Former Boca Principal Named 2017 JM Family African American Achiever
When Palm Beach County School’s Superintendent Robert Avossa needed someone to turn around the county’s worst-performing middle school – Lake Shore Middle – in Belle Glade, he reached out to Anthony Lockhart, the principal of Delray Beach’s Atlantic High School.
The school, which was plagued with discipline problems, a high crime rate, exasperated faculty, a recent revolving door of principals and just an overall lack of purpose, was on the verge of being taken over by the state after receiving F grades for two consecutive years.
Finding the right person to fix it was almost impossible as very few wanted the challenge. Many in the education circle considered it Russian roulette. It could be the death knell in an unsuccessful principal’s career, several veteran administrators said.
“What I found was that on paper, everything I needed was in Dr. Lockhart’s hands and in a matter of just one year, the school went from an F to a C,” Avossa said as he made the announcement. “Suspensions were cut in half, now people are sending their kids back to the school.”
No stranger to a challenge, Lockhart – who was named a 2017 African American Achiever winner this week – took on the task. He wanted to find the root causes of the school’s problems. Even more, Lockhart wanted to devise solutions. So, he dug into data and focused on areas where students were struggling.
He did not stop there. He interviewed his teachers, held brainstorming meetings with local residents then empowered his teachers to work together to meet their goal. In fact, it was not unusual to find the Boynton Beach resident in Belle Glade – 50 miles away – at nights, meeting with parents about their children. He even was a fixture on campus on Saturdays for sports-and-study sessions.
“Instead of seeing students that embraced a failing attitude, I saw children that had not been given an opportunity to succeed,” Lockhart said in a news release. “I saw teachers that needed encouragement, training and support, and a community that could be convinced that success was possible.”
“Doc Bow Tie” as he is affectionately called for wearing his trademark bow tie, and three other extraordinary individuals – will be recognized at the 25th annual African American Achievers awards ceremony on April 26 at the Broward County Convention Center.
“I give all the glory to God,” Lockhart said humbly after the announcement was made Wednesday night in Fort Lauderdale. “I owe it all to Him.”
Other honorees are, in the category of arts and culture, playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney who wrote the deeply personal “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue”, which received eight Oscar nominations at the 89th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.
In the community service category is Dr. Enid Pinkney, a retired educator, Brownsville resident and preservationist who worked aggressively to preserve such historical sites as the landmark Brownsville Hotel, once the social and cultural epicenter of black Miami during segregation, and in the category of Business and Entrepreneurism, Shaun Davis, of South Florida’s most reputable accounting firms, S. Davis & Associates, Inc. Davis, who chairs the board of directors for the Urban League of Broward County, has developed a reputation as having a strong commitment to community service.
To date, 150 community members have been honored as African-American Achievers.
To recognize this year’s Achievers and their efforts to improve the quality of life in their communities, JM Family and subsidiaries Southeast Toyota and JM Lexus will contribute $10,000 in each Achiever’s name to the charity(ies) of his or her choice, totaling $40,000. To date, JM Family has donated more than $400,000 to charitable organizations in the names of its African-American Achievers.
This year’s honorees were selected by an independent panel of community leaders, including former Achievers from Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. The selection committee reviewed more than 300 nominations received from around South Florida after an extensive public outreach campaign.
“All four honorees have done some extraordinary things in their communities, which is why they were selected as winners,” said Colin Brown, president and CEO of JM Family, who announced the winners.
Jim Moran, founder of JM Family, believed that people deserve recognition, especially the unsung heroes who give so much and ask for so little in return, Brown added. “These honorees are the reason this African-American Achievers awards program was created, not only to thank them for all they do but also to encourage them to continue inspiring others in our community.”