1997 with the intent of extending African-Centered learning experiences to families in our communities. The education of our children began with Operation Get Down’s Ujima Early Childhood Development Center in19xx. Operation Get Down always promoted quality educational our children and created African centered programs for the east side community and the preschool academy was considered one of the best in the city. Because of the program’s success, Ujima’s parents wanted the next phase of their children’s educational experiences to be as rewarding as the preschool academy experience had been. From that community desire Timbutktu Academy of Science and Technology was established.
Timbuktu Academy of Science and Technology was incorporated in 1997 and received a Charter from Detroit Public Schools in 1998. The academy started with grades K-3 and only 50 students. We established ourselves as a school that was committed to educating all children using an African Centered methodology. We were a pioneer in our approach in educating children. We used the teachings of Asa G. Hilliard III Ed.D, Kofi Lomotey and other Black scholars that researched the need for African Centered teaching methods. In addition, we used the African Centered Curriculum developed by the Portland School system in reading and social studies, and the rituals established by the Council of Independent Black Institutions (CIBI). The mission that was collectively created and adopted was:
African-centered education as the means by which African culture — including the knowledge, attitudes, values, and skills needed to maintain and perpetuate it throughout the nation building process — is developed and advanced through practice. Our aim, therefore, is to build commitment and competency within present and future generations to support the struggle for liberation and independent thinking (for ?? all) people.
When the charter Academy legislation was passed in 1995, Operation Get Down (OGD) began examining the possibilities of creating a charter Academy. Through discussions and interviews OGD learned that despite the community’s designation as the poorest in the city of Detroit, parents and caregivers consistently pursued the best educational options for their children. Parents sought to have small classrooms sizes and individualized instruction, the opportunities for exposure through field trips, the diversity in materials, committed teachers and innovative approaches to education that public academies provided.
In 1996, E. Malkia Brantuo and Bernard Parker, sought to meet this need by opening the doors of Timbuktu Academy of Science and Technology with a loan and a serious commitment to make it happen. After only four months in operation, Timbuktu Academy’s doors closed temporarily due to financial constraints. Sincerely committed, in practice, to bring this needed educational institution into perpetual existence; Mama Malkia, Baba Bernard, and others continued the pursuit of a public charter. Their hard efforts were rewarded on September 23, 1997, when the Detroit Board of Education granted a 5-year charter as a public K-12 charter academy.
The academy Timbuktu was named after the city in Mali, West Africa, because of its rich history of being the ancient seat of advanced learning and the home of an organized scholastic community that existed for centuries, and was home to the University of Sankore.
In its inaugural year, 1997-1998, the academy serviced grades K-3. One grade was added each year until reaching the 8th grade. Timbuktu Academy of Science and Technology initially enrolled 67 students, with 58 being certified for attendance by Wayne RESA, the Intermediate Academy District to which Timbuktu Academy belongs.
We started with a small facility at 9980 Gratiot on Detroit’s eastside, but soon had to purchase commercial trailers to meet the growing enrollment. We were able to employ qualified teachers that lived and practice our philosophy and were dedicated to the development of an African Centered Curriculum. We were able to secure Provisional Teaching Certifities from the Michigan Department of Education for all staff because of our unique curriculum. We soon grew to over 150 K-8 children and attracted students from all over the city of Detroit. The Parents selected Timbuktu because they believed in the school’s approach and wanted the best education for their children. The academy enjoyed a high level of parental involvement and support for their child’s education.
Over the years, the academy provided superior education to the children we served. Each year our academic achievement improved in the state. In 2002 we received the State of Michigan Golden Apple Award recognizing that over 90% of our students passed the state MEAP test.
In 2005 we were required to relocate due to the establishment of new guidelines by the State of Michigan Fire Marshall prohibiting the use of trailers, and moved to a DPS school building on Doyle street.
In 2007, MDE revoked the use of Provisional Teacher Certicates, and in one year we had to replace 70% of our teaching staff. In 2008, because of the cost to renovate the Doyle facility the academy relocated for a final time to our current location at 10800 E. Canfield.
After replacing 70% of our teaching staff with a new staff that didn’t necessarily understand or practice an African Centered lifestyle, we began to lose children, and with that went the high level of parental involvement. Our population shifted from 65% of students where parents selected our school because of our teaching philosophy, to a neighborhood school where 90% of our parents send their children to Timbuktu because they believed it was better than other schools in the area.
In our pursuit of having certified teachers, we lost the primary principals of an African Centered School, to have staff that believed and practice African Centered values and understood the methodology of teaching African American children. We have continued to maintain a cultural environment and practice the original principles of the Council of Independent Black Institutions (CIBI).
We believe all students can learn and it is our staff’s responsibility to find the best way to teach them. We have small classrooms with a qualified teacher and a para pro in each class. We use volunteers and staff to work with students that are two grade levels behind. All students receive a hot breakfast and lunch each day with food that is both good for them and foods they are familiar with. We continue to believe that our students need exposure to cultural, educational, and recreational field trips and all grades have at least 2 trips per month.
Beginning with the 2019-2020 academic year, Timbuktu Academy changed its name to the Barack Obama Leadership Academy in honor of President Barack Obama for his leadership characteristics that inspire people across our nation and around the globe.
2023 represents 25 years of serving children on Detroit’s east side. We are dedicated to returning to our African American Centered principles. We are committed to creating young scholars that are self-confident, self-aware, and knowledgeable about their history and their place in the universe. We are committed to providing a positive environment that fully embraces our scholars and wraps them in the love of an African Centered family while advancing their knowledge and academic success.