Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 20, No. 45, Ed. 1 Friday, March 12, 2004 Page: 8 of 72
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School s 7-year odyssey comes to an end
Accreditation, funding issues doom school's '04-'05 school year, leaders
say; as an official sign of bad fortune, Thompson goes off payroll next month
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Founders and administrators of Walt Whitman
Community School agree that funding and
accreditation are the essential reasons the school
will be closed this fall.
Becky Thompson, her partner Stephanie Ezell
and Ezell's sister, Pamala Ezell, were working at
Walden Preparatory School in Addison when
Stephanie told Thompson she should start a
school for GLBT youth.
Thompson said her initial response was, "How
would you do that?"
The couple told Pamala Ezell of their idea, and
the three began learning more about GLBT teens.
In 1997, the average coming-out age was 14,
and it was that year the three founded Walt
Whitman, which would be a tuition-funded pri-
vate school catering to GLBT youth who had
already or who were at risk of dropping out of
their own high schools.
When some of the first students who wanted to
attend Walt Whitman said they were unable to
afford the tuition, Thompson said they could
"Once it started, I just felt like it was some-
thing that needed to be done," Pamala Ezell said.
The three operated the school without getting
paid the first year.
From the time the school opened, organizers
knew accreditation was an important goal,
The plan was to be up-and-running three
years, then apply for accreditation, she added.
The problem was that students who needed the
school were unable to afford tuition.
Because students the school targeted often
lacked parental support, they were unable to pay
When administrators realized they would be
unable to count on tuition as a source of funding,
they started looking to the community for sup-
port, Thompson said.
"After the first 18 months, the community
embraced us and became such a wonderful
force," Thompson said.
But even with the new support, another prob-
lem was developing, Thompson said.
People put their money into Walt Whitman
with a picture of a traditional school, Thompson
explained, and it was hard for administrators to
make the community understand the alternative
style of education happening inside the doors.
The school was reaching out to students who
had fallen through the cracks of the public school
system — not trying to segregate GLBT stu-
dents, Thompson explained.
Thompson said her philosophy is to give the
students some responsibility, so they know how
to deal with it when they are out of school, and
Becky Thompson, founder and executive director of Walt
Whitman Community School: "Your initiative is what gets
show them the real consequences to their actions,
not the black and white results students get in
"Your own initiative is what gets you places,"
As the school grew, and administrators looked
for ways to house new students, Thompson said
she found herself mothering the students and
holding the community at arms-length.
The school started its host family program, and
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8 I dallasvoice.com I 03.12.04-
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Vercher, Dennis. Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 20, No. 45, Ed. 1 Friday, March 12, 2004, newspaper, March 12, 2004; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth238885/m1/8/: accessed September 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.