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Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

Named for the African-American poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School figures prominently in the history of East Baltimore. The institution was one of two Baltimore public high schools that African-Americans were permitted to attend during segregation, and it continues to serve a student population that is almost entirely African-American. Located near the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Dunbar is a magnet school for health professions. Officials are in the process of expanding that focus to the sciences, engineering and mathematics.

The school has garnered attention for academic success. Dunbar has a 100 percent graduation rate, has shown marked improvement in test scores and has earned several awards. In 2008 and 2009, it received the Maryland High School Performance Award, and it has been consistently ranked as a top high school byNewsweekand U.S. News & World Report. Additionally, the school has received numerous honors for its sports, engineering and robotics programs.

Several alumni, including six-season NFL veteran Tommy Polley, recently co-produced a documentary chronicling the school’s renowned basketball program. Dunbar has produced a number of basketball greats; among them, Sam Cassell, Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues and the late Reggie Lewis. Some of these professionals have returned to Dunbar to mentor student athletes. The documentary does not gloss over the hardships of growing up in the community, and it has given students a historical look at their school.

Dunbar benefits from a partnership with Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions through the Incentive Mentoring Program. This program pairs struggling students, identified by the principal, with mentors who provide a variety of supports including help with SAT preparation and federal student aid applications, as well as counseling for family issues and substance abuse.

AFT president Randi Weingarten, along with executive vice president Lorretta Johnson, visited the school in 2009 as part of the AFT’s Back-to-School Tour. The governor of Maryland, the mayor of Baltimore, the district’s CEO and the school board chairman joined them on their visit. The occasion also marked the reopening of Dunbar after two years and at least $28 million in renovations. Students returned to a campus equipped with science labs, a robotics facility and classrooms fitted with state-of-the-art technology. According to the Baltimore Sun, Weingarten commented at the time, “This newly renovated school … has said loudly and clearly, ‘Education is important.’”¹

¹Liz Bowie, “Back to the Future” Baltimore Sun, Sept. 1, 2009.


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