Sep 262014
 

busses resized

by Naja and Arnaud Girard……

It’s 7:30 am at the bus stop on Truman and Emma.  Eleven-year old Dimitri is about to climb into the morning school bus.  Like him, most of the kids sitting on the bus are African American.  Like them, he has a mere 40% probability of graduating from high school with his classmates; a stark difference from his white brothers, who have an 83% graduation rate [2013 data].

When we interviewed parents in Bahama Village about this disparity their responses raised an unexpected red flag.

“I didn’t want my son to go to HOB,” says the mother of a fifth grader, “He’s going to the white school.”

BP:  “The white school?  What do you mean?  What white school?”

Mom:  “No, it’s just the way we talk.  I mean Poinciana.”

BP:  “You guys call Poinciana the white school?”

Mom:  “Well, yes.”

So, what are they talking about? Is it just a matter of perception or has Key West somehow re-segregated its school system?

This morning we are following the orange bus on its way to Gerald Adams Elementary School on Stock Island.  The bus stops in front of one public housing “project” after another: Porter Place, George Allen Apartments, Fort Street Apartments.  By the time it parks in front of Gerald Adams, behind 4 other orange school buses, a large majority of the young children pouring out with their backpacks and new clothes are either black or Hispanic.  Of the 545 students at Gerald Adams only 141 are white [non-Hispanic].

On their long journey to school however these kids have passed three other elementary schools without stopping:  Sigsbee with 508 students, where only 7% of students are black. Montessori with less than 2% blacks.  Strangely enough, the third school, Poinciana Elementary [like Sigsbee and Montessori which are Charter schools] has no school buses.  Parents must drive their children to school and many students are “out of district,“ enrolled in the school by choice after being placed on a waiting list.

“Well this is the best school,” the crossing guard tells us as we stand on the sidewalk watching the traffic.

“Why aren’t there any school buses?” we ask.

“I don’t know,” says the man.

“But the kids from Bahama Village are being bused all the way to Stock Island.”

“Ah, you noticed that,” says the man who is African American and he adds with a smile, “I have no comment.”

Photo of Painting by Norman Rockwell

Photo of Painting, “The Problem We All Live With” by Norman Rockwell

Sixty years ago the Supreme Court, in Brown v Board of Education, unanimously declared segregation in schools a violation of the equal protection clause of the  U.S. Constitution.  Segregation “generates a feeling of inferiority as to their [minority students] status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone,” wrote Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren.

We decided to look into the issue of racial integration in Key West schools.  What we learned is that segregation in Key West is less an ugly beast breaking through the door than a pervasive old stench creeping back out of the walls.  It is done, so to speak, in our sleep by simply not questioning a myriad of innocuous practices, which ultimately happen to result in serving the old prejudices.

So here is the Monroe County secret road-map to re-segregation; the tricks of the trade.

THE BUS ROUTE TRICK

According to Patrick Lefere, who is in charge of school transportation, school buses don’t stop at Poinciana because the district border around the school doesn’t extend past the statutory two mile requirement for bus service.

For segregation watch-dogs, it is precisely the geographic design of those districts which is suspect.  The fact is, school buses basically round up kids from all the public housing “projects” and the Bahama Village neighborhood and ship them all to Stock Island  [Gerald Adams] or to HOB.  Those two schools teach a completely disproportionate percentage of “minority” and low-income students.

THE CHARTER SCHOOL TRICK

When the Florida legislature adopted the 1996 statute allowing public schools to be formed as “charter schools” the goal was to foster “innovative teaching methods”.  Privately run charter schools are still considered public schools and are fully funded with taxpayer money.  As to their pioneering innovative methods, critics say they are often limited to being magnets for white students moving out of integrated schools.

Sigsbee Elementary became a charter school in 2011 and now has 508 students enrolled. 340 of them are white [non-Hispanic].  Sigsbee alone has more white students than Gerald Adams and HOB Elementary combined.

A teacher we talked to at Gerald Adams Elementary, who asked to remain anonymous, seemed to have no illusions about charter schools:

Teacher: “I’ll give you one fact.  We have an average of 100 students entering pre-K at Gerald Adams each year but this year our 5th grade class has only 49 students.  Where do you think they all went?”

BP:  “I don’t know.  You tell me.”

Teacher:  “They went to Sigsbee.  Sigsbee is actively recruiting our best students.  They take the cream of the crop.”

He couldn’t explain how this active recruiting takes place, only that he’d heard it from parents.  He blames Gerald Adams slowly dropping from an “A” school in 2012 to a “C” [nearly a “D”] school last year [2014] on the steady exodus of the school’s high academic achievers to Sigsbee Charter School.

“There’s no miracle,” he said, “If our school is left with a high percentage of children with special needs, children for who English is a second language, and all the best students move to charter schools, the overall grade for the school is going to drop.“

Sigsbee Charter School is not only racially unbalanced, it also receives more money than the other public schools.  In addition to a $ 325,000 grant when it first opened, the school obtained a $ 570,000 grant in 2012, which it used for the creation of a state of the art science program.  Charter schools are also more likely to receive substantial donations from a higher number of affluent parents.  While only 3% of Sigsbee students were eligible for free or reduced lunch last year, HOB and Gerald Adams were at 68% at 75%.  Arguably some charter schools manage to be not only separate, but also unequal.

THE STUDENT TRACKING TRICK

In sixth grade most Key West students are re-concentrated into one school – HOB Middle School.   This is when “teams” and “honors” classes are introduced.

The creation of an “honors” track and a “regular” track results in a school comprised of two parallel universes, where African American students are almost totally absent from “honors classes”.

In recent years student academic tracking has become very controversial throughout the country.   One debate made the news when the principal and two assistants [at Gilroy High in California] resigned in protest over the school board’s decision to introduce honors classes.  Principal Wendy Gudaluwics was concerned that Hispanic students wouldn’t enroll in honors classes even if they could do the work because their parents might not be aware the classes exist and wouldn’t push their children to take them.

Her concern fits to a tee the honors enrollment process used in Monroe County. The following is a quote from MCSD’s report to the State on the status of equality in education in Monroe County schools:

“Through academic counsel with students and parents, 9th through 12 graders are enrolled in Honors courses.”

In such a system, the amount of family support a child has is clearly a determining factor.  Many minority and low-income students, like some in Bahama Village, whose families may have been torn apart by poverty or have issues with the justice system, are at a huge disadvantage.

It gets worse: 

We previously reported on an alarming tendency of at least one Key West High School guidance counselor to push white students toward an honors track while blocking black students.

“We each went to see the same guidance counselor with our moms, the same week,” Naomi told us.  “Bhajan was put in honors classes, but I was told I could absolutely not take honors classes.“

Bhajan and NaomiOur video interview of Naomi and Bhajan shows two teenagers who grew up together living on boats anchored behind Wisteria Island.  Neither had gone to school before or had kept any home-school records.   Neither had been tested in any way.  The only difference between them was Bhajan was a white boy and Naomi was a half-black girl.

“He got all the honors classes he wanted and I had to take a remedial class!” says Naomi, “I was bored to death.  My first essay was about Halloween.  I thought it was pretty good.  The teacher gave me a C because she said she believed it had been plagiarized!”

At this point, no one is going to convince Naomi that she has not been the victim of racism.  We recommend you don’t even try.

An isolated incident or a systemic problem?

The numbers speak for themselves:  In 2013 black and white students were graduating from Gerald Adams with almost identical FCAT reading scores [65% of blacks and 66% of whites were proficient in reading].

However, the information we’ve received from current students tells us there are as few as 3% black students to none at all in most of the honors classes.  Enrollment in honors classes is discretional, there is no clear prerequisite, and it escapes outside control because the enrollment lists are confidential.

No one can know for sure how many Naomi’s in Monroe County’s school system are floating in the pool of disillusionment and broken dreams, performing precisely to the low level expected by a system which has seemingly given up on them.

“Regular Classes”:  Code for Substandard Minority Classes?

The issue of “honors classes” vs. “regular classes” is not about whether the “honors” academic standards are too high, but whether they are in fact too low.

All of the teachers, parents, and students we have interviewed over the past month seem to be convinced that the “honors classes” are in fact regular classes.  Which would mean that the so-called “regular classes” are in fact substandard classes.

Because they are wrongly identified as “regular” classes, “the system” can sit back and relax when in fact administrators should declare a state of emergency in those “regular classes” and send a remedial cavalry to the rescue.

Low expectations rather than rescue efforts seem to be the common denominator for “regular classes.”

“In fact, it totally depends on the teacher,” said one student who recalls having had a geography teacher, Mr. Eggers, who completely turned his “regular” class full of “problem” students into a “very motivated group.”

BP:  “How did he do that?”

Student:  “I don’t know.  I think he was just asking more of everybody.”

“Random” Team Assignments Based on Cultural Choices

Another suspected tracking method is the assignment of students into two separate “teams” when they enter HOB Middle School.  According to school administrators, assignments to the “A” team or the “B” team are completely random.  It’s just a fluke that the “A” team has nearly all of the top honor roll students and the “B” team has the bulk of students with the lowest test scores.  Some parents are not convinced.

“Look,” said one parent, “It’s simple, the “A” team has all of the band students and the “B” team has the P.E. students. You can’t be in both. If you’re a kid from Bahama Village, playing the Oboe or the French Horn for hours at band practice might not seem all that attractive.  You want to play football so you end up on the “B” team and that’s one of the ways they manage to separate these kids.”

One last thing:

No Black Teachers

Many studies on school segregation and closing the racial academic achievement gap stress the importance of same race role models.  But when it comes to black students, the reality is that Monroe County School District has almost no African American teachers.  There are 486 white [non-Hispanic] teachers, 78 Hispanic and only 5 black teachers [2013].

With a Masters Degree in Political Science and a teaching degree, Bahama Village resident Sonny Reves was once a black man trying to get a job teaching in Monroe County’s public school system.  “I always wanted to teach,” he told us, “I finally managed to get a job in a special grant program.  It was an extra-curricular educational program, but when the grants were terminated after six years, we all hoped we would be transferred over to the public school system.  I was the only black teacher in the group and the only one who was not hired.”   Sonny recently retired as a cable TV installer for Comcast, never having managed to get hired as a teacher again.  “And I tried,” he said shrugging his shoulders.

How to Fix It

“We used to all be friends when we were in elementary school.  Then you get to middle school and everything seems to change,” laments one student.

School Board member Andy Griffith is well acquainted with the problem:

“Reform demands competition.  Charter schools and corporate vouchers come on the scene offering parents a choice.  Parents who are involved in their children’s education make the best partners in order to educate children.  Choice results in involved families leaving the conventional schools.   Our minority schools in Key West have 79% free and reduced lunch [an indicator of poverty] and our charter schools have 7%.  Some competition.  But choice is good right?  Well choice results in segregated schools in a small community.  But segregation is bad right?  Yes, it is but we can’t seem to find the answer to having both.”

Our question is this:

How hard would it be to hire more black teachers?  To redraw the districts and bus routes so as to balance the racial diversity of the elementary schools?

Certainly, the charter schools should be required to take care of their fair share of social and constitutional obligations.  Under Florida Statue 1002.33(7)(8), charter schools must actively pursue efforts to mirror the racial mix of the community and the school board has the power to close the doors when they fail to do so.

Finally, we should stop pretending that the non-honors classes are “regular” classes, admit that those classes are producing substandard results, and make immediate efforts to bring those students up to speed and do so until racial tracking has become irrelevant.

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COMMENTS:

SMS
Sigsbee Charter School 8th grade ELA Honors classes worked on credibility and bias of sources and chose this article as a non-example of credibility. Because the article is riddled numerous tricks of the tabloid trade, this rebuttal was created by us students to address two of the most inflammatory statements.

The authors of the article stated that Sigsbee has only 7% black population. No source was given to
corroborate this statistic. In our thinking, no source means there is not credibility. Truthfully, Sigsbee
Charter School is comprised of 9.3% black students. Although this percentage seems low, our 8th grade class is comprised of 25% black students. In looking at the minority data of our school, minorities make up 38% of our total population, a much more significant statistic. Since 75% of our students are military
dependents, our demographic information reflects the demographics of our local military families. Our
data was taken from Monroe County School District’s TERMS Database, used to report such statistics to the Florida Department of Education.
In the subsection, The Charter School Trick, authors implied that Sigsbee Charter School enrollment practices were unethical. Second-hand information from an anonymous male teacher of Gerald Adams quoted from anonymous parents (we’re assuming Gerald Adams’ parents) stated Sigsbee Charter
School actively recruits the best students from Gerald Adams. This source is neither reliable nor an authority because it is primarily based on opinion and demonstrates an absence of credentials. Enrollment into our school is done by a transparent lottery that follows state regulations. This lottery takes place in June, in front of the Key West Community, where anyone is welcomed to
attend. According to Sigsbee’s Registration Policy, Sigsbee Charter School does not discriminate
against any student on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disabling condition, proficiency in the English language, or athletic ability. This information can be found at
http://www.sigsbee.org/resources/SCS%20Admission%20Policy.pdf.

The authors further claimed, “…the information we’ve received from current students tells us there are as few as 3% black students to none
at all in most honors classes. Enrollment in honors class is discretional, there is no clear pre-requisite, and it escapes outside control because
the enrollment list are confidential.” Again there was no source for where this statistic was given and the vagueness of the “school” in question
hampers it as a reliable fact. At Sigsbee Charter School, honors math, science, and ELA are offered in the middle school with clear academic
criteria. In 8th grade, 75% of black students are enrolled in honors classes! This fact invalidates the authors’ assertion. The pre-requisites
for placement into honor classes is also located at sigsbee.org under the middle school tab. Statistical data for enrollment in honors classes at Sigsbee Charter School was also taken from MCSD’s TERMS Program.

As addressed in our mission statement, “The mission of Sigsbee Charter School is to provide each child with the opportunities and skill sets to realize his or her fullest potential. We aim to inspire and empower students to become lifelong learners who meet high academic standards and demonstrate responsible citizenship. Through the development of creative and critical thinking skills, all students will acquire a level of empathy that encourages them to be assets to their community and stewards of the environment.” (taken directly from sigsbee.org home page).

The 8th grade honors ELA classes firmly
attest to the high standards of our school and understand that being a responsible citizen means
standing up for our school community. Creating a rebuttal to this article from The Blue Paper was an
authentic learning experience where we learned to question validity, credibility, reliability, authority, and authors’ purpose. Although 8th grade honors students believe that some points in the article have merit, the lack of primary/secondary sources would invalidate the information.As a point of information, we do have some openings in our 8th grade class and welcome you to come to
our school. We will warn you that the honors curriculum is quite rigorous here, but maybe that’s why we’re an A school.

Thank you to Ms. Jannes, our principal, who encouraged us to write this rebuttal and Ms. Wilson, our ELA Honors teacher, for giving us the opportunity to use it as an assignment. We would also like to thank Ms. Rosch, our enrollment specialist, who gave us the information on our student population and Ms. Bartley, our finance manager, who made sure our percentages were correct.
Blue Paper Editor
In reply to SMS.
Thank you. We applaud both the principal of Sigsbee Charter for recognizing this as an opportunity for learning based on critical thinking and the students who did an excellent job making their points of contention clear in the rebuttal above. We certainly could have been more specific in pointing out our sources. Our source for the number of black students at Sigsbee came from the current demographics statistics provided by the Monroe County School District on their website: http://www.keysschools.com/Documents/TERMS/demographics.pdf It shows [for Sigsbee Charter School] 32 black students out of 475 total students which is 6.7%. With regard to the honors classes, we apologize if the article did not make it clear that we were speaking about the School District in general based, in part, on their own reporting – not Sigsbee Charter School specifically. Information came from the 2012-2013 annual update submitted by the School District to the State of Florida Depatment of Education with regard to the state’s “Equality in Education Act”: http://www.keysschools.com/schoolBoard/agenda_folders/12-13_Agenda_Folders/June25/Equity%20Plan%202012-2013.pdf The report shows that in 2012-2013 29% of black males vs. 57% of white males were enrolled in honors classes. Additionally, the authors interviewed multiple Key West High School students who had also attended HOB, asking them how many black students were in their honors classes vs. the total number of students. [None of those students had ever attended Sigsbee Charter School.] We also interviewed involved parents of students who attended those schools. Additionally, the authors have two children who have [and had] been enrolled in honors classes throughout their years at HOB and KWH – and thus have first-hand knowledge that the honors classes at those schools are not evidence of a rigorous curriculum. Thank you for letting us know that Sigsbee Charter School does have honors classes that merit being called “honors” classes. One word about the lottery system for enrollment into charter schools – clearly the law is being followed by Sigsbee Charter School but it is up to parents to place their child’s name in the lottery. One point that our article sought to bring out is that bussing is important for low-income families and that a lack of bussing from neighborhoods with a larger population of low-income black students to certain schools, such as Sigsbee Charter School and Poinciana can have an affect on demographics as it will determine to some extent which parents will ultimately partake in the option of “school choice.” If you don’t have a car – you may not really have the choice. We believe our article tends to show that Sigsbee Charter School is indeed a great school and one of the points the authors sought to make was that as a school district strives for equality in education, it would be beneficial to the community if even more black students were enrolled in such a great school. It is our understanding that the law specific to charter schools requires that the charter school and the district work together to bus students to charter schools to ensure that transportation is not a barrier to equal access. “Transportation of charter school students shall be provided by the charter school consistent with the requirements of subpart I.E. of chapter 1006 and s. 1012.45. The governing body of the charter school may provide transportation through an agreement or contract with the district school board, a private provider, or parents. The charter school and the sponsor shall cooperate in making arrangements that ensure that transportation is not a barrier to equal access for all students residing within a reasonable distance of the charter school as determined in its charter.” [Florida Statutes 1002.33 Charter schools.— 8(c)] On another note, we would like to offer you an avenue to continue to inspire your students to create articles for publication on this subject or any other – we are eager to highlight the work of students who are being inspired by educators who value lessons in critical thinking. Thanks again for your input.

pedrosan
Why is this obvious segregation ploy not reported to the FEDERAL AUTHORITIES???
We all know the Fed is not perfect but when it comes to segregation they will call it like they see it and make the city, county and state comply, comply, comply!!! This is a disgusting case of outright segregation!!! We do not have to be rocket scientists to see this! FIX IT, KEY WEST, AND MONROE COUNTY AND FLORIDA!!! fix it NOW!!!
Sloan Bashinsky
In reply to pedrosan.
Pedrosan, perhaps you report this to the FEDERAL AUTHORITIES. If you live in Key West, or anywhere in the Florida Keys, you have social and legal standing to report it. But you might have to provide the FEDS with your legal name and address, etc.
Sloan Bashinsky
I suppose it’s happened, but when I lived on the street in Key West, I never saw or heard of a homeless person bothering, threatening or injuring a child. Homeless people seemed quite respectful of children. That’s still my impression.

Gerald Adams lower schol is a few blocks down College Road from the Easter Seals property. Next door to the Easter Seals property is Bayshore Manor, a county assisted living facility. Next to Bayshore is the city’s botanical garden and tropical forest.

It’s looking like the golf course community will follow through on its longstanding promise to sue the city if it attempts to locate a new homeless shelter at the Easter Seals property. The same lawyer representing the golf course community filed the suit for the marina across from KOTS, which led to the city agreeing to move KOTS some place else. The second lawsuit will take a while to play out. The city has a time certain to relocate KOTS under the settlement agreement with the marina. The city waited too long to decide where to locate KOTS. The Oct. 7 city commission meeting might be interesting on the where to locate the new homeless shelter agenda item.

As for this blue paper article, it looks to me its thrust is there is active racial segregation Key West schools. That, for me, is what the school board and the superintendent need to deal with, and be brought to task about.

In the recent primary election, I voted for Warren Leamard, who is black, because, after observing him at several candidate events, and also talking with him one on one, I felt he was the best qualified candidate. Yet he came in last in the 3-way race against Stuart Kessler and John Highsmith, who are whitle. Highsmith is a Conch. Kessler is an “immigrant”, who had served many terms on a school board in another state and had served on the school board’s Audit & Finance Committee.

I felt, of the three candidates, Leamard understood that what’s important is having happy competent teachers and teaching children what they need to know to get along in life. Leamard appeared to understand the need for far more vocational training, as opposed to so much emphasis on standardized testing and college prep curriculum.

I voted for Catherine Bosworth against 2-term incumbent John Dick, because Bosworth had a teaching background, which Dick does not have, Bosworth is a woman, the school board was all male, and still is, and because Dick left me feeling he had not been straight with Naja Girard after she pinned him down about busing black students around city schools out to Gerald Adams and Poinciana not having school buses at all. That just didn’t pass my smell test.

I voted for incumbent Ron Martin, because he had been principal of Coral Shores High School, which has a great deal more vocational training than the other two high schools, and because he could care less how Keys schools rank in the state. He’s focused on trying to educate children and prepare them for life, is my take on him.

As I wrote in my first comment to this article, I ran for the school board in 2012. The seat now held by Ed Davidson, who prevailed in that 6-candidate race. I learned a heap about the school district by attending school board and audit & finance committee meetings, and who to hire for the new superintendent meetings, and by talking with school district employees privately, which usually meant getting lots of earfuls, and by talking with parents, which usually meant getting lots more earfuls, and by attending candidate forums and hearing what the other candidates said, and what citizens in the audiences said, lots more earfuls.

My impression is the school board and the school administration are slow to change and do not care for outside pressure, and while I hope they are prompted by the blue paper article to deal with what appears to be active perpetration of racial discrimination in Key West schools, I probably will not be holding my breath.

Elliot Baron
In reply to Sloan Bashinsky.
BTW: When I was president of the Montessori Elementary Charter School, there were three women on the school board.

When one of them mentioned to me that the student population at the Montessori school didn’t resemble the makeup of the community (more on that below), I had to mumble, under my breath, that neither did the school board.

KL Fish King
In reply to Sloan Bashinsky.
His name is Bobby Highsmith, not John. And if you paid attention at the forums, you would know that he is also a proponent of more vocational training, and he is opposed to the emphasis on standardized testing. Part of Highsmith’s campaign slogan, “High Morale,” is a direct acknowledgement that there needs to be higher morale across the board in the school district, among students, teachers, support staff, etc. Bobby’s children attend Poinciana (because he lives in that district) and Key West High School, so he is quite aware of the High Stakes and High Standards (the rest of his slogan) necessary for all children in this district to be properly educated and ready to face the workforce, or college, whichever they choose, after graduation. The stakes are too high for the district to fail even one child. Sounds to me like you simply voted against the white Conch.
Sloan Bashinsky
In reply to KL Fish King.
My apology for Highsmith first name blunder. Am glad you brought out Bobby’s deep association with Poinciana, which leaves him deeply familiar with its racial makeup and no school bus service. Being a white KW Conch and local practicing attorney, and deeply engaged in Key West society and charitable causes, Bobby also knows of the busing of black Bahama Village kids around Poinciana and other “inner city” schools, out to Mt. Trashmore Elementary (Gerald Adams). Yet, I can’t say I recall Bobby saying anything about that at candidate events I attended this year. Not even after Naja Girard nailed 2-term school board incumbent John Dick about Gerald Adams and Poinciana, did Bobby later say at that candidate forum, oh wow, that busing around and no buses going to Poinciana and it being a white school ain’t right and I’ve been hollering about that for years, but nobody was listening to me, but if you elect me, I’m going to do all I can to get that all straightened out.

I bet Bobby also knows all about what Naja and Arnaud wrote about how segregation goes on in Key West High School, too, and I bet he’s been trying to get that stopped all along, too, and nobody was listening, and now he’s going to get it stopped.

The word was out from the get go in that race, after school board member Robin Smith-Martin announced he would not seek reelection, that Bobby Highsmith was the Conchs’ candidate, as part of the Conchs’ effort to take back control of their various local governments.
I don’t know Bobby from Adam. He struck me as a nice fellow at candidate forums. He did not strike me, however, as someone who would, like Ron Martin did at the above mentioned candidate forum, say he could care less how Florida Keys school rank against state schools on standardized test results.
Bobby did not strike me as being committed to having students either career or college ready upon graduation from high school – that is the stated goal of this school district; or it was the stated goal when I ran for school board in 2012 and rammed that stated goal down the school board and school administration’s throats, for ignoring that stated goal probably from the day it was formally adopted at a political PR stunt.
If Bobby was committed to more vocational training, he would have been hollering about that long before he ever even thought of running for school board. Just like, if he was concerned about racial segregation, he would have been hollering about that, as a concerned parent, long before he ever thought to run for school board.
I still say, if the black athletes in Keys schools all go on strike, refuse to play until racial segregation in Key West schools is resolved, that is the the best, and perhaps the only, way to get it “fixed”. I don’t see that happening, though.
Naja told me maybe ten days before this article was published that a black man living in Bahama Village, with teaching experience, who had given up trying to get hired by the school district as a teacher, said the police and city government have, over the years, taken all the spine out of Bahama Village, so it will not resist, so it will not cause trouble, so it will be docile. Or words to that effect, Arnaud was present when Naja told me that, in their home.

John Donnelly
Great Investigative Journalism…Brilliant Article…Magnificent Discussion…

I want to expand the conversation and share my experience. I will not appraise the worth and value of anyone’s comments, as my evolution continues.

No matter how horrific the circumstances, I’ve found that an extraordinary teacher can dramatically impact the life of a student.

At this time, I will not challenge the efficacy of data disputing this finding. The achievement gap existing between different groups of students, is the easiest of discrepancies for children to master.

Their broken souls, hearts and spirits must be healed first. Hypocritical, counterfeit and incompetent principals and teachers will fail at this task.

When a student experiences and returns the love they receive from their teacher, they will follow said instructor to hell and back. Particularly those children, who’ve never known the joy of being loved.

Authentic teachers who creatively and assiduously utilizing time proven instructional techniques and strategies in their classrooms, will undo years of neglect and abuse.

Regardless of a child’s stunted development and disadvantage, not only can this child catch up, they often progress in an accelerated manner, when inserted into an environment conducive to their growth and advancement.

It’s miraculous what will occur in the life of a student, when introduced to a ‘teacher of conscience’. The lives of these formerly neglected and damaged children can be changed forever.

Broken home, no home or a “maximum security prison classroom for criminally insane adolescents”; the resiliency and beauty of these young students will shine, provided they are addressed by a stimulating and brilliant teacher.

As alluded to, we’re all aware of the conditions and influences that generally foster success or ruin for students. However, what are we to do with these ‘self-fulfilling prophecy experts’, who label and condemn millions of children to a life of desperation and despair, because they disapprove of the circumstances under which these little ones were raised?

The revolving door of alibis and excuses justifying a student’s non-performance must come to an end.
Classroom success for all students is a reality that can be achieved, right now.

Children in the American Public School System, spend approximately 18,000 hours in a classroom (pre-k to 12th grade). Of what caliber are these teachers, who’ve been entrusted with the care, well-being and future of our offspring? What type of difference are they making in the lives of their impressionable and defenseless students?

Lacking the will, along with ascribing to the notion that students possessing a certain pedigree or upbringing will fail, creates the very nuanced settings guaranteeing their demise.

There are answers, solutions and alternatives for the convenient and unimaginative ‘mind sets’, which only promise darkness and loss to those children least able to fend for themselves.

A forthright analysis of this issue, provides a clear and convincing countermeasure to the pre-supposed dilemma afflicting the ‘world of education’…
Bob2005
Interesting that the Homeless shelter occupied by a lot of potentially dangerous people e.g., addicts, sexual predators, criminal fugitives is in such close proximity to the elementary school which is comprised primarily of minority children. Where is the outrage? Have the school superintendent and board members weighed in on the risk of a Homeless shelter filled with strung out addicts and criminals so close to minority school children? Would the school board react differently if the Gerald Adams school was attended by primarily affluent white children? I’d like to know the answer.
JMP
Even though I am glad this issue is getting attention, this stuff has been going on for decades. Our system is about having a comparative advantage. Why is it shocking to see that the education system in the US is set up in a winners and losers scenario? The people with the advantages have the influence to keep those advantages.

Elliot Baron
Your column raises some interesting questions. Unfortunately, much of the evidence is anecdotal, rather than quantitative.

“How hard would it be to hire more black teachers?” I can imagine that it might be very hard. I am not aware of vast numbers of unemployed, qualified, black teachers in Monroe County. One black teacher’s experience in failing to obtain a permanent job with the district, overlooks the possibility that other reasons might have existed that had absolutely nothing to do with race. If the teacher was convinced that it was the result of racial discrimination, he should have filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission.

I don’t know what the admissions criteria are at Sigsbee Charter School, but I am certain that they are race neutral. I know because I am a past president of the Montessori Elementary Charter School.

In that role, I attempted to increase the number of minority students in order to achieve a beneficial diversity. By law, we were forced to conduct admissions by lottery, since the number of applicants exceeded the number of openings. Monroe County Supervisor of Elections, Harry Sawyer, conducted the lottery to assure that it was legitimate.

The only thing that we could do to increase minority representation in the student body was to increase minority participation in the lottery. We advertised academic openings in a racially neutral manner, including ads on radio and in the Key West Citizen, flyers in local grocery stores – including the Navy Commissary. I even spoke to black community leaders and clergy about whether they knew of any potential students who might benefit from a more individual, self-paced learning style.

Advertising increased the number of inquiries and applications, but it did nothing to increase the percentage of applications from black students.

I went so far as to write a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, asking whether we could set aside a couple of openings, in order to achieve a targeted diversity that was reflective of the community. I received a response that the Supreme Court had ruled that race could not be used as a consideration for admission. Affirmative action is no longer legal, even though its goals are far from realized.

There is an Achievement Gap between black and white students, but it could be just as easily ascribed to wealth as race. Research indicates that by the time an underprivileged child reached four-years-old, he or she has heard 30 million fewer words. It’s an impact on early brain development from which the disadvantaged child will never catch up. Even Head Start programs are already too late.

Analysis of data from the College Board shows that the students from higher income families and parents with higher educational attainment perform better on the SAT. While some claim that proves the test is discriminatory, the fact is that students who know more, score higher. Guess what… students receive better educations when their parents advocate for them, provide them with enriching programs and take an active interest in their school and schoolwork.

The achievement gap will not be narrowed as long as the deck is stacked to favor the status quo. Unfortunately, even the status quo is threatened by conservative cutbacks in social spending. Childhood nutrition and early education are just two programs targeted by Republican lawmakers in their endless quest to cut taxes on the rich.

Refusing to address minimum wage is another attempt to not only chain poor blacks, but all poor people to future generations of disparity. Meanwhile, the Citizens United ruling allows billionaires to fund massive campaigns, frequently employing not-so-subtle racism, to convince middleclass voters to vote against their own self-interests.

I realize that I have taken a rather long view of the big problem and that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a problem with districting in Monroe County. I believe that while school districts are precluded from drawing maps based on racial data, they can be required to balance economic demographics. If Poinciana school has a significant economic disparity with the other elementary schools, then that should be addressed.
Sloan Bashinsky
Racial discrimination in the city of one human family schools! Surely you jest! Surely this is just another irresponsible blue paper conspiracy theory being launched! Surely!

When I ran for the Lower Keys School Board seat in 2012, I said many times that every school in the Keys should vote itself to be a charter school, and divorce itself from the insane asylum – the school board and school district administration at Trumbo Point. I did not have in mind back then solving the racial segregation problem with that approach, but it might work for that problem, too.

One of the school board members in that particular race lived up the Keys, maybe Bib Pine Key, maybe Summerland Key. Can’t recall his name, but I think I recall he was backed by the local Republican Party, even though it was a non-partisan race. I bet Larry Murray can recall the fellow’s name.

Anyway, I think I recall that school board candidate had two kids attending Poinciana. I asked him why he was sending them there, instead of to Sugarloaf School, which was in the school district district where he lived? He said it was more convenient for him and his wife to sent their children to Poinciana, because they both worked in Key West. I imagine he knew he had not convinced me.

When School Board member John Dick told Hometown PAC panelist Naja Girard at the candidate forum in the Tennessee Williams Theater lobby that he didn’t know Bahama Village kids were being bused to Gerald Adams, around 3 Key West schools, and he didn’t know no school buses were delivering children to Poinciana, I nearly fell out of my chair, and said to the person sitting next to me, how could a 2-term school board member not know that? He had to know it.

I don’t recall now, in their nuclear attack, did Naja and Arnaud mention that the school board is all white men? Does that kinda remind me of the all white men who rant the first American government and okay’d the continuation of the view that all men were created equal, unless they were not white men. Women got no mention of being equal, either. Nor did indigenous Americans.

I swan, if this conspiratorial article don’t kind of remind me of what I saw plenty of when I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and even later, after the Christian and other private academies sprung up. If it wasn’t for black athlete stars tending to shine far brighter than most white athletes, private schools might have taken over Alabama. But even private schools had to deal with the reality that white men, in the main, really didn’t jump, or run, or block, or score points nearly as well as black men.

Maybe a way for the black people of Key West, where most all of this school racial segregation problem lies, to turn this thing upside down and inside out, is black school children boycott city school athletics programs, starting, hmmm, right now. Yep. Go on strike.

Let’s see how long it takes from right now for the Anglo and Hispanic mothers and fathers, who view school sports as next to Godliness, to have the kind of prayer meetings with Jesus, and the school board members and school district superintendent and administrators and school principals, to get the black and white saltshaker situation straightened out like, hmmm, pronto.

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Arnaud and Naja Girard
Arnaud and Naja Girard, owners and editors of the new, digital, Key West the Newspaper (The Blue Paper) previously reported for the former Key West The Newspaper, Key West’s longest running independent weekly, published by Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D., from January 1994 until November 2012. The Girards are perhaps best known for their discovery of and extensive research surrounding the US Navy’s 1951 claim of ownership of Wisteria Island but are also responsible for top investigative stories including breaking news coverage of the highly controversial in-custody-death of Charles Eimers on Thanksgiving Day 2013, the catastrophic police tasing of Matthew Shawn Murphy, and the property tax scandal involving Balfour Beatty to name a few. Arnaud and Naja have lived in Key West since 1986.
 September 26, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 am * Featured Story *, Bahama Village, MOST POPULAR ONE  Add comments