Off the Canvas
On February 22nd the Chicago Board of Education voted to move our Freshmen, despite our pleas, to schools in the vicinity, some no better, most no safer, for the fall of 2006. It was a disappointment, despite our gains, since with the Freshmen will go the jobs that exist to teach them. A harsh reality that could be as large as 20 teachers. Hard warriors who came to the west side to give their very best and have laid everything on the table. Sincere, determined preachers of the gospel of education like Ali Muhammad, Jay McMahon, and Cory Overstreet are expected to all see the axe. Not because of a lack of talent mind you, no sir, these are some of the best young teachers in the city, and most certainly not because of want, each of these men would commit themselves for a lifetime to the west side. They will lose their jobs because they have the least seniority in their respective departments. So it goes that good teachers, who want to work with the most underpriviliged children, in one of America's toughest situations, will be told that they can't do that by the Board of so-called education. That's their solution, the sum of their wisdom, the result of their research, the spirit of their inspiration. Deny the school the freshmen it deserves, send those freshmen across rival gang territory to "replacement" schools, and fire some of the best teachers in the building. Brilliant.
I think everyone involved learned a lot from this experience. About politics, education, gentrification, courage, people, and the media. Each lesson we took represented something different to each of us, but there is one lesson we all learned, and that is that this cannot stand. That education in America's inner-city needs an overhaul. A change motivated by the very best interests of the children involved. An interest, that I'm sorry Micheal Scott, cannot be measured by a test score, or limited to cold numbers listed on paper. It must be formed through reality, tried and retried through commitment, and it must be grounded in love. The inner-city does not need more charter schools, which traditionally exclude the academically challenged, and quickly expel the socially troubled. Inner-city schools need to be flexible and they need to offer a wide variety of options for these students. They need vocational coursework, they need more reading, and they definitely need more math. But they also need therapeutic options, and psychological ones. They need athletics, artistic exploration, and they need music, dance, and the dramatic arts. And most importantly they need technology, in every building, in every classroom, and they need the training to use it properly. They have these programs in magnet schools, such as King High School on the south side, why not give the very best tools to those that need them the most? Fund them, encourage them, teach them, allow them to explore, to prepare, to question, and watch them, listen to them, and be amazed at what they can do. The bad can become good, and the worst can be the best, in this I believe and that without question.
In closing I want to say that I am proud of everyone from Collins High School that stood up for themselves and our school, and fought that great great battle. I know that like I, no one who participated in the movement, will ever forget the effort. Because most certainly we could have laid down, as other schools have done, and said "come and take it", no one would have been surprised, no one would have thought twice. But we did not lay down, we did not for one minute say quit, no we did not, and I will always remember the day we stood up, marched to City Hall, and laid out the flag of war. I never before felt as much a part of the Collins family as I did that day, and never was I prouder than when we laid our hearts bare at the public hearing. No one who was there that day, whether a Board representative, or a Collins warrior, will ever forget that amazing display of passion and courage. And I think in this regard specifically of our students, who went, one after the other, to the microphone and spoke eloquently, sincerely, and intelligently, on behalf of their school, their teachers, and their families. And they know they were right. And they knew there teachers were right. And they they knew their school was right. We all stood there, we all said it, and on that day if not on any other we were free. And they can never take that.
"And the world did gaze in deep amaze at those fearless men but few." - Irish hymn
I want to say thanks especially to the Mohagany Blue Show on WVON 1450AM, Teresa Guttierez of ABC 7 Chicago, Roz Rossi of the Sun Times, Larry Butler of Labor Beat, National Public Radio, CLTV, Julius Anderson and Men for a Better Lawndale, State Senator Ricky Hendon, Congressman Danny Davis, Comissioner Bobbie Steele, Alderman Michael Chandler, Principal Andrew Denton III, and the entire leadership team of the Chicago Teachers Union for carrying our banner, and pushing us to the forefront of Chicago's conscious. We are grateful, thankful, and hopeful.
The battle was lost. The war rages on.