Archive for the ‘Baruti Kafele’ Tag

Blacks, Latinos & Public Education: Who will be our voice?   4 comments

Several weeks ago, BlackEd (Thursdays, 9 PM EST – shameless plug) launched on Twitter. It is an opportunity for parents, teachers, and community members to ‘meet’ once a week and discuss different issues regarding the education of Black students. The interest has grown and I am glad to see many non-minorities actively participate in the discussions each week. However, I will admit that a medium such as BlackEd is long overdue and we have a lot of ground to cover. Here is my concern: Once we discuss these issues, how do we take what we have learned and apply it to the classrooms and communities in which we live? Better yet: How many of us actually have the power (or politics/money) to apply what we learn to the classrooms where our kids spend 6-8 hours each day? What if our communities do not want us to improve education for our kids, and instead, block our efforts at every turn? Now pose those same questions to our Latino brothers and sisters, who are trying to find ways to address the same issues for their children. It becomes very overwhelming, but we must do something now rather than later. Too many of our kids are dropping out, everyday. Too many of our kids are short-changed by the institution of public education. Too many of our kids are conditioned to become criminals and delinquents; not enough of them are trained to become doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. How do we fix this?

During the past few weeks I have limited the amount of time spent on Twitter in an attempt to figure out what I am supposed to be doing with my life and the amount of information swirling around in my head. Another reason for my Twitter ‘fast’ has been to avoid reading all of the education rhetoric that is tweeted and retweeted. Sometimes that amount of verbiage b.s. is just too much… I have also learned not to even comment on some stuff because, well, some people post things just to make themselves feel/seem important. As I watched the dialogue last night, I couldn’t help but wonder: If I were a man (first White, then Black), would I have fewer problems working in the Education system? It seems to me that the majority of those in positions to make important decisions have different genitalia. We could say the same words, in the same manner but I know no one would take me seriously or even listen for that matter. Do I really need to jump on the ‘blame the parents, teachers, or unions’ bandwagon to make things happen? Should I follow in that woman’s footsteps and start sleeping with men in powerful positions to gain entrée into leadership roles? Would I ever be able to go into a suburban school, fire all the (Black and ineffective) teachers and then accuse them of abusing children knowing that my job is protected because Gates and Broad believe that I am increasing test scores? Hmmmm…I doubt it.

Yes, we have a few Black and Latino leaders in education, but I can’t help but wonder if they actually believe everything they say? Do they really believe that blaming parents is productive and necessary? Or do they say those things to appease White people, e.g., district officials who call the shots? I can’t help but wonder why Pedro Noguera is not a household name (in households other than those with Latino names, that is). Why have we not seen him or Baruti Kafele featured on NBC Nightly News or 60 Minutes? Who will speak for the Black and Latino children? There is only so much information you can obtain from research articles and longitudinal studies. At some point, someone needs to ask a Latino how to serve his or her community effectively. At some point, someone needs to ask a Black, single parent what kinds of programs s/he needs to help their kids succeed in Math and Reading. Who will speak for us? Better yet, why won’t they let us speak for ourselves? Afterall, asking someone from a privileged middle-class background to represent kids from Southwest Atlanta is like asking me to be a spokesperson for the Asian community. And we all know that will never happen.

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Dear Celebrities: Public education needs your ‘celebrity’   1 comment

Gazillionaire Oprah Winfrey recently donated $1.5 million dollars to the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, GA. I applaud Ms. Winfrey’s commitment to improving educational options, especially for students from low-income families as they tend to get fed the short-end of the stick. There has been a great deal of fanfare around Ms. Winfrey’s donation, as there was this time last year when she sent Ron Clark a check for $365,000. I will admit that I was a bit envious: Of the donation, not the donor. As a staunch advocate of quality education, school choice, and increasing access to the arts, I would have been so gracious that I may have actually broken out in song-and-dance (the sarcasm is back). Seriously, this time last year our organization was nearing the 30-day deadline we were given to raise $1 million dollars if our charter petition was to receive consideration for approval. That’s an entirely different blog in and of itself…Any way, I can truly understand Mr. Clark’s enthusiasm upon receiving that check, but more so the one he received this week. I would like to attempt to explain some of the criticism surrounding Ms. Winfrey’s donation.

First, Ron Clark Academy is a private school, which means not everyone living in the school’s vicinity is afforded the opportunity to attend. As a private school, a limited number of students are able to attend. Furthermore, the ‘cost’ for educating each child is roughly $14,000, almost twice the amount alloted for public school children. I completely understand the school’s leader wanting to give children the best education possible, but I do not believe that it requires more money. Someone with Ron Clark’s connections could just as easily have started a public charter school and still received the same levels of donations and fundings as the private school. Why do I believe this? Well, the first reason is obvious for obvious reasons. Another reason is because Ron Clark was shown how to properly network and raise funds, as he traveled in the ‘right’ circles. For many grassroots educators, it has never been about the money or the recognition for that matter. It has been about giving back to their respective communities, leading by example, giving hope to students who may not otherwise have any or reason to believe they can change their circumstances through education.

Another issue of concern is this image of students singing and dancing all the time. As a lover of the arts, I completely understand the benefits of an arts-based education; however, art should not be limited to rapping. I have often vented about exposing kids to Mozart, Beethoven, or Vivaldi (my favorites). Better yet, why couldn’t the kids go to D.C. and recite a speech by W.E.B. DuBois or Martin Luther King, Jr.? Could they not have performed ‘We Shall Overcome’ or ‘Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing?’ Either selection would have been more appropriate. Why, you ask? Because Blacks are always (or at least 99% of the time) portrayed in commercials singing, dancing, or jive-talkin’ Sadly, that is how many people outside of our race perceive us. I can’t speak for every Black person in America, but I am tired of being stereotyped!

Lastly, I would like to offer my opinion (because I know it only matters to me, no one is going to consult me before making any major donations): There are a lot of kids who could have been served by a $250k donation from Ms. Winfrey. Recently, the Georgia Charter School Commission approved 7 of 21 charter petitions received from organizations. Of the 7 approved, I believe only 2 were submitted by grassroots organizations. What exactly does that mean? It means that management companies stand to make at least $1 million dollars for the first year that each of those other charter schools is in operation. That means approximately $5 million of Georgia tax-payer dollars will leave the state during the 2010-11 school year. As someone who has been unemployed, I know for a fact that if that money remained in Georgia a few more people would be able to return to work next year. Instead, those funds go to CEOs of those organizations, located elsewhere. Many of the grassroots organizers were told that they should seek the services of a management company, as the Commission did not think they were competent enough to handle school operations. If Ms. Winfrey (or some other celebrity) had donated $15K to each of those 14 organizers (non-profit), they could have used those funds to attend training on opening and operating a charter school, offered by the Georgia Charter Schools Association. Then she could have happily donated the remaining funds to the Ron Clark Academy which, by the way, charges for site visits. So much for ‘best practices,’ but I digress.

So what am I really trying to say? Well, in a nutshell: Celebrities, if we are to fix what is wrong with public education, we (the everyday, average Joes & Janes) are going to need your help! Now I know all of you can’t give $1.5 million like Oprah, but giving your time and lending your name (and face) would certainly help bring focus to our educational system. Better yet, the next time you are at the White House rubbing elbows with the Obamas, please tell them that there are everyday educators out here, like Dr. Steve Perry and Baruti Kafele, who are getting things done, sans the fanfare and million dollar donations. I am sure the students at their respective schools could use those funds wisely.

Dear Celebrities: Public education needs your 'celebrity'   1 comment

Gazillionaire Oprah Winfrey recently donated $1.5 million dollars to the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, GA. I applaud Ms. Winfrey’s commitment to improving educational options, especially for students from low-income families as they tend to get fed the short-end of the stick. There has been a great deal of fanfare around Ms. Winfrey’s donation, as there was this time last year when she sent Ron Clark a check for $365,000. I will admit that I was a bit envious: Of the donation, not the donor. As a staunch advocate of quality education, school choice, and increasing access to the arts, I would have been so gracious that I may have actually broken out in song-and-dance (the sarcasm is back). Seriously, this time last year our organization was nearing the 30-day deadline we were given to raise $1 million dollars if our charter petition was to receive consideration for approval. That’s an entirely different blog in and of itself…Any way, I can truly understand Mr. Clark’s enthusiasm upon receiving that check, but more so the one he received this week. I would like to attempt to explain some of the criticism surrounding Ms. Winfrey’s donation.

First, Ron Clark Academy is a private school, which means not everyone living in the school’s vicinity is afforded the opportunity to attend. As a private school, a limited number of students are able to attend. Furthermore, the ‘cost’ for educating each child is roughly $14,000, almost twice the amount alloted for public school children. I completely understand the school’s leader wanting to give children the best education possible, but I do not believe that it requires more money. Someone with Ron Clark’s connections could just as easily have started a public charter school and still received the same levels of donations and fundings as the private school. Why do I believe this? Well, the first reason is obvious for obvious reasons. Another reason is because Ron Clark was shown how to properly network and raise funds, as he traveled in the ‘right’ circles. For many grassroots educators, it has never been about the money or the recognition for that matter. It has been about giving back to their respective communities, leading by example, giving hope to students who may not otherwise have any or reason to believe they can change their circumstances through education.

Another issue of concern is this image of students singing and dancing all the time. As a lover of the arts, I completely understand the benefits of an arts-based education; however, art should not be limited to rapping. I have often vented about exposing kids to Mozart, Beethoven, or Vivaldi (my favorites). Better yet, why couldn’t the kids go to D.C. and recite a speech by W.E.B. DuBois or Martin Luther King, Jr.? Could they not have performed ‘We Shall Overcome’ or ‘Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing?’ Either selection would have been more appropriate. Why, you ask? Because Blacks are always (or at least 99% of the time) portrayed in commercials singing, dancing, or jive-talkin’ Sadly, that is how many people outside of our race perceive us. I can’t speak for every Black person in America, but I am tired of being stereotyped!

Lastly, I would like to offer my opinion (because I know it only matters to me, no one is going to consult me before making any major donations): There are a lot of kids who could have been served by a $250k donation from Ms. Winfrey. Recently, the Georgia Charter School Commission approved 7 of 21 charter petitions received from organizations. Of the 7 approved, I believe only 2 were submitted by grassroots organizations. What exactly does that mean? It means that management companies stand to make at least $1 million dollars for the first year that each of those other charter schools is in operation. That means approximately $5 million of Georgia tax-payer dollars will leave the state during the 2010-11 school year. As someone who has been unemployed, I know for a fact that if that money remained in Georgia a few more people would be able to return to work next year. Instead, those funds go to CEOs of those organizations, located elsewhere. Many of the grassroots organizers were told that they should seek the services of a management company, as the Commission did not think they were competent enough to handle school operations. If Ms. Winfrey (or some other celebrity) had donated $15K to each of those 14 organizers (non-profit), they could have used those funds to attend training on opening and operating a charter school, offered by the Georgia Charter Schools Association. Then she could have happily donated the remaining funds to the Ron Clark Academy which, by the way, charges for site visits. So much for ‘best practices,’ but I digress.

So what am I really trying to say? Well, in a nutshell: Celebrities, if we are to fix what is wrong with public education, we (the everyday, average Joes & Janes) are going to need your help! Now I know all of you can’t give $1.5 million like Oprah, but giving your time and lending your name (and face) would certainly help bring focus to our educational system. Better yet, the next time you are at the White House rubbing elbows with the Obamas, please tell them that there are everyday educators out here, like Dr. Steve Perry and Baruti Kafele, who are getting things done, sans the fanfare and million dollar donations. I am sure the students at their respective schools could use those funds wisely.

Will race ever be obsolete?   1 comment

If the topic makes you uncomfortable, change the channel. For those with thick skin and a healthy dose of reality, I implore you to continue reading. This blog post is not meant to be a finger-pointing, make all White people feel guilty and/or uncomfortable rant. Instead, I thought I would point out some issues challenging states efforts to Race to the Top and close the ever-elusive achievement gap.

A historically significant ‘change’ occurred last November. I have not heard anyone debate whether Obama’s election as the first Black President of the United States has had an impact on the citizens of this country. Notice I wrote a change, as opposed to simply saying change. The difference may not seem important; however, when we juxtapose change against the new-found interest in overhauling public education we cannot ignore the fact that the majority of those making major decisions do not resemble those who are most disadvantaged, e.g., minority students. Essentially, there is no real change taking place in Education. Am I implying that non-minority educators are not qualified or compassionate enough to educate minority children? Absolutely not! What I am implying is that our country continues to have discussions about closing the achievement gap and how to best meet the needs of students in AYP subgroups, e.g., minority, low-income, ELL, and students with disabilities; yet, there are no representatives among the state superintendents, and few among the politicians and district superintendents. The actual number of minority superintendents is too small to make a significant impact.

Whenever I read the small amount of news covering America’s Education woes, I make a conscious effort to ‘check’ my racial blinders, but that is often difficult to do when your race is an obvious part of your identity. As a parent, I would certainly like to believe that race will become obsolete as my kids grow older. As an educator, I know better.  I am not basing my thoughts on some conspiracy theory about ‘the man.’ Instead, my conclusions are based on observation, research, and data. Numbers don’t lie: Black and Latino students are not as ‘test’ intelligent as they should be. They do not graduate at the same rate as Whites and the numbers attending 4-year colleges/universities are not where they should be, in my opinion. Yes these facts are disheartening, but we also need to consider that Blacks and Latinos have less access to rigorous academic programs, Advanced Placement classes, arts, technology, etc. There are a few educators, such as Dr. Steve Perry and Baruti Kafele, who have created learning environments where a ‘college is the only option,’ attitude is the norm. These two men are among the minority, both literally and figuratively, as they have worked, persevered, and are now making quality education and college feasible options for large numbers of minority students.

I would venture to say that for every Perry or Kafele, there are probably 100 minority educators who have tried to improve conditions for their students, only to be met with resistance from administrators, school boards, etc., who also happen to be all-White. I have been there and I am still fighting to bring school choice to the heavily minority community in which I live. In the coming months we will be bombarded by stories about states either lifting charter caps or scrambling to create charter legislation where it did not previously exist, all for the sake of Race to the Top funds. This Johnny-come-lately approach has not place in Education. The stakes are too high if these silver-bullet ideals fail. We have already seen the effects of lackluster leadership, ignoring the learning needs of students, and dismissing the potential contributions of our educators. As long as school districts continue to operate in this manner, we will continue to chase our tails in the quest to improve the quality and outcomes of public education.

Race will likely never be obsolete, but we must all ensure there is fair representation at each and every roundtable discussion.