Local School Dedicates Library to Ogletree

A Cambridge charter school dedicated its library and media center last night to Climenko Professor of Law Charles J. Ogletree Jr. and his wife Pamela, in recognition of their efforts on behalf of the institution.

School officials said they hope the Ogletree Libarary and Media Center will become a repository for a collection of works about African-American scientists.

The Center is intended to serve as an information outlet for students regarding African-American figures and careers in the sciences, said Harriet Tolpin, co-chair of the school’s board of trustees.

The Banneker School, which opened its doors in September 1996, seeks to provide low-income students between kindergarten and eighth grade with a strong foundation in math, science and technology. The school’s namesake was an 18th-century African-American science and math scholar.

Both the Cambridge City Council and the state government issued official proclamations declaring that the facility is to be named the Ogletree Library and Media Center.

Speakers said the Ogletrees have played an instrumental role in the school since plans for Banneker were conceived in December 1992.

“They have contributed enormously to the Banneker School and the community at large,” said state legislator Alice K. Wolf.

Pamela Ogletree, recently appointed to the school’s board, once went so far as to assist teachers in its classrooms. Charles Ogletree, who gives his wife credit for leading him to the Banneker, has been an active fundraiser for the school, according to former board chair Scott Darling.

Ogletree said he was drawn to continue his work with the school in part by a desire to appease parents frustrated with the public school system.

“We heard from a lot of parents about their frustrations with how kids were being treated in public schools,” he said, adding that he wanted to change conceptions about the ability of minority students to learn math and science.

“We want to dispel the myth that math and science are so challenging that minority students can’t handle them,” Charles Ogletree said.

Having attended a public school himself, the professor said he sought to ensure that low-income Cambridge students could receive a state-funded education that would prepare them for what he deemed the challenges of the 21st century. Combating these challenges requires a strong background in math, science and technology, he said.

Darling summed up the school’s mission in terms of the late Banneker’s philosophy on education.

“The color of the skin is no way connected to the strength of the mind or intellectual powers,” Banneker once wrote.