Tuesday, November 18, 2008

BUILD SCHOOLS, NOT PRISONS

NYC Comptroller Bill Thompson joined a lawsuit to prevent the city from re-opening the Brooklyn House of Detention, which prompted this from Miami teacher Paul Moore whose school is threatened with closure. He talks about life and death in the school zone, issues just slightly more important than insane accountability systems.


"Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind." --Plato, The Republic

A system of strict accountability for children reigns in Florida. They begin to answer to men with power under this system at the age of 9 or 10-years-old. No matter the circumstances of the child's life-poverty, racism, neglect, abuse, malnutrition, special needs, the constant threat of violence-no "excuse" is accepted. FCAT failure is always punished! And as they grow older, both the fortunate and the wounded, Florida's children never escape the pressures of accountability unless their parents are wealthy enough to afford private schooling.

The last regular session of the Florida Legislature slashed the state's education budget by $2.3 billion and appropriated $305 million to build three new prisons.

FUND THE SCHOOLS, CLOSE PRISONS!

One teacher's testimony
Town Hall Meeting, Miami Carol City Senior High School Auditorium,
November 10, 2008.

My name is Paul Moore and I have been teaching social studies here at Carol City High for 26 years. The testimony I will give comes from my own experience at this great school. I do believe though that it reflects the experience of educators in great schools across the country.

It is wonderful to have our district's esteemed representative on the Miami-Dade School Board Mr. Wilbert "Tee" Holloway and the honorable Mayor of Miami Gardens Shirley Gibson here with us today--again. These two community leaders are an enduring part of the Chief's family.
Nothing needs be said to them. I would however like to address some remarks to our guest from the Florida Department of Education Mr. Jeffrey Hernandez.

Even though you come here not to praise us but rather to threaten us with state sanctions, welcome to our home Mr. Hernandez. You are here today because you have looked at scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and based on those scores alone, decided that Miami Carol City High is a failing school. I must tell you that I could not care less about changing your mind. You are just carrying water for much more powerful men. But I do want to tell you some things about us and ask you to relay a message to your bosses.

Three of our graduates have died in Iraq. When Donnie Dixon, Class of '88 was killed he left behind a wife and their four children. Joe Polo, Class of '95 was younger than Donnie when he died in combat. Joe didn't have any children but he was engaged to be married when he returned to this community after his second tour of duty in the war zone. Charles Sims, Class of '02 was the youngest of our fallen warriors. He was a fresh faced 19-year-old, less than six months out of this school's JROTC classes when he gave his life for you and me and this country. How many young men like Donnie, Joe, and Charles would a school have to produce to get off your list of failing schools?

A teacher was shot at Miami Carol City High last year. In fact we just observed the anniversary, Nov. 6, 2007, when Sergio Miranda and Maria Vives went across the street to smoke a cigarette during their lunch break. Someone came out of the public housing there and shot Mr. Miranda. The bullet lodged near his spine and, as you might imagine, the whole incident severely traumatized Ms. Vives. To this day our colleague undergoes difficult rehabilitation sessions several times a week. But when he is well again Mr. Miranda has pledged to return to this school! When he comes back he will be reunited with Ms. Vives who returned to her students in a matter of days. How much courage and dedication must teachers demonstrate to get off your list of failing schools?

Many of our students live in or near the 33054. A local newspaper recently analyzed crime statistics and made a startling announcement about the neighborhood adjacent to our school. The 33054 is the most dangerous place to be young in all of Florida. The Miami Herald found
that inside the boundaries of zip code 33054 the children and young people live under the most severe threat of violence to be found anywhere in this state. Are there any schools in those upscale suburban neighborhoods on your list of failing schools? (Note: 274 Florida schools are deemed failing by the federal Department of Education. The state Department of Education asked for a special dispensation for some schools and not others.)

Two of my brothers in the teaching fraternity here at Carol City, Mr. Hafter and Mr. Adler, joined me to teach two and three social studies classes at a time in this auditorium in recent years. All our senior students would pass through here during the week. Let me tell you about just five from the Class of 2006. A particularly quiet young man named Evan Page used to come in here for class. A few days after Thanksgiving 2005 Evan was shot to death outside the Checkers where he worked after school. Anthony Elias attended class in this auditorium. The other students called him "Yellowman" because of his light complexion. He was quite popular with the girls. I don't know, something about him being "fine". Anthony was killed with an assault rifle. Sherika Wilson Lynch took her social studies class in this auditorium. She was a student and the beautiful young mother of a baby she named Ahmani. Her baby was 16-months-old when she died. One day Sherika was coming out of a convenience store in the 33054. When she was gunned down a carton of milk for Ahmani fell to the sidewalk beside her. Brian Dupree was once a fun-loving jovial presence in this auditorium. His father is a security monitor in the school. Brian was shot and died just outside his father's home.

Then there was Jeffrey Johnson, Jr. No disrespect intended but he laughed at your FCAT. Jeffrey was a brilliant young man, one of our honor students, headed for a meaningful education at St. Thomas University on a full scholarship. An aspiring lawyer, he once wrote, "I have had a lot of exposure to the legal system and its ramifications. I do not agree with all of it. But I figure they need some good guys like me who do it from the heart, not for the money. I'm so passionate about my goals because I have a hunch that I can make a difference."

Jeffrey Johnson, Jr. perished violently three days before he was supposed to graduate from Carol City High. A street outside the school bears his name now. But as one of his teachers, there has been no consolation in the many tributes paid Jeffrey since his death, until something that happened last Tuesday Nov. 4, 2008 at 11:00 p.m. EST. For the first time it made me think of Jeffrey in a joyful way. A young man like Jeffrey who did graduate from high school, a young man like Jeffrey who did go to law school, a young man like Jeffrey who did get to live out his passion to make a difference, a young man like Jeffrey was elected President of the United States!

Mr. Hernandez, please take this message back to Florida's Commissioner of Education Eric J. Smith and Governor Crist. We are among the people who loved Jeffrey Johnson and who elected Barack Obama president. Any plans you may have had when George W. Bush was in the White House and pushing No Child Left Behind are canceled! Any plans that were drawn up under Jeb Bush's FCAT system are canceled! You will never close Miami Carol City Senior High School! You will never close Edison, Central, Holmes, Liberty City Elementary, Norland, North Miami or any of the other schools on your list! We won't let you!

Paul A. Moore
Teacher, Miami Carol City Senior High School
Home of the Chiefs since '63

1 comment:

  1. And we deliver the power ;-)

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    ReplyDelete

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