Archive for the ‘education reform’ Category

Rogue leadership: Why we need to hold our school board representatives to higher ethical standards   1 comment

I have never minced words about the current attack on the public education system’s stakeholders, e.g., teachers, students, parents. Nor have I gone easy on educational ‘leaders.’ You know, the ones who make the executive decisions as they relate to discipline, instruction, testing, etc. Far too often, the little people are blamed for everything that ails public education despite the fact that, individually, they hold very little influence in how the machine runs. Let’s face it: Teachers can only control what happens within their respective classrooms, and sometimes they have very little (creative) control over that domain as well. Given the nature and scope of their responsibilities, our education ‘leaders’ should abide by a certain set of standards. After all, they are setting policies that will affect our children, teachers, school systems, and overall communities. How can we hand over such responsibilities to people who openly lie, publicly threaten television reporters, and willfully shirk their financial responsibilities to their own children?

Honestly, I didn’t think the shenanigans in Gwinnett County would continue after a group of teachers filed a formal complaint against the CEO, J. Alvin Wilbanks. The teachers were non-renewed at the end of the 2009-10 school year, supposedly for budget cuts, at least that is what the CEO stated in letters sent to each of them. Unfortunately, the budget cut excuse was scrapped in exchange for about ‘performance issues.’ As a result, many of those teachers have been unable to secure teaching positions in neighboring counties. To put this in context: Georgia is a ‘Right to Work’ state, meaning an employer can fire you simply because they do not like you, your hair, your clothes, or even if they woke-up on the wrong side of the bed on any given morning. Sadly, employees in this state have NO rights as many have been brainwashed led to believe that unions are the equivalent of the anti-Christ.

Are your elected officials more suited for a jail cell?

Imagine my surprise when I read the article in the AJC about a Gwinnett County school board member who was arrested for failure to pay child support to his ex-wife, a crime that could result in a misdemeanor/felony charge, fine, driver’s and professional license revocation, and/or jail time. The board member in question posted a $7,000 bond in exchange for his release. I am assuming that the bond went towards his delinquent child support payments. But here’s the million dollar question: If he had the $7,000 to post bond, why didn’t he use it to pay his child support? To me, his actions demonstrate that he willfully ignored his financial obligation to his children, who are students in the Gwinnett County Public School System. I cannot begin to imagine the embarrassment this incident caused his children. On a positive note, I am sure his ex-wife will appreciate getting the financial support she rightly deserves.

 

Your denial of the importance of true diversity to maintain the status quo doesn’t fool me   3 comments

Part of my (late) morning (or even afternoon) ritual is to read the Atlanta-Journal Constitution (AJC) for stories related to education. My first stop is usually the GetSchooled blog by Maureen Downey, then on to education articles by Aileen Dodd, as they often write on some interesting topics.  This morning there was an article written by Aileen that caught my eye: Broad Prize win makes diversity a focus in Gwinnett school board race.’   My interest is not solely motivated by the fact that it is election time (Subliminal Message: VOTE), but instead because I live in Gwinnett County and my kids attend school here. If you read my blog on a regular basis then you know I am not one to mince words when it comes to the school system. Yes, the district recently won the Broad Prize in Urban Education, but that does not exclude this district from having issues regarding race, disparities in the number and severity of disciplinary actions against minority students, or even the overrepresentation of minority students receiving services through Special Education. I have written about these issues time and time again. Sadly, it appears that only minorities (and a handful of White people) are genuinely concerned about the ramifications of these institutionally racist (yes, that is the correct application of the word racist) policies because we are the only ones to voice concerns. But I take offense at people who try to deny the importance of diversity, especially within a county and school district that is now majority-minority.

A few weeks ago, Maureen wrote a blog post based on interviews she conducted with the two school board candidates for District 4 in Gwinnett County: Dr. Robert McClure and Mark Williams. Dr. McClure does not have a web site or Facebook page. I assume he never created them because he has almost always ran uncontested. McClure, like many other people within the community, denies that the board lacks diversity. All five board members are White and have served for many years. (Side Note: One of the members is fairly old; I could swear I saw her doze off during a board meeting.) Williams stated that it would be impossible for staff and leadership to truly reflect the community. He did add this: ‘However, you can put in place a staff and leadership that respects the broad range of diversity that exists in the county.’ Kinda sounds like he wants to say diversity matters, but he may be weary of directly doing so because it may cost him some votes. Newsflash: The people who live in District 4 fall into two groups: Those who are aware of their own diversity and those who have tried to run from it. We know that there are more Black and Latino families in this community; we see it everyday. No one will fault you for acknowledging that the district has not done enough to keep up with its rapidly-changing, demographics. Denying the significance of and need for diversity makes about as much sense as Barack Obama denying the significance of his blackness…oh wait, he did allude to that, didn’t he? OK, bad example.

I will not repeat my concerns with this district or its leaders because I am starting to sound like a broken record. It is a sad commentary that incendiary and culturally insensitive remarks can be made by education leaders without ramifications. It’s even more dangerous to reward those same leaders with million dollar prizes and accolades. Your acknowledgement of their achievements should not come at the expense of excusing their bouts with foot-in-mouth disease or offending the very people for whom the district received credit in assisting (closing the opportunity gap). As long as school board elections are low on the list of priorities of most voters, this district’s leadership will continue to move forward, business as usual. The same homogeneous group will continue to make decisions for a group of vastly different children, without input from parents, experts on diversity issues, or without consideration for the reality that holding an office for an extended period does not mean you are the most qualified individual for the job. It simply means that you have been a member of this community longer and, therefore, possess more name recognition than someone who may actually bring a diverse viewpoint and new ideas to the table. Winning a monetary prize does not exclude you from being respectful of diversity, the manner in which your system has continuously failed students with Special Needs (check the dismal numbers), or addressing the obvious disciplinary disparities between Black, Latino, and White students.

By all means, winning money is simply a means to maintaining the status quo. Interpret as you wish.

How do we reward anti-reform efforts? Why with $1 million dollars, of course.   1 comment

If you haven’t heard already, the Gwinnett County Public School System was awarded the big kitty in the Broad Prize for Urban Education competition yesterday, or the day before-I forget. Anywho, I have blogged about this same district a number of times, including this post on encouraging parental disengagement and this one on how kids get lost in monolithic schools-or how personnel drop the ball, or even this one highlighting the obvious lack of accessible school choice options.  Now don’t get me wrong: $1 million dollars is a whole lotta money. The kids who will benefit from the scholarships are definitely deserving of those funds, but we cannot let the cash flow distract us from the other ‘stuff’ that is happening in this, and other ‘urban’ districts across the country. (Since I am generally always long-winded in my posts, I will opt to use bulleted lists this time. You’re welcome!)

Consider these facts about the Gwinnett County Public School System:

  • For approximately the past 7-10 years, the racial/ethnic demographics have changed significantly, yet school personnel (excluding custodians, cooks, & bus drivers) have failed to reflect those changes. For the 2008-09 school year, Gwinnett had a student enrollment of 156,484. Of that number: 28% were Black, 22% Latino, 11% were Special Needs (SWD), 15% were ELL, and 46% were eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch (FARL). When we consider the ‘diversity’ of the teaching and administrative staff, the picture changes significantly. With regard to teachers, 14.7% and 2.3% respectively, were Black and Latino. The only reflection we see of ‘urbanism’ within this district is the student enrollment, I guess.
  • During that same year, the district’s Special Education population was 21,202. Of that number 33.7% were Black and 20.2% were Latino. Basically, more than half of the Special Education population was comprised of students from minority groups. Their combined representation in this group exceeded their combined representation in the total student population. Hmmmm.I still don’t know how that’s possible, considering the fact that those two groups comprised exactly 50% of the student population. I may need a mathematician to explain that one to me.
  • Based on those numbers we know that Black and Latino kids aren’t in the Gifted Education program. How do I know this? Well, of the 22,138 students enrolled in the Gifted Education program, 12.9% were Black and 6.5% were Latino. I don’t know about you, but that makes one heck of a statement (to me). It says that Black and Latino kids are more suited for Special Education than Gifted Education programs. If the district wanted to project a different message, then it would use some/one of the alternate assessments recommended by the Georgia Department of Education. There are several available that were developed to account for the cultural and linguistic differences of Black and Latino children. But that’s just my .02 cents. What do I know anyway?
  • 3rd grade students identified as belonging to one of the AYP subgroups (Black/Latino/ELL/SWD/FARL) lagged behind White and Asian students on the state’s Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT). For example, on the Reading test, the Failure Rates were 7-23% higher for those in the AYP subgroups. Students with Disabilities fared the worst on all sections of the test. Remember, the majority of the district’s Students with Disabilities were (and still are) Blacks and Latinos.

Here are some things that the foundation’s judges should have given at least a little consideration:

  • The district was the first to file a lawsuit challenging the state’s Charter School Commission, citing that the state did not have the authority to divert funds from local districts to charter schools (which would have been a part of the district if the old-heads knew the first thing about charter schools). How can you credit a district with doing a superb job at closing the opportunity gap, while they essentially eliminate accessible school choice options for the families that cannot afford to live in $300K+ homes? It’s a sad state of affairs when your zip code determines the quality of your school, within the same district. The differences are not quite as drastic as those highlighted in Kozol’s Savage Inequalities, but they do exist. I would love for my kids to have access to a robotics program and curriculum, but I cannot afford to purchase a home in the community where the school is located.
  • Some of the current board members have been serving for almost as long as I have breathed air into my lungs…that’s a long time. They hardly ever go out into their communities. They are not current on best practices or real school reform initiatives. Yes, school boards are important because they make decisions that affect our kids and our schools. They have been instrumental at blocking efforts to offer school choice in communities where families do not have the means to afford private school tuition or to drive 30+ minutes out of their way for one of the more affluent schools offering permissive transfers. Is that how the Broad Foundation envisions change and improvement?
  • The district’s superintendent has not minced words about his feelings on the Special Education population, referring to the department as the ‘albatross around the neck of public education.’ After that debacle one would think that the district’s spokesperson would get a better handle on the superintendent’s public statements, but nooooooooo. Back in 2008 this fool leader had the audacity to ask, in an open school board meeting, ‘Do they even have Blacks in Idaho?’ He made that comment in context of conversation regarding handling disciplinary issues involving Black and Latino students. There were (and still are) repeated allegations that the district unfairly punishes Black and Latino students. I would like to invoke the sentiments of Jay-Z here: ‘Men lie. Women Lie. Numbers don’t lie.’ (O.K. so it’s probably not his quote but he is the person I heard use it.) Well, the local NAACP investigated and sure enough, they found that Black and Latino students, namely males, were (are) more likely to be suspended or expelled, even when White students commit the same offenses. Hmmmmm. Regardless of the point the superintendent tried to make, what old, grown arse person, especially one who leads the largest school district in the state, would utter those words? What you do on your own time, down at the ‘lodge’ with your buddies is your business; however, in your capacity as a public school official you should know better. But I have to keep in mind the location and thought-processes (or lack thereof) of some of these folks…
  • The system is still very much segregated. The district has no measures in place to address that issue and most of the schools in low-to moderate income communities are overcrowded, with no relief plans in place.
  • There was no input from parents. That sounds an awful lot like the recent one-sided conversations held on education reform. No one wants to hear what the parents think. As I meet more and more people (from all races and parts of the community), I am learning that there are a lot of unhappy people here. Sadly, the majority of us are stuck due to the horrible housing market or by the fact that our kids are nearing the end of their high school careers.

Oh well, we have yet another example of why test scores should not be use as the only measurement of achievement/closing of the opportunity gap. I guess looking at the real issues makes the Broad Foundation more uncomfortable than it does Guggenheim. But what do I know?

 

Do I offend your sensibilities when I talk about race?   3 comments

So (late) last night I decided to embark on a 24-hour Twitter fast after reading a testimony from @CandiceNicolePR. She openly shared how so many things had gone wrong during the past fews months, but then, almost suddenly things started to work in her favor. As I thought about her and her refusal to give up (even though she came close), I thought: I really need to take a break, sit and reflect on some things because I have been waiting for answers/direction for a very long time. And that’s exactly what I did today: No logging in to Twitter or Facebook. Instead, I rested and thought. For those of you who don’t know me, that’s code for I slept. All day, save for the few disturbances by the ringing cell phone. (FYI: You will see this post on Twitter, but I won’t be online until 12:01 AM)

When I finally got out of bed, I checked homework then logged in to check my email. Despite my protest last week, I read the contribution to the Huffington Post by my friend @TheJLV. Jose honestly tackled an issue that has become a talking piece amongst psuedo-edreformers, such as Arne Duncan: Increasing the numbers of Black and Latino male teachers. What’s really interesting is that I engaged in a conversation (not debate, not argument) with @rugcernie on Twitter last night on the same topic. But Jose’s piece made me think of the bigger picture: Race and its role in education, edreform, and everything ed-related. I couldn’t help but think about the blog post I wrote after I was shafted overlooked by the Huffington Post. Why are some people so obviously uncomfortable with talking about race? Better yet, why do some people get offended (defensive) when others discuss it?

PSA: If my frank discussions about race and class offend you, STOP READING! For those with a healthy and realistic view of the way things really work in this country, grab a seat and a snack because this one will be a little lengthy. A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post on my perception on what I (key word) perceived to be a dismissive/rude/unprofessional handling of my request to write for the Huffington Post’s Education Blog Special. Like other recent news and media outlets, like Education Nation, the online news outlet decided to dedicate a section of its web to discussing issues related to Education. To its credit, however, the Huffington POst did do a much better job at selecting a few good writers (@TheJLV and @TeacherSabrina). On the other hand, they mirrored the Education Nation’s efforts (or apathy) in selecting some parents (with actual school-age children, who attend public schools) to contribute to the dialogue. In every recent debate or teacher-union bashing event, the voices of parents have been silenced. More specifically, the voices of Black and Latino parents. I can’t help but wonder if, I were a parent with less than a college degree (or three) and a proclamation that I am willing to do whatever necessary to ensure that my kids attend college, would they have accepted me? Silly me! I thought someone was genuinely interested in hearing diverse perspectives, even those from single parents, a.k.a., the downfall of the family unit and public education. I guess not.

I continued to think….then felt that there were a few things I needed to say, in reference to some of the comments left on that blog post.

1. At no point in that blog did I say that the Huffington Post did not choose me because I am Black or a single parent. I simply inferred that they are no more interested in the parental perspective than Education Nation, Rhee, Klein, Duncan, or Gates… Black teachers, a little. But Black parents, not so much. The same applies to Latino teachers and parents.

2. The title I chose for that post, ‘Ain’t I a woman…’ was a play on words and one of my (many) attempts at sarcasm (Definition: a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual). By the way, my insertion of the definition of sracasm was also an excellent example of sarcasm. That’s how I roll: Go with the flow or get ran over. (Seriously) More importantly, if you didn’t recognize from whence the paraphrased title came, STOP reading this blog and go read this! I felt that my Blackness and my status as a mother were of little to no significance to the organizers of Education Nation. Being overlooked by Huffington Post magnified those feelings. So yeah, I was a little pissed. I had and have every right to be. How dare anyone assert themselves as leaders in Education, the ones ‘chosen’ to educate my kids, but not give any consideration to my viewpoint or what I can contribute to the discussion. The unmitigated gall!

But here’s what really ires me (I promise, I am almost done): People, Black, White, Latino, and everything in between, who refuse to acknowledge that the educational disparities we witness in present day, are in fact, directly correlated to race, which is directly correlated to the history of this country and every institution within it. Believe me, it’s a vicious cycle and it will not be broken until we have the courage to openly acknowledge and challenge what’s wrong, how we can fix it, and who needs to be involved in rebuilding it, whatever ‘it’ may be.

So, my question still stands: ‘Ain’t I a Black parent who wants to improve education? Or is that not good enough for the Huff Post? But in all fairness, I will make an addendum and include the U.S. Department of Education, Arne Duncan, Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Joel Klein, and that woman. I guess if I decided to rile up some other ‘militant’ Black parents and start our own forum on education reform, someone would take me seriously. Doesn’t matter because I know what they spend millions to figure out. For the time being, that’s entertainment enough for me. So yeah, I’m a whole lotta woman.

It’s official: Some people really don’t know what they are doing   1 comment

Yesterday (and the day before) I kinda ranted about the latest debacle at South Gwinnett High School (population ~2,800), where my oldest is a 9th/10th grader (will explain that later). He came home Wednesday and started his usual routine: Homework, snack, and asking me random questions that seem to come out of nowhere (he’s a Gemini). So I am sitting on the couch watching tv and he walks into the room and asks:

Boy Wonder: Hey Mamma, do colleges look at whether or not you take the PSAT?

Me: Why?

Boy Wonder: Well, because they took it today and my name wasn’t on the list.

Me: What? (More of a ‘You have GOT TO BE F*&@%$# kidding me’ tone) How do you know your name wasn’t on the list?

Boy Wonder: The teacher asked the class if they knew where they would be during testing and my name wasn’t on the list.

Me: Well, I emailed the school back in August to find out the date and whether or not you would be able to take it. They told me as long as you were there on testing day you would. Don’t worry about it, I got it.

So, in my usual form I started researching and re-reading my email communications with the school. [SIDE NOTE: For those of you who think email communication is too impersonal (or are worried about how you will be perceived by school officials, all I can say is…whateva.) An email paper trail can be the difference between your child(ren) getting screwed or getting the things to which they are entitled. You choose]. Just as I thought: I did send the initial email in August because I wanted to know about both the PSAT and End-of-Course Tests (EOCT) that my son would have to take. Because he was home schooled during his freshman year, the district requires him to take the EOCT for both Algebra and Physical Science in order to get credit. I don’t have a problem with the policy as much as I do the manner in which the counselor spoke to us during registration. Read this post to see what else South Gwinnett got wrong that day.  In fact, when she told us that he would have to take the tests, I looked at him and said, ‘Don’t worry about it. You know the material and you can ace those two just like the one you took in 9th Grade Literature.’ Unfortunately, the school couldn’t get their at together: I asked for EOCT testing dates on more than one occasion and was told that they would let him know when he would be tested. Guess what? He was supposed to test in August and September. The school sent home a tint square piece of paper, stating that they forgot to get him for testing and, with my permission, he could test in October. Well, today is October 15 and he hasn’t received any information about testing yet. I sure wish I could make $60k+ for half-arse developing a school-wide testing calendar/system.

Now don’t get me wrong: It may seem like I nit-pick over the little things, but I don’t. If I did, I would have something to blog about everyday-on this particular school alone! I let a lot of little things slide because sometimes it’s just not worth the headache. However, when you speak to me (one of my kids) or interact with me in a manner I deem condescending or disrespectful, you damn well better have your SHAT in order because if you don’t, I will check you. Both publicly and privately. But as I said here and on Twitter, people make assumptions about others based on the manner in which they are dress, where they live, the color of their skin, and especially if their children do not have the same last name as their parents. Yes, petty but people do it everyday…and more so if the mom is not wearing a wedding ring. But that’s o.k. because I enjoy watching people turn five shades of red when I start responding and asking questions using the education lingo…. Then they start fidgeting when I tell them I used to teach (in Georgia) AND I have my Ed.S.; most of them have a Master’s, but I digress…..

Needless to say I copied and compiled all the email communications regarding testing and sent a message to the principal…and the assistant to the superintendent. So I wasn’t very surprised when I received an email at 8:49 PM from the principal, stating ‘…We will then move forward with trying to resolve the issue.’ Not sure how they can resolve it since the PSAT is only administered on 2 days the entire year, but we’ll see.


Ain’t I a Black parent who wants to improve education? Or is that not good enough for the Huff Post?   14 comments

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

So I had the weekend (and part of today) to work through my frustration and anger regarding the manner in which staff at the Huffington Post handled my request to write for their Education Blog special this month. The initial email and ensuing responses are below.

From Me to Them:

Good afternoon,

A Twitter friend ( @ReadyWriting) suggested that I contact you regarding writing for the upcoming Education section of the Huffington Post. Could you provide some additional information on the guidelines and criteria please? I am very interested in this opportunity, as the parent-teacher voice has been silenced in recent Education dialog efforts.

Below are some links to a few blogs/articles I have written:

My personal blog: https://educationceo.wordpress.com/

Contributions to Race-Talk blog (Kirwan Institute);

‘Black women in Education: Do our voices count?’

”Don’t blame the drop-outs, blame the outdated education system’

Examiner.com: Atlanta Education Reform Examiner

I would also like to add that I have approximately 2,300 followers on Twitter. Not quite celebrity status, but not bad for an unemployed single mother (and former teacher) who only started seriously tweeting earlier this year!

Thank you in advance for your consideration!

Sincerely,

~Monise

An email sent from D.G. to T (with a Cc: to myself):

T

Let me know any next steps to take with this one. Thanks!

– Show quoted text – (The initial email I sent, which is above.)


D.G.

Associate Editor

The Huffington Post Impact

Causecast.org

Second email from D.G. to Me (same day):

Dear Monise,

Thank you for showing your interest! People interested in blogging for the Education section are asked to send in a brief bio for review by our editorial staff. If we feel you could contribute to our section we will get back to you as soon as possible.

To familiarize you with the expectations we have for our section and our bloggers I have provided you a bit of information below. If you have any other questions or concerns please feel free to contact me.

Best,

D

_____________

HuffPost Education, launching Monday, October 4, will serve as a hub for prominent educators, celebrities, politicians and other influential voices to discuss successes and failures in the American K-12 public school system. This is a great opportunity to share your opinions about education and education reform and to encourage readers to get involved. We want to inspire thoughtful discussion about education, spur innovation in the field, recognize great teachers and provide tools and information for ordinary Americans to make a difference for their local schools.

Like the Impact section launched last fall, Causecast has partnered with The Huffington Post to develop the Education section.

By providing unique content (text or video) either regularly or as an occasional guest contributor on this platform, bloggers will be able to share their message with millions of active Huffington Post readers who are looking to be inspired and get involved. HuffPost Education will feature blog posts from teachers, students, education reformers, nonprofit leaders, politicians and celebrities and provide clear calls-to-action for readers looking to get directly involved with the issues discussed. Contributors will include Arianna Huffington, Davis Guggenheim, Rosario Dawson, Geoffrey Canada, Joy Bryant and numerous other individuals passionate about improving education in America.

HuffPost Education presents an exciting opportunity to build a community centered around education topics on one of world’s most active news blogs. To build a strong relationship with your HuffPost readers, we encourage you to contribute regularly. This is the best way to maximize your effectiveness on the platform.

So here is my issue: First of all, I didn’t quite appreciate to the reference ‘this one,’ regardless of the intended context. For the record, I don’t like ‘You people,’ ‘Those people,’ and any other derogatory terms/statements. Second, look at this line (yes the response was canned, but it speaks volumes about the lack of respect that everyone has shown for the parents):

HuffPost Education, launching Monday, October 4, will serve as a hub for prominent educators, celebrities, politicians and other influential voices to discuss successes and failures in the American K-12 public school system.

Did you happen to notice who was missing from the line-up? The same group that was missing from Education Nation and the talk show circuits during the past 2 weeks: Parents. No, not the kind like Guggenheim who can afford private schools for their kids, but the kind like me who sacrificed a lot to buy our first home within a school district known for its (supposedly) excellent schools. Me, who when backed into a corner and threatened to choose my job or my child’s well-being, chose my child and now cannot get another teaching job in the state of Georgia. Me, who is suffering because I cannot do what I love-what I was called to do. Me who realizes that I would rather struggle alone in calling attention to the Johnny-Come-Latelys who don’t know a damn thing about Public Education, must less how to relate to people like me. Like I said before, money does not buy you the experience. Sleeping with a Black man does not buy you the experience. There is no substitute for experience. Sorry, I don’t make the rules. It is what it is.

But despite the elitism and condescension, I knew that I could count on someone (@readtoday) for support and a little hell-raising. To her words and constant support, I say this:

‘In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’ ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

And in keeping with who I am and knowing whose I am, I will embark upon my own little boycott of the Huffington Post and any other media rag that choose to continue to ignore the voices of those who have the most at stake in this game of Russian Roulette disguised as education reform. Yes, I know I will be alone but that’s how I came into this world and I am sure that is the same manner in which I will leave. But you know what? I am ok with that because when I have to answer for what I did/did not know do, I know that my actions/words will not have been in vain.

Don’t put your faith in man…….or fictitious superheros   1 comment

DISCLAIMER: I usually post a bunch of links to stuff I reference in my blog. Once you start reading you will see that the topic has been beat like a dead horse (Oh wait, can I say that?) so there’s no need to repeat….everything is on the Internet.

For those of you who clicked the link thinking you would read my .02 on that popular mega-church preacher in Atlanta, you are sorely mistaken. But, since you took the time to click the link, you might as well sit a spell and read what I have to say. If nothing else, my words will compel you to think about some of the people whom you admire(d) and examine why you do so in the first place.

The past week we were bombarded with advertising for the much-anticipated (by some people) movie, ‘Waiting for Superman,’ which provides an inside view (for some people) on the state of public education. We saw Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Geoffrey Canada, and others parading around the media circuit to both promote the movie and their agendas. For those of you wondering: No, I have not seen the movie. And for good reasons:

  1. I am gainfully unemployed and have been so for 3.5 years. I can think of about five others things that are more deserving of my $10-12 dollars than a movie which I could have easily written, if I were in the business of pimping showing how kids and parents are stuck without quality school choice options;
  2. I do not need a movie to show me what I already know. Unlike Gates, Oprah, Guggenheim, and (fill-in-the-blank), I have classroom experience, both as a Special Education Paraprofessional and Teacher. In urban schools. Title I schools. Where kids came to school hungry, sleepy, unclean, without school supplies, etc. for a number of reasons. But no judgement because I, unlike the afore-mentioned people, talked to the students, not at or about them as if they were subjects in some science experiment. Big difference. I knew what they dealt with when they left the building.
  3. I don’t trust too many Hollywood movies, especially when people are portraying us (at least people who look like me) as downtrodden and on the brink of whatever, instead of investing into something more meaningful and immediate. Sure, Guggenheim will win an Oscar/Emmy/Whatever but what else will change? Exactly. Next year it will be a different movie. By some other person privileged enough to send their kids to private school. Whatever.

I have more reasons, but that is not the impetus for this blog…maybe later though. So, as people have bum-rushed theaters to see this move, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and online media outlets have been ablaze with stories of snottin, boo-hooin, and carrying on. Wow. Imagine that? Grown folks crying because they saw a 90 minute movie about the conditions of our public schools. I wonder how many stopped to ask themselves: ‘O.K., what about the other 75,510 minutes (180 days x 7 hours a day x 60 minutes for those who are mathematically challenged) that the kids are in school? Should I cry for those minutes/days/weeks/months too? Are the conditions the same?’ But no, they are not asking those questions because, like millions of other Americans, temporary outrage will suffice.  Yeah, I said it. Your outrage is temporary. Please do not mistake my honesty for cynicism or lack of compassion. I spent many days sitting in my classroom (and driving home) crying because I felt like there was so much more that needed to be done for students, but I just did not have the resources, connections, or pedigree to meet those needs. In fact, I still cry for my students because I wonder if they are: (1) alive; (2) incarcerated; (3) employed; and (4) if they ever went to college, as I stressed on a daily basis. But my kids deserved and got more than 90 minutes of sympathy from me. FACT.

I have never been one to shy away from a debate. And I am sure people will dissect and attack what I have written, anonymously, of course, by way of blog comments. And that’s fine. But I know what I know (and have seen) and no one can take that away from me. Or convince me to see ‘it’ from a different perspective. I have been both teacher and parent, working within crappy systems where Greek and church affiliations, or minstreling/Tomming/Shuckin & Jivin clear the path to administrative jobs, even if you cannot string together a complete sentence (Ex: The words tomorrow, yesterday, next (day of the week) DO NOT need to be preceded with ‘on’), or you lack the most basic people skills. By people skills, I do not mean that everyone has to like you, but if students are calling you ‘Bitch,’ ‘Dumbass,’ and ‘Motherfucker,’ then clearly you lack the ability to command/gain respect. In your attempt to deflect the obvious lack of respect from students, you belittle and disrespect the very people you need to help run the school, even at the most basic level of functionality. Sound familiar? She’s not the only one.

I am putting forth this challenge to those of you who have been ‘enlightened’ by this movie. Here are some things Iwould like you to consider when telling others how they should feel about the movie or playing writer and penning a blog, when you obviously don’t have a damn clue as to how to function in a classroom (Did you catch Tony Danza’s crying spell on Oprah? He played the role of teacher for a year and couldn’t hack it.)

  1. What do you think is the real underlying motivation for these people giving millions of dollars to improve Education for these poor little Black and Brown kids? Don’t be too quick to answer this one because you just may get it wrong. If you studied psychology, then you probably know the real answer. Not so much to do with Education directly though. The bible warns: ‘Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.’ (Matthew 7:15) Some people’s good intentions may be fueled by their desires to mend their battered public images, or convince the wayward sheep (and school districts) to continue buying their products. Besides, good deeds should not come with stipulations attached, under any circumstances. (I just realized that argument is suitable for merit pay too….)
  2. If the philanthropists are genuinely concerned about addressing the underlying issues affecting Education, then wouldn’t it make more sense to address those issues and not just the schools? If you know that 98% of the kids in a district receive Free and Reduced Lunch, why not start a Farmer’s Market in the school or community so that parents can buy affordable (fresh) fruits and vegetables for their kids? Then, you could offer nutrition classes at the school and within the community so that parents understand the importance of a balanced meal. After all, healthy eating habits are linked to academic achievement. Well, at least that’s what the experts say…
  3. Affordable (free) after-school enrichment and remediation programs. See #2.
  4. Academically rich summer programs. See #2.
  5. Healthcare. See #2.

Do I really need to present more examples? I know the writing is a little harder for some to see than others, but I think I have made my point. For those of you who are quick to say, ‘Well, Rhee has done some great things in D.C. so she really needs to stay on to continue her work,’ I present these questions for you to consider:

  1. Do you, based on everything you have learned as a teacher/parent/whatever, honestly believe that she isthe best person to lead that district? Given everything that has transpired publicly (because many obviously don’t know about the under-handed stuff she’s been able to cover-up), do you honestly, deep down inside, believe that she can move the district forward? Usually leaders that have generated such (warranted) animosity amongst employees and other stakeholders are unsuccessful at implementing change that people can believe in and whole-heartedly support. Yes, those things are important. That does not mean they all have to participate in sleepovers at her house or buy Christmas gifts, but an environment free of fear and distrust is imperative if genuine teaching and learning are to occur. Leadership 101. Just ask any leader who has been successful at leading a school or profitable company….
  2. Are you going along with the status quo in hopes of being recognized (on Twitter, nonetheless) and holding out hope that one day, someone may offer you a key position within their organization? I have been reading Tweets very closely and too many people have far too few facts to be her (or any edreformer’s) biggest cheerleader. Every story has three sides: His/her sides and the truth. Like that New York philosopher Jay-Z says (paraphrases, whatever): ‘Men Lie. Women lie. Numbers don’t lie.’ In this case, congressional reports don’t lie.
  3. Can we really trust a person who falsely accuses teachers of abusing students when she herself admitted to putting masking tape on the mouths of 2nd graders? No, this was not some science experiment. Apparently she had become frustrated with the noise and thought it would be a good idea to turn this into a game. I guess the crying kids with bleeding lips alerted her that it was not fun. At least not for the students. If you do not possess basic classroom management skills, how in the hell are we supposed to trust that you can manage teachers, staff, and students? It’s obvious she can’t manage the parents because they voted her boss (and hopefully her) out of office.

Your answers really aren’t that important (to me) because you do not have to answer to me in the end. But if you had to re-consider your stance on any of the above questions, then I certainly hope you are not a classroom teacher or a parent. More importantly, you do not have enough first-hand experience to interject comments of merit into this debate because you are clearly out of touch with my reality and that of millions of parents and teachers across the country. Before you position yourself over the keyboard to type a tersely written response, consider this: No check, no matter the size, can buy you an experience or a real sense of what people have been/are going through. They call it compensation for a reason. Mocking the Black vernacular to share an experience with new teachers or covering-up for your handsy Black boyfriend will not earn you a ‘homegirl’ card. They call it compensation for a reason. (BTW: I just answered the second #1 for you. You’re welcome)

So in this edreform circus, short men with little feet have been replaced by rich, White (mostly) men with big checkbooks who, undoubtedly, are looking at this with the ‘What’s in it for me?’ angle? There’s always something in it for someone….

Before I conclude today’s sermon I would like to take-up a ‘love offering’ because I do believe I took at least one person to chuuch with this blog post. Thank you and God bless!