July 9, 2010 by David Gillaspie
My new favorite saying is “It all works out in the end, and if it’s not worked out, it’s not the end.”
Quick review: did Portland school superintendent Ben Canada improve the environment for the kids before he left with $300,000 of school money?
Was he all about the kids, or all about his wallet?
Did Portland school super Vicky Phillips improve the environment for kids before one of her decisions handed $620,000 to the chief of human resources on his way out the door?
That’s $920,000 according to my public school math, and that’s not counting what was paid out to some of the others leaving.
Ben Canada is a black man from Atlanta who joined Texas education after Portland. Vicky Phillips is a white woman from Kentucky who now works for the Gates Foundation. Together they cover race and gender. Did they improve the environment for the kids, or serve as role models?
It’s strange to me that the same conversations, courageous or not, keep popping up in the community. Has anything changed?
I’m slightly bitter on education today, but it’s not race related, so it’s not as relevant. Here’s why:
My white kids with white parents went to a suburban white school where they slipped somewhere between at-risk and IB. Which means they were smart enough to go to class but not driven enough to take on the big challenges handed out by the smart kid teachers.
The wife and I helped them with their school work, which was fine until they left me behind in math around the eighth grade, though they’d day sixth. I continued to help in english and history until they decided they could do better without my help.
One of them was an honor’s graduate, the other got jobbed out of it by the incorrect advice from a counselor who didn’t have time for middle of the road students. At least it wasn’t a racial thing, just institutional incompetence.
But I didn’t like it.
The same school forfeited their wins from a varsity football season, and half their varsity basketball, because of institutional incompetence in the athletic department where an administrator allowed a student to participate when he was academically ineligible. The kid followed the academic counselor’s advice on classes and the teams paid the price.
Things got more interesting when the school hired a law and order hardliner principal. They discovered he came with a DUI along with a college credentials, earned a driving with suspended license citation, then capped his short career there with another driving ticket where the officer found a bag of weed in his car.
Where was this school? Tigard, the same place Carla Randall worked as the director of curriculum and instruction.
While it isn’t black or white, privileged or deprived, the incidents I list should serve as a beacon of hope for all students.
1. Get your parents, grandparents, foster parents, legal guardians, brothers and sisters, involved in your school. Explain your homework to them and ask for help. Even if you know what you’re doing, don’t you want to see how smart the adults are? Be sure not to laugh at them when they don’t prove very helpful. Just give them a chance.
2. Use the structure around you. Make appointments with your teachers, academic counselors, principals, and Carla Randall. Discuss the problems you have in school, and the problems you see in school. Again, don’t laugh when you hear some of the responses. Just take notes. These people are on the job ‘for the kids’ so help them do their job. See if they really want to have a courageous conversation and how long it takes them to be ‘too busy’ to see you because they have a conference to attend.
3. Keep doing 1 and 2 until you get the results you seek. Then start talking about careers in education, as in which field has the greatest potential for a golden parachute. While you talk about whiteness and blackness, rightness and wrongness, keep an eye out for the goldness and who is getting paid.