Science Skills Center High School -5 Point Graduation Advice Speech Notes-June 25, 2018.

(Minus the segue jokes!:-)

Good morning graduates, I am able to stand before you this morning, even though I was in the IND Borough Hall train station, and not really sure if I was in the right place. I saw a young lady in a SSCHS cap and gown (Jasmine Braithwaite); and I decided to follow her. And fortunately she led me to this building. If you are pursuing a right purpose, you are never really lost, for a ‘helper’ will always show up to properly guide you. That could be my entire lesson for this morning. (1) Only follow someone who you strongly believe is moving (and showing through example), in the right direction. And (2) be a leader who is moving (and leading through good example) in the right direction. (3) Always assume wherever you go in life that although you may not be aware of it, someone who can provide you with a resourceful blessing, is watching you, and so now I owe Jasmine a spiritual debt, and I am responsible for helping her in any way that I can…

(The author and Jasmine Braithwaite)

5 Quick Points and I will take my seat…

1. No disrespect to any ‘moving up’ ceremony you have attended in the past. But one important significance of your high school diploma, is that it is the only official legal graduation document you can earn that is granted by the NYCDOE. This victory can’t be reversed; neither can the memory of this day be forgotten. It becomes your struggle and challenge transformed into success base line reference. This graduation should be a metaphor for your entire life. It says, I have achieved a great and difficult victory once, and that means I can do it again, and again, and again, and…

2. You are about to enter a world where the rules and consequences are radically different from what you have experienced in the K-12 environment up to this point. The world will not adjust for you, you must make the adjustment. Be excellent in whatever task, job, school, and personal-social endeavor you undertake. Leave nothing to chance, but lean on your own preparedness to effectively respond to any unanticipated opportunity that might show-up. Your parents, teachers and elders are going to get ‘smarter’ as you get older. Meaning a great deal of what they have warned you about will come true. This is a truth that maybe your teenage ‘all-knowing’ mind (as was the case with me), can’t fully comprehend now. Things like an excellent character, stick-to-itness, graciousness, a good name, honesty, reliability, decency, picking friends who are moving in the right direction, etc. will essentially define who you are and what you will accomplish in life….

3. Life is not fair. The sooner you accept that reality, the sooner you will encounter less suffering and more success. You should also develop the proper attitude that will inspire you to ‘upset and overturn’ our nation’s (and world) political culture of unfairness. Build a good reputation— Many in the world outside of this auditorium will make a judgement about you based simply on the fact that you are Black, Latino, Asian, a Muslim, a Women, etc. You can only do your best, produce at your best, give every effort your most sincere and best work. Don’t give anyone the opportunity to act on their pre-judgments concerning who you are and what you are capable of accomplishing…

4. Now this going to sound counterintuitive (does not make sense) based on what I just said about life being unfair. But you must define “wining” in the most positively spiritual, highly ethical, and the greatest of goodness terms. Even as people around you may appear to be ‘wining’ by cheating, lying, mistreating and deceiving and stealing from others. Even if the top most powerful political leaders in this nation advocate for selfish, ugly, dismissive, racist, demeaning and discriminatory policies; you must not lose sight of your good behavior-good works and kindness compass, for it will always, no matter what is going on around you, guide you onto the best path. Practice bad habits and they will naturally become part of your personality; practice good habits daily and they will become a natural part not only of your personality, but they will also guarantee a real and meaningful successful life.

5. One of the most important things you can do in life is to find your unique and special calling; what you have been singularly gifted to bring to the world. No one is an ‘accident’, it does not matter the circumstances that brought you into this world. You are special and important to our species. With the billions of people born before and after you, there is only one you, forever. One definition of the condition called ‘human suffering’ (and those humans who inflict suffering on others), could be explained as never ever discovering your special reasons for being sent into our world. You will know your ‘calling’ because you will be extremely good at it. You really won’t feel comfortable doing something other than what you are called to do. If you only settle for a ‘job’ or ‘career’ outside of your calling, you will feel a never-ending unsettled restlessness. It may express itself in different areas of activities, but your fundamental call-theme will remain the same. Your called contribution to history will be something that brings you great personal joy, as it also brings joy, beauty and peace into the world; it may be hard work, but it will never feel like a ‘job’. Once you find that work that brings happiness, meaning and fulfillment into your life; the next step is to find a way to make a living income for engaging in your works of called-service. In short, find a way to ‘get paid’ to do those things for which you were born-called to love doing…

Good Blessings and Sincere Congratulations on Your Wonderful Achievement!

Michael A. Johnson has served as a public school teacher, Science Skills Center director, principal, and a school district superintendent. He also served as an adjunct professor of Science Education in the School of Education at St. John’s University. He recently completed a book on school leadership: Report to the Principal’s Office: Tools for Building Successful High School Administrative Leadership… http://reporttotheprincipalsoffice.net/

That moment as a Black principal when everything changes…

You stepped into that moment when you fully realize that the ‘system’ is ‘rigged’ (philosophically and structurally) to produce winners and losers; and the designated losers look like you!

And being true to yourself means that you can never turn your back on that knowing…

It’s that identifying, defining and self-realization moment when you understand that you share every under-expectation, the many stereotypical dismissals, and all of the nullifying thoughts that are visited on the children. Perhaps, you realize that when staff persons are ‘making fun of’, or talking negatively about the children, their parents, or the community where they live. They are also talking about you, your parents, and your community where you live (or once lived) with the parents and children.

An under and graduate college degree, professional licenses, and certifications don’t ever seem to certify and officiate your humanity, or justify your leadership position.

There are moments that seem almost hopeless:

In one majority Black school a transferred White teacher with a history of bigotry and discrimination in preventing Black kids from gaining access to his AP classes (the reason he was transferred); was voted in by the Black and White staff in his new school as the building union chapter leader…

It’s the loneliness of the politically aware principal. You set a ridiculous (and ludicrous if it were not sad and tragic) standard of expectations; you want your children to be treated like the entitled children (in the district) of America; and Both Black and White stakeholders work hard to frustrate your efforts…

Maybe it is even your White (or simple-minded Black) principal colleagues who speak of the ‘Principalship’ as an occupation or job; when you are thinking of it as a life-line, a lighthouse in a societal storm, a conscious call to service on behalf of an endangered people for whom society has rejected and forgotten.

It would come early for me as a reminder in my first year as principal, before the start of school. I (dressed in a jacket and tie), standing in the hall talking to the White custodian (dressed in jeans and a T-shirt); when a White delivery man walks over to the custodian for a principal’s signature. My custodian is so painfully embarrassed by his White brother’s behavior, and then he sadly points to me: “He’s the principal”.

It is that ‘tipping-point’ moment when the principal gets that he or she is no different from the Black and Brown students in their school. And after that moment you cannot just be a ‘company-kept’ school leader.

And as with many self-actualizing moments, the price of ‘self’ knowledge is suffering, but it is a redemptive suffering that frames your work with a meaning and purpose.

An excerpt from chapter 2: The Educational Philosophy of the Principal.

“Neither a title nor position will allow me (even if I chose to try) to escape from my own existential American reality. I am Black and born in a nation where my skin color is a societal identifier and constant underestimation of who people believe I am and what I am capable of becoming…”

Michael A. Johnson has served as a public school teacher, Science Skills Center director, principal, and a school district superintendent. He also served as an adjunct professor of Science Education in the School of Education at St. John’s University. He recently completed a book on school leadership: Report to the Principal’s Office: Tools for Building Successful High School Administrative Leadership…

http://reporttotheprincipalsoffice.net/

Traumatizing Children by Violently* Separating Them from Their Parents is an old Winning Strategy.

Trump whisperers Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller as home-grown American neo-fascist have probably read Carl von Clausewitz’s theories on war. (And here it would be helpful to accept the premise held by many including Mao Zedong, that “politics” is essentially war without guns). Von Clausewitz’s writings have served as study guides for many different students of military theory. But sections, translated into use with civilian populations, have become the primary playbook of all evil dictatorial leaders; from Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler and Pol Pot in the past; to ISIS, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un in the modern era. There is clearly a political-military strategic rationale here for separating parents from their children, and then cruelly incarcerating these children; and that is to invoke obedience through acts of publicly displayed terror.

Source: Carl von Clausewitz, On War. Excerpts from: CHAPTER I. WHAT IS WAR?

“Now, philanthropists may easily imagine there is a skillful method of disarming and overcoming an enemy without great bloodshed, and that this is the proper tendency of the Art of War. However plausible this may appear, still it is an error which must be extirpated; for in such dangerous things as War, the errors which proceed from a spirit of benevolence are the worst. As the use of physical power to the utmost extent by no means excludes the co-operation of the intelligence, it follows that he who uses force unsparingly, without reference to the bloodshed involved, must obtain a superiority if his adversary uses less vigour in its application. The former then dictates the law to the latter, and both proceed to extremities to which the only limitations are those imposed by the amount of counter acting force on each side. This is the way in which the matter must be viewed and it is to no purpose, it is even against one’s own interest, to turn away from the consideration of the real nature of the affair because the horror of its elements excites repugnance.”

And,

“The smaller the sacrifice we demand from our opponent, the smaller, it may be expected, will be the means of resistance which he will employ; but the smaller his preparation, the smaller will ours require to be. Further, the smaller our political object, the less value shall we set upon it, and the more easily shall we be induced to give it up altogether.”

And,

“Now this, in itself, furnishes no ground for relaxing our efforts to accumulate strength to gain the first result, because an unfavourable issue is always a disadvantage to which no one would purposely expose himself, and also because the first decision, although not the only one, still will have the more influence on subsequent events, the greater it is in itself.”

And,

“But the possibility of gaining a later result causes men to take refuge in that expectation, owing to the repugnance in the human mind to making excessive efforts; and therefore forces are not concentrated and measures are not taken for the first decision with that energy which would otherwise be used. Whatever one belligerent omits from weakness, becomes to the other a real objective ground for limiting his own efforts, and thus again, through this reciprocal action, extreme tendencies are brought down to efforts on a limited scale.”

If these ‘battle field affirmations’ sound familiar they should, for they are essentially the operational-political strategies of the World War II German para-military forces, the Gestapo.

In summary: To ‘win’ one must not be burden in battle by moral-ethical restrictions. Your ‘troops’ must possess the emotional insensitivity to inflict short and long-term physical and emotional damage on the children (and other non-combatants) of the enemy ‘other’; and as reporter Jim Acosta (CNN) alluded to in his question to White House Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and then be able to go home and hug their own children. Imagine, the amount of human compassion disconnectedness that is needed to pull that off!

The “I am just following orders” troops of these ‘right-wing’ commanders must be untethered to any belief that suggest the existence of a higher metaphysical force who is monitoring some great justice-righteousness scale. Thus Atty. Gen. Session’s biblical distortion that was so bad that they could not even get it pass their usual evangelical (anti) Christian cheerleaders. The WH administration actors are the philosophical descendants of Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor (The Brothers Karamazov). For them there is no intervening just God, no calling to account ‘judgement day’, no heaven; and hell is an America with a majority non-White population. After all, (their thinking), what if people of color do to us one fraction of the evil we have inflicted on them?

We should stop lying to ourselves. At some point we need to cease from saying that ‘X’ practice is ‘un or not American’, when it is actually happening right before our eyes, and is fully sanctioned (explicitly, and/or in a complicitous way) by the executive and legislative government in charge. The truth is that both Native Americans and African-Americans histories prove that violent forced family separations (for selling, rape, death, terroristic and exploitation purposes), is very much indeed, an American practice.

As educators we should be collectively weeping at what is being done to these children. Because we know (having seen it), the devastating long-term psychological and debilitating learning effects of childhood traumatization. And then there is the real possibility that these children may never receive the counseling they need (and must have); which means they may bring their ‘unhealed’ selves into their adult world, with devastating effects on all of us.

Trump said he believed in “winning”; and if winning is defined by appealing to and promoting the worst of all human emotions, then he has won, at least for now, due to our collective lack of courage.

*The primary perpetrator of violence does not get to define what ‘violence’ is. Ripping these children away from their parents, like the mental-physical effects of poverty, inadequate education, lack of housing, no health care, under and unemployment, are acts of violence; and in this case state initiated and sanctioned acts of violence!

Book Event Parking Update!

I know some folks are driving in from outside (and inside) of Georgia. GSU has opened up a parking location for this Saturday event. Parking is available directly across the street from the GSU Student Center Venue in the M-Deck, the entrance is at 33 Auditorium Place, Atlanta GA 30303. The cost is $7.00 dollars.

The new Washington DC Council ‘high school graduation policy’ law is a teaching model of cognitive dissonance…

The devil, as is often the case, is in the details of these two qualifying (in my view logic defying and nullifying) criteria: “Missed more than six weeks of class” and “Would apply only to students who meet all other academic standards.”

(Full disclosure: For 4+ years I led the design, development and leadership of a STEM-CTE school in DCPS—Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering High School.)

The F. Scott Fitzgerald assertion which says that: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function”, can serve to ‘grow’ student smartness.
This particular thinking-methodology is a necessary tool in any area of social and/or scientific analysis and research. As well as an important conceptual skill and key learning objective centerpiece of all high school education.
However, we must also teach students to recognize two ideas that may be: incongruent, incompatible, contradictory, negational, oxymoronic, and sadly in the case of this bill, two concepts that are not pedagogically (science and theory of learning) aligned.

Those two ideas linked together: (1) That one can be absent from class, and (2) Still master what was being taught in that class, is problematic (Beyond the laws of physics which make it impossible to be both physically present and absent at the same time).
And even if this assertion were true, metaphysically speaking, then we are wasting a lot of the tax payers ‘dimes’; since all we really need to do is mail the curriculum and syllabus to every teenager’s house and call it a day; no school buildings, teachers, cafeterias, school libraries, etc. are needed!

The cure the DC city council is proposing here, is not only ineffective, it also guarantees to make the patient worse.

The devil, as is often the case, is in the details of these two qualifying (in my view logic defying and nullifying) criteria: “Missed more than six weeks of class” and “Would apply only to students who meet all other academic standards.” Putting aside for a moment that there is an extensive list of educational reasons for having class attendance serving as one of the graduation requirements (e.g. being part of classroom discussions-group work, you can ask the teacher in-class clarifying questions, or hear the answers to questions from your classmates).
How about this simple criteria: Perhaps, some of my wise professional ancestors arrived at an astonishing conclusion, that a child not attending school on a particular day, did not learn what was being taught in school that day. (tongue firmly in check) Imagine the singular brilliance of that concept!

(I purposely digress here for a note to aspiring principals. This is how you intelligently and authentically manage ‘two opposing ideas”: All high school principals will at some point encounter an exception (to the rule) ‘attendance’ situation, for which we as professional public educators must ethically and compassionately respond. In one of my cases a student was hospitalized with a serious illness, and then needed intense home based rehabilitation services before they could return to school. The ‘time-out’ of school would go beyond the course credit ‘seat time’ requirement. Our response was to enlist the help of the school district’s ‘home bound’ teaching services. These ‘visiting teachers’ were able to communicate with the student’s regular classroom teachers, follow the same syllabus, utilize the same textbook, test the student, etc. We were also assisted by technology where the homebound student had access to a laptop computer (we provided), instructional videos, classroom lecture recordings and ‘electronic class notes’. The student was able to maintain their march toward earning course credits and graduation, despite their temporary serious heath situation. It is not a perfect response, but it does seek to meet the standard of: Doing that which is professionally ethical, reasonably achievable, and in the best interest of the child!)

To be fair to our DC city council persons, perhaps they never served in the capacity of a high school teacher or administrator (pretty scared if any did and supported this bill); if they had, that experience would have caused them to be familiar with two very co-related and codependent items; the curriculum and a ‘pacing calendar’. To fully explain these two important educational items, and how they are related and dependent on each other, would require a separate essay.
But this is the short answer concerning the problem that the ‘bill’ ignores. A great deal of the ‘learning’ that takes place in a high school course, is connected and dependent on topics that were taught earlier (as in yesterday, or a few days ago, last week…); a student missing 6 or more weeks of class, even if it is ‘spotty’ (a day here, two days…) of a geometry, Spanish Language, or biology class will find it extremely difficult to ‘bridge’ prior required knowledge and information, with the present topic they are facing, when they never received that prerequisite knowledge and information directly as a classroom experience.

Further, if the class is a single semester course (approximately 16-18 weeks depending on the district), as opposed to a full year; absences actually become ‘magnified’. The student with too many absences in this course’s compacted schedule (pacing calendar), could quickly find themselves hitting a missed-learning ‘tipping point’; where they are missing too much of the course instruction to have a reasonable chance of passing the class.

Chronic absentees whether in semester or yearlong courses will also have a hard time ‘connecting, organizing and consolidating’ the major ideas and themes (curriculum learning objectives), of the course. And this deficit learning experience will most likely reveal itself in the (ability to pass) course grade, post-course situations, such as: the course final exam, external standardized exams, the next higher level course, job, college, etc.
It takes a great deal of hard work (by both teacher and student), to get academically struggling students to pass classes, when they have relativity good attendance; and so for the chronic ‘no shows’, well…

I am hoping that the mayor vetoes this bill, which will force the school system to be painfully honest with its students and parents that gradation statistics (real or contrived) can’t override a human interest. Students are real people, with real life expectations, and they need a ‘real’ graduation to succeed in life. Let’s be honest with students; no one will be able to practice extreme absenteeism (and six or more weeks minus a crisis event is extreme), and be allowed to keep their job, or succeed in college. And so, the answer to incorrect graduation standards, is not to double-down on incorrectness.

This veto could also signal to her colleagues on the city council that one proven method of improving students attendance is to provide all (particularly Title 1) high schools with the much-needed expanded guidance and counseling support and personnel they need to successfully battle the ‘poverty driven’ reasons that drive students into becoming habitual punctuality and attendance underachievers (In high schools punctuality and attendance are inextricably linked, but that also is another essay). Principals cannot ‘over-budget’; every class must have a teacher; that unfortunately often means that areas like guidance and counseling become tragically understaffed. Schools ‘cheating’ on student support services, worsens the plight of the already ‘attendance challenged’, as it also expands the number of students who desperately need these services in order to maintain their school/class attendance, and thus their academic viability as students.

There are some very concrete and solvable reasons that students struggle with punctuality and attendance. And unless political leaders legislate the end of poverty and racism in America; schools will need strategically smart building leaders, having the necessary resources, if we want kids to come to school, on time, every day!

For the present ‘crises’ DC students don’t need a ‘pass’ to not really pass their required courses. The city invited ‘less then informed-reform’ actors to run their school system. The penalty for that bad decision is for the city’s elected leadership to now find the money to immediately invest in a massive short-term credit-recovery effort that involves afterschool, evening, weekends, school breaks and summers.

This initiative should be linked it to the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). Let academically struggling and attendance challenged SYEP high school students do ‘academic school work’ as their SYEP work-site assignment. Not to worry, they will have perfect attendance. Students who were “Sauls” when it came to regular school attendance, will be miraculously transformed into “Pauls” when their SYEP check is on the line. And yes, I know (from my experience as a superintendent) that this won’t go over well in some quarters politically, but this is a crises for these seriously at risk of not graduating students; and so they should receive their SYEP checks for picking up knowledge and credits in a classroom, instead of picking up trash in parks!

The next long-term step is having a comprehensive K-8th grade academic ‘readiness’ program that does not continually (year after year), send unprepared to do high school work students, to a predictably certain ‘educational death’ in those high schools.

The students of DC need, and their parents, and the tax payers deserve, high school graduations that are meaningful and authentic. Meaning that the student can translate their high school diploma into a real representation of that student’s knowledge and skills readiness to be successful in a post-graduation world. We fail students (and fool their parents) when we let them walk across a ‘graduation’ stage, only to fall into a despairing pit of unpreparedness for adult life. Let high school graduations mean something other than a ceremony, or a marketable (albeit false) statistic!

Michael A. Johnson has served as a public school teacher, Science Skills Center director, principal, and a school district superintendent. He also served as an adjunct professor of Science Education in the School of Education at St. John’s University. He recently completed a book on school leadership: Report to the Principal’s Office: Tools for Building Successful High School Administrative Leadership… http://reporttotheprincipalsoffice.net/

On Education: Black and Latino students can compete to gain entrance to NYC Specialized High Schools

By Michael Johnson – Our Time Press-June 8, 2018… http://www.ourtimepress.com/on-education-black-and-latino-students-can-compete-to-gain-entrance-to-nyc-specialized-high-schools/

Part 1: The dangerous under-expectations of the ability of Black and Latino students to compete with any group of students.
By Michael A. Johnson

Let me assert a strange and perhaps not well believed (or at least not presently popular) position; and that is, I believe that Black and Latino students, in NYC, and anywhere else on the planet; can effectively compete with any other students on the planet. Further, I believe that these students can perform well on the NYC Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), given the resource opportunities and the proper preparation. There is nothing inherently wrong with the brains of these children, all they need is a quality K-8 educational experience, courageous, strategically-smart, and imaginative principals, and highly-skilled teachers who are willing to efficaciously ‘leave it all’ on the classroom ‘playing field’!

Doing well on any form of assessment, is all about what happens prior to the student encountering that assessment model. And that is why professional educators know (even if the public does not); that testing a child on concepts and skills for which they have not been taught, is fundamentally unethical. Also unethical is the solitary use of standardized exams to deny admission to a quality learning experience, rather than using them for diagnostic purposes, to inform instructional practices, or to improve and expand the child’s learning opportunities. Parents of color may want to be careful of a demoralizing message sent to their children that says they can’t compete, simply because of who they are.

The SHSAT should be eliminated because it is ‘ethically challenged’. The exam proponents claim it is a fair measure of the principle of meritocracy; but in fact, that is a lie. The majority of students of color in NYC have not received the prerequisite skills training, information and knowledge that would allow them to do well (or less well) based on their own personal educational merit.

If the governing stakeholders want to change the present admissions system, then change it. But change it because it is flawed for all children (including non-affluent White students), not because of the subtle or overt reason that it is impossible for Black and Latino students to compete and win under the present rules. They in fact could compete, if only the conditions leading up to those rules were fair, which they are not, and thus one of the major flaws. A single criterion admissions process is always problematic in any educational context (K-Graduate School), and it is worthy of an informed debate among knowledgeable professional educators. But with ‘politicians’ leading the ‘admissions’ conversation, what could possibly go wrong? Well, everything!

There is always the problem in public education, of political concerns overtaking educational concerns, of utilizing symbolism instead of substance. There is this recurring bad idea in public education, that we must always sacrifice one group of students for another, We know (and have known for a long time), how to adequately educate all students to their optimum potential, we even know how to successfully educate the children of poverty, the offspring of illiterate and/or non-English speaking parents, we just choose not to do so, for political reasons. The main one being that NYC Black and Latino parents lack the political entitlement power that would demand that their children receive the education they deserve.

We also know that in the absence of a strong ‘parent-push’ informal education (out of school) component in a child’s life, the odds are that they will struggle in school (and on standardized exams); and therefore the school must step up and step in as an informal educational parent, if that child is to be successful. This would include offering students real and serious test prep, after-school, weekend and summer learning opportunities. And of course, the best test-prep being a rigorous K-8 learning experience. But that takes a systemic financial investment matched and created by political will.

Part 2: The school Integration, Diversity in Specialized Schools and Programs Debate: The wrong conversation, the wrong conversationalist leading that conversation, leads to and guarantees poor outcomes.

Michael A. Johnson has served as a public school teacher, Science Skills Center director, principal, and a school district superintendent. He also served as an adjunct professor of Science Education in the School of Education at St. John’s University. He recently completed a book on school leadership: Report to the Principal’s Office: Tools for Building Successful High School Administrative Leadership… http://reporttotheprincipalsoffice.net/

Why High School Graduations Matter…

Graduations at the very least, represent our much-needed symbols of hope. Perhaps the period leading up to that graduation created an opportunity for a creative encounter with a word, idea, concept, picture, poem, essay, or novel; something that caused the graduate to examine their ‘interior-selves’, to the point that their intellectual, moral and spiritual literacy levels are irreversibly raised… Continue reading

Can you hear me now?

“The leader of Michigan’s largest school district says a key reason why Detroit schools are in crisis is this: Racism.”

This is causing me to painfully ask the question: what if White educators said what many of us Black educators have been saying for years (to Black and White Audiences) without much success; would the public then be more open to hearing and accepting these objective truths? The list of ‘truth-tellers’ stretches far back into history: Carter G. Woodson, Elijah Muhammad, Manning Marable, Asa Hilliard, Ron Edmonds, Barbara Sizemore, Jitu Weusi, just to name a few. And the tragedy is that their words are as relevant today as when they first spoke them many years ago. How can that be?

“Detroit schools chief Nikolai Vitti says ‘racist’ policies led to crisis in Detroit schools
By Erin Einhorn – Chalkbeat.org

Detroit schools superintendent Nikolai Vitti speaking at the Mackinac Policy Conference on May 31, 2018.
The leader of Michigan’s largest school district says a key reason why Detroit schools are in crisis is this: Racism.

“There is a racist element to what has happened,” Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told the state’s influential business and political leaders at the annual, high profile Mackinac Policy Conference. “Children in Detroit have been treated like second-class citizens.”
Vitti, who is white, often speaks publicly about inequity in schools but his strong language about race was notable in part because of the setting.

The policy conference, held every year the week after Memorial Day to discuss issues affecting the city and state, is attended predominantly by white business and political leaders, including some who have been influential in making decisions that affect schools across the state.
Speaking on a panel with Mayor Mike Duggan, school board member Sonya Mays and University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel, Vitti was highly critical of the way the Detroit schools, which primarily serve African American and Latino children, have been managed.
He said he was “shocked” and “horrified” last year when he took over a school system that lacked what he considered basic systems.
He had inherited a district from a series of state-appointed emergency managers who had run the district for more than seven years.
It was run, Vitti said, “by individuals that had no track record of education reform.”

Parents and educators had no way to raise concerns because the elected school board was largely powerless, he said.

The emergency managers presided over a district that has some of the lowest test scores in the nation and where buildings were left in such poor repair that the district had to dismiss students early three days this week because too many schools don’t have air-conditioning.
The district saw “year after year of low performance, of lack of growth, drop in enrollment, facilities that are not kept up,” Vitti said.
“That would never, ever, happen in any white suburban districts in this country.”

His comments were greeted with applause.
A spokesman for Gov. Rick Snyder, who appointed most of the emergency managers, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.”— Source: https://www.chalkbeat.org/ny/

Michael A. Johnson has served as a public school teacher, Science Skills Center director, principal, and a school district superintendent. He also served as an adjunct professor of Science Education in the School of Education at St. John’s University. He recently completed book on school leadership: Report to the Principal’s Office: Tools for Building Successful High School Administrative Leadership… http://reporttotheprincipalsoffice.net/