Dr. Steve Perry on why he started his extraordinarily successful magnet school


Baffling. Mystifying.

Those are the words that come to mind when one thinks about brilliant innovative educator Dr. Steve Perry and his Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut. World-renowned magazine U.S. News and World Report has cited Capital Prep as one of the top schools in the country — a school that has sent 100 percent of its predominantly low-income, minority, first-generation high school graduates to four-year colleges every year since its first class graduated in 2006.

Yet, according to Perry, few legislators and educators call to find out how he does what he does. Other principles do not try to duplicate his success. Newspapers and television shows do not often feature him.

But it’s this type of morbid apathy for black students and black males that Perry, who spoke with rolling out, began his own school in the first place.

“When you look at suburban schools — actually it was a suburban school here in Connecticut that I was working in — with minority and poor kids. And I felt that my kids were as talented as any other and I would work with them over the summer, “ he said. “And then I would go to these suburban schools and I would have them in Algebra and then they would go back to their schools and they were in pre-Algebra and I couldn’t understand how that would happen.

“I saw these kids just a couple of weeks prior and they would maybe not have gotten an “A” in Algebra, but at least they would get a C+ in it. And I would go back and ask questions. And no matter what questions they asked it would be racist. And no matter what they told me, I would ask ‘well, what test did they fail?’ and they didn’t fail a test. And I would tell them, ‘I just saw them do the Algebra in my class, taught by one of your faculty members, in our program, over the summer, just a couple of week ago. So how come they can’t be in an Algebra class in your school?’ and they’d say ‘well, we’ll put them in there eventually.’ But I’d say ‘but that’s not the point. They should have been in there in the first place.’

After years of seeing kids who were personally mentored by Perry and educated the right way go off and experience success in life, Perry could no longer stand to see the American educational system mistreat and undervalue black students, particularly males.

“I just got tired of people lying. I believe in our children and I just got sick and tired of people lying about it. And I hated it even more that the people lying to us were black people,” he said of the epiphany to begin his own Capital Prep. “So I could have kept talking about it, but people would say that I was just running my mouth. So now, anytime someone wants to get slick, I can tell them that I know that it can be done because I’ve seen it. Not just in my personal life but in my professional life. I’ve seen it over and over and over again.”

Perry said he aspires to open more schools like Capital, but only to the degree that their success matches the incredible ones he’s experienced already.

“My hope is to open other schools. I don’t want 100 schools. I had a potential funder ask me ‘how many schools do you want? And I said, as many as we can run like this one. This is not about ego for me to open up a bunch a schools, for them to not run like Capital. I don’t know what I would do with myself.”

What bothers Perry is the general disinterest in other schools and districts to model their failing systems after Perry’s since he has found the formula to black male scholastic achievement in America.

“To this day, we have had no principal contact from other schools contact me and say ‘yo, I just want to walk around the school. I just want to see what you do.  Now I have had people ask me where we get our uniforms from. It’s like you can dress like that but you can’t be like that. Superman’s powers are not in his cape. You have to come harder than that.”

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