#AmericaToMe : Part 2

Right off the bat, my two take-aways are (briefly):

  1. White people really don’t understand what blacks (or other minorities) are going through
  2. What do I do about this? (And coming up with an answer is not a further obligatory responsibility to weigh down the black person with)

 

I watched episodes 3 (“There is no pain that compares to the struggle”) and 4 (“There’s nothing funny about Race!”).

 

Episode 3 is titled after a line in then-senior Kendale McCoy’s poem; a personal story about how his life could have taken a much different turn as he grew up with troubled parents, but his life now is “dope”, raised by his mother’s aunt and uncle. I think that line was chosen to highlight the daily struggles (pain) black folks go through as they journey in a white dominant majority environment. Later in episode 4, Ke’Shawn laughingly jokes about how he got in trouble “walking while black”, a reference to any number of racial profiling examples with perhaps the most infamous one being “driving while black.” That a teenager can make a devastatingly apropos joke about that tells me how messed up things really are. Another aspect is the attempt by several faculty to bring racial and cultural awareness to a higher level within the administration and they are met with “white male silence.”

Episode 4 might be highlighted by a physic teacher’s (Aaron Podolner) attempt to build rapport with a couple black students, whereby he shares his memoir on racial experiences; the student’s responses are quite polarized, with one (Charles) laughing and saying he has no problem with race, while the other (Jada) pointedly chastises Charles and Aaron.

On some level, I feel I can somewhat relate to Mr. Podolner – here you have a white guy who puts himself in front of the camera and thereby judged by everyone. He thinks he is doing the right thing, and at least he is trying to be different than “other white people.” But I had to cringe during his exchange with co-teacher Jess Stovall in episode 4, when Aaron falls into the pitfall of saying he “understands” the black experience – you can almost hear Jess, who grew up bi-racial in a practically all white Wisconsin town, say “wait, WTF did you just say?” but instead her response is much more gracious and she inquires how he understands.
In episode 3, Glenn E. Singleton, founder of the Pacific Educational Group, said of white liberal people “[their] liberalism only goes so far until it challenges their situation personally.” “And that is what you have at OPRF.” It is obvious that this statement applies to the white males in power within the administration. I am curious, how does it apply to folks like Podolner, or Peter Kahn of the Spoken Word Club, or football coach John Hoerster? How does it apply to me? Is liberalism really that sacrosanct in the first place? (Note I ask because I believe Mr. Singleton is correct, but I have yet to understand how, like an ocean lapping up on a beach, liberalism goes so far until.)

 

What really boggles my mind about these “America to me” stories is how much pressure these kids, their parents, and their teachers are under. I recall Behavior Interventionist Michael Byars, and how it seems like he is one of the better things going on in Ke’Shawn’s educational experience (aside from Jess Stovall), a model of respect and mentoring – and yet Mr. Byars tells us that Ke’Shawn has been told not to talk to him.

 

On a more local level, for those that are familiar with Unit 4, I invite you to participate in a simple experiment. There were two board meetings back in April, one on April 9th and one two weeks later on April 23rd. In both we have a presentation by African-Americans, both basically putting forth ideas (really amazing, neat, fascinating ideas) for ways to address the achievement gap and racial disparities. And yet the environment in which these two presentations were made are radically different. Your task is to comment on the differences:

 

There are some really amazing things happening in Unit 4 right now, especially in regards to cultural awareness and addressing racial issues; from initiatives like Restorative Justice and A.C.T.I.O.N.S, to student-led R.I.S.E and “real talks” (mentioned in comments for the first post), to efforts to hire minorities and women, and further, programs like Operation Hope, Lead for Life, and other excellent partnerships. What is hindering the needle on the achievement gap from moving faster? Why is there still a significant racial disparity in discipline? And I have to ask myself, what is my role in answering those questions?

Terry Townsend’s letter of Complaint to the OCR

A few weeks ago, Reverend Underwood attempted to read Mr. Terry Townsend’s letter of Complaint to the OCR at the June 30th Board Meeting. There was a bit of a fiasco when she requested extra time over and above the 3 minutes normally allotted to public comment (watch the video if you are curious). But in the end, she had 3 minutes to VERY QUICKLY read Terry’s letter. I have finally received an electronic copy, and I think it is worthwhile to read through it.

Original version

Formatted for WordPress

 

And then afterwards, take a look at Mike Woods guest commentary in the July 1st, 2012 News-Gazette (not available electronically).

 

This dovetails with the ongoing discussion of suspensions* and how we deal with discipline issues.

* there are currently 30 comments to the Tim Mitchell and Noelle McGee NG article – while some are hard to read (they didn’t say that, really?!?), the overall “dialog” is a look into how some of our local people think.

April 22nd special board meeting

I have not had a chance to watch it – only spot-checked it to make sure it was recording:

http://www.cb-pta.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/board_meetings/2013-04-22-special-board-meeting.mp4

 

A couple interesting things on the agenda; Cheryl Camacho and Tony Howard presented on the Parent Advocacy recommendation(s) and Elizabeth DeGruy presented on special needs (aka, “Board Retreat Follow-up”),  Orlando spoke again on TALP, Lockman again on the changes to policy concerning discipline, three folks bumped up to Assistant Principals, and a couple other things.

 

Meg’s article focuses on the approval of the TALP program, and mentions a couple other things as well.

Special board meeting tonight, update on Schools of Choice RFP

Tonight is a special Special Board Meeting. Occasionally the Board is called in to deal with one of these issues:

  • 120/2(c)(1) Employee appointments, employment, compensation, dismissals, complaints
  • 120/2(c)(2) Negotiations
  • 120/2(c)(5) Property Acquisition/Lease/Purchase
  • 120/2(c)(8) Emergency Security Procedures
  • 120/2(c)(9) Student Discipline
  • 120/2(c)(11) Actual/Potential Litigation
  • 120/2(c)(16) Self-Evaluation, practices and procedures or professional ethics when meeting with a representative of a statewide association of which the public body is a member
  • 120/2(c)(21) Closed Meeting Minutes Discussion/Review

 

What I am torn about is that I think they are technically abiding by OMA, but they are not disclosing as much information as they possibly can. For instance, I have since learned that the meeting was specifically called for 120/2(c)(9) Student Discpipline. Why is that not mentioned on board docs? The only reason I have right now is that it is not required (not by OMA nor by Policy). I get it that it is the “easy” thing to do to announce all the possibilities for Executive Session “just in case”, but I sincerely wonder, is that the best way?

 

Here is the flip side. What if I just shut up about this? I have to question myself, is my pestering of the Board in this manner productive in any way? I really don’t know. I hear both sides; some of you like what I am doing, some of you think I am a hindrance and an obstruction. As always, I am glad there are differences of opinion – I highly value that! But what good is my question-asking really doing? That is what I am searching for right now.

 

On that note, I recently asked about the progress with the Schools of Choice (SoC) RFP. From the school attorney, Mr. Tom Lockman:

I have been working with District staff on the Choice RFP and am comfortable with where it stands at this point.  The District is planning to follow the same schedule as last year in terms of issuing the RFP.  This will allow us to have gone all the way through the selection, determination and notification processes to determine if there is anything the District feels needs to be added or changed to the existing language based on how things go.  If you do have additional thoughts beyond what was shared at our first meeting which you wish to share, please feel free to email me.  Thanks.

 

I told Mr. Lockman at “our first meeting” that I had at least two bottom lines (sometimes you just can’t have one *grin*):

  • make a system that is intuitive and garners a positive experience from all who interact with it
  • we don’t waste taxpayers dollars (which I fully believe we have been doing for many years)

 

So again, I wonder about my effectiveness. Is it worthwhile for me to raise my voice and become a “squeaky wheel”? Or what would happen if I just turned my attention elsewhere? I really really want to hunt this down. But at what cost?

 

For my part, I want to see the RFP; I want to make sure we stop sending money to Massachusetts; I would love to have the software solution be handled locally. But I personally do not need these things. My question then becomes, what is best for all of us? That I do not know.

 

Tom is no stranger to the Schools of Choice saga; just a couple years ago, he was instrumental in writing some enhancements like going from 3 to 5 choices (5 was a compromise, we wanted more), and I think helped to spur the video and other little things that have slightly improved this beast. One of my options is to just trust Tom and see where this goes.

April 8th Board Meeting

Video of meeting

 

Too tired to comment much. Board members had lots of good questions and comments, especially in regards to schools of choice, future facilities and discipline  I’ll provide more details later.