Friday, October 25, 2013

It Is Time

Wow.  Did you read the Montclair Times and the quotes in the article A Tale of Two Montclairs:  the achievement gap persists?  I’m sort of amazed at the sloppiness.  Far from demonstrating the precision of a high tech CEO, the district leadership threw out its whole playbook in one ill-timed and ill-thought out quote.  Cleave the community racially, dismantle the small learning communities, and blame it all on the high school counselors.  Boy, why would they be going after couns……never mind.  Well, here’’s the quote: 

“Michelle Russell, the Chief Talent Officer and the Civil Right Commission liaison, said that many black students are being confronted with the choice of enrolling in classes with their friends or choosing college prep courses.

“While she emphasized that she’s not trying to ‘throw the school district’s guidance counselors under the bus’, Russell said that instructions students are getting from some of the counselors may be playing into their decisions about what classes to take.

‘We’ve received complaints from parents, particularly abou the imbalance between CGI and CSJ and how students are counseled into particular programs,’ said Russell.  ‘This is unacceptable and something we need to interrupt.  Coming in as a new person [to the school district] I don’t understand how we’re telling our kids ‘oh’yeah, if you’re white you go into CGI and if you’re black you go into CSJ.”

This is all well and good, but it simply is not true.  There has been a massive change in the past few years in who has been entering small learning communities and the counselors should be given a lot of credit for it.  Only 2 years ago, there were 125 new sophomores in CGI and 45 in CSJ.  This year, both programs had equal numbers of new sophomores, about 80 each.  In addition, CSJ in particular is fully integrated and has admirable diversity, something for which we should take pride.  It is no longer seen as a lesser alternative but a true option for even the most talented of students.  Instead of taking pride in this fact, misinformation and lies have been disgustingly used as a talking points to further a cynical agenda.  Shame on the central office administration for selling out three of the strongest things about MHS to the media:  these two long standing and amazing SLC’s and an unbelievably strong guidance staff.  

Both of these SLC's do amazing things for their students.  Social Justice, in particular, should be held up by the administration as a model of what is possible, and an example of what is best about Montclair.  It is a highly rigorous program with a diversity of students who learn from each other.  It is a place where the best of students can be challenged but the average student can feel welcome.  It is simply unbelievable that the administration thinks it is okay to demean these programs in this way instead of touting them as models of educational excellence and diversity.  Its like eating your young what is going on here.  There is no excuse for it and it is repulsive.

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