By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
The Hales Franciscan High School Board of Trustees voted to allow female students to enroll in the school starting the 2013-2014 school year.
Hales, 4930 S. Cottage Grove Ave., is known as one of three historically Black Catholic high schools in the nation. It is also known as a school that specifically served young African American males.
Over the last few years, the students have celebrated successes both academically — with the addition of an International Baccalaureate Diploma program — and athletically — winning the state Class 2A basketball championship.
This year’s graduating seniors had a 100 percent graduation rate and all received scholarships to colleges and universities, according to Erica Brownfield principal at Hales.
“Historically this has been a place of academic excellence for men. Why not provide that for young women?” said Brownfield. “Our goal should be to provide academic excellence for the community.”
Brownfield said Hales will not move from its focus on its mission, which is to develop young men “Unto Perfect Manhood.”
“We’re not going to get away from that [mission]. The twist is that we are going to promote family,” Brownfield said. “What is it to be a man in mixed-gender society, what is the role of a woman in society? Education, scholarship and citizenship are a common goal.”
Brownfield said that the number of female students at the school’s orientation on June 18 was sparse because people are still in disbelief about the change.
“People are still saying ‘I heard you are allowing girls to enroll in your school, is it true?’” Brownfield said.
She said the school is doing what it can to get the word out and that even the school’s current students have told their friends.
Besides structural improvements such as adding female bathrooms and other amenities, the curriculum and sports activities will be the same and open for all students, Brownfield said.
“We are encouraging girls to bring their ideas for school clubs,” Brownfield said. “Title IX requires that coaches allow girls to try out for sports teams. We have a cheerleading team of girls from nearby schools but going forward Hales students will have first priority.”
She said the school would begin building up its female sports teams starting with track in the upcoming school year.
Brownfield said she was shocked when Hales chose her as the principal for the then-all-boys school last year but she now understands why God chose her to be in the role.
“My plan is to finish out [God’s] mission and purpose, and now the school is co-ed,” Brownfield said. “I know that [I] and the school’s new board president Jeff Gray are going to move things forward in a positive direction.”
Hales is still accepting applications for enrollment. The next school year begins on Monday, Aug 19.