An American educator who founded two black-focused schools believes the concept can work in Toronto, but he says the plan shouldn't be rushed.

"If you don't do it well in the beginning, it will not be successful," Howard Fuller, professor of education at Marquette University in Milwaukee, told CTV Toronto.

He said during his tenure as superintendent for the Milwaukee School Board, members welcomed the idea for African-centred alternative schools with open arms.

The board opened a middle school and elementary school, but the former has since closed because of declining enrolment.

"The fact is there were good parts about it, but over time it was not successful," Fuller said.

The elementary school is still open, but Fuller admits there are problems with student achievement.

Despite the struggles, he believes the concept of an African-centred school is beneficial. But Fuller says the proposal should be examined thoroughly.

"You have to have a school that concentrates on academics, above anything else," he said.

"You have to have a school that will give teachers ongoing training so that they can get better at what they do. You have to have a school that respects the children and the communities that these students come from."

The Toronto District School Board proposal for a black-focused school has been met with both criticism and praise.

Some parents are enraged, saying the initiative is a dangerous throwback to the days of segregation.

But proponents, which include parents, community leaders and educators, support the concept. They say the current curriculum is failing the city's black youth.

More than half of black male teens at Toronto's public schools haven't earned the 16 credits required by the end of Grade 10, according to the school board.

Supporters say an African-centred alternative school would lower the dropout rate of young black males.

Some parents say an African-centred school with black teachers and role models would help black youths graduate and succeed.

The school board's proposal calls for a school from junior kindergarten to Grade 8 that would have more black teachers, mentors and a stronger focus on students' heritage.

The school would teach the Ontario curriculum and have more parent involvement. If the idea is approved, the black-focused school could open as early as next fall.

Meanwhile, the school board is planning a meeting this month with parents to discuss the plan, but a date has not yet been set.

With a report from CTV Toronto's Galit Solomon