TRANSCRIPT OF NBC NEWS VIDEO: Finally, tonight the Boston metropolitan area has been in the news lately, as it was again tonight at the top of this broadcast, for all the wrong reasons. This next story, however, is about something good: a big idea showing successful results. Our story is from the Roxbury neighborhood which has had more than its share of crime and poverty to deal with over the years. But in this case, they have decided to take hundreds of thousands being spent on security and put it to a completely different use at school. Our report tonight, from NBC’s Katy Tur.
Katy Tur: It was known as a dropout factory. Just three years ago Orchard Gardens school in Roxbury, Massachusetts, was plagued not only by low test scores, but violence.
Students: All kinds of dangerous weapons… going to the store in the middle of classes, barging into rooms. It was crazy.
Katy Tur: students couldn’t carry backpacks, out of fear they would use them to hide weapons. In the first seven years there were five principals. Every fall, more than half of the teachers didn’t return. That all changed in 2010 with principal number six and his bold idea.
i had a huge security infrastructure. i decided to eliminate it completely and reinvest all of that money into the arts.
Katy Tur: principal andrew’s goal was to use the arts as a tool for academic success.
A lot of people would say to me, “You realize Orchard Gardens is a career killer…”
there was a disbelief anybody would choose to come. the school definitely had a prison feel.
Katy Tur: not anymore. with the help of the pumped-up arts program orchard gardens went from among the worst performing schools in massachusetts to having one of the fastest student improvement rates nearby.
it develops the whole student. you’re going to see improvement in other academic areas.
Katy Tur: tell me, did the hallways look like this? [See photo above.]
No. there was not this level of student work on the walls. now the hallways capture the spirit of the school. we are far from done. we are definitely on the right path.
reporter: 8th grader keyvon little embodies that turnaround. once struggling he’s headed to the competitive boston arts academy for high school.
snow now the teachers help me, push me on the right track. i can actually see a future for myself.
reporter: a future made a lot brighter by a crazy idea that now looks more like a stroke of genius. this school is awesome.
Reporter: katy tur, nbc news, roxbury , massachusetts .