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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Dallas Independent School District is taking a new approach to try and turn around a struggling middle school… a campus at the center of a district-wide controversy. Some might call it ironic that a school with so much instability in leadership is trying to find a way to build it among the students themselves.

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Dade Middle School has basically been the epicenter of instability. Teachers removed, families removing children, a fight on campus between the Superintendent and a school board trustee — the school has seen a little bit of everything. But what about a plan for the children still attending Dade?

When watching teacher Pantea Bagheri you can’t help but see how she pushes to keep the energy level high for her 6th grade students. The logic is based on kinetic motion in a classroom and how it can generate a magnetic learning environment. Bagheri said pointedly, “Quite frankly, the majority of my students are leaders, great students, and they are trying to learn.”

To say that the struggling Dade Middle School needs a jolt of academic growth and student conduct improvement may be an understatement.

There’s a developing plan to spread what’s happening in Bagheri’s classroom throughout the school — they’re calling it the Dade Leadership Academy. The academy will team 50 high-performing students with 50 under-performing ones. The program is a sort of push and pull, designated to uplift both groups.

Shelby Vernado and her fellow student counselors believe the school as a whole can improve by merging a small group of students into a leadership lab together.

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“We also wanted to encourage and support those students that aspire to be leaders as well, so we merged the groups together,” Vernado said.

The academy is all about modeling. Kids will grow by being partnered with peers, exposing both groups to positive examples outside of their current environment.

In science teacher Bagheri’s class, every student appears to be engaged.  The experiment for Dade will be to spread the success in that room to all students, by starting a leadership program for 100 young people.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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