April 02, 2012


By Profesor Martin Danenberg "El Quijote del GED"

This article is about not closing schools and providing new, great resources to those schools and communities that need the help. Empower everyone now! Please read and digest the part about Mitt Romney.
Superintendent Juan Mendez really got the attention of parent leaders as he spoke about how a school was transformed and not shut down. The music program engaged 1,000 participating parents. The dropout rate shrank from 50 percent to a mere 3.5 percent during a four year period. Other programs were instituted, of course. The question was raised about how we could clone Juan Mendez. Do we need to clone Mitt Romney after his comments?
Joseph Fratoni of One Green Apple showed the parent leaders and others attending the conference that their OPUS internet program is a critical tool for communicating between teacher, principal, and parent that can lead to a collaboration that exceeds what is currently being used. The accountability that is integral to the program requires everything to be answered quickly instead of being buried under the rug, where students fall through the cracks each day, each week, each month, each year. The communication between school and home is what it is all about. If I were asked to promote patriotism in the schools or One Green Apple, One Green Apple gets my vote. I did not ask GED students to be patriotic, but there are youth who want their GED to serve in the military and we do not hear a thing about that from Romney.
If we talk about ARIS or 9-11 responses, we see that things are not optimum, possibly minimum at best. New York City deserves much more from its administration. Shortcomings in the 9-11 response system were reported in the New York Post and it seems that the mayor's office has known about that for some time.

By the way, let me be myself. It is actually Monday afternoon and this came into my head. The school that Juan Mendez took over should be checked out and this is why. Let us say that the year before he took over, it had 3,000 students and 1,000 were either sent to alternative programs or they dropped out. We must always keep this in mind to be fair and accurate (in other words transparent). Now we can look at the figures for the first year completed and start there. If Juan Mendez took over the entire body of the students in his first year, we can begin there and see the success. Otherwise we cannot compare the school before and after he arrived. It may have had the same name, but with significant changes it would not be the same school at all. Check it out! I really do not want to give credit to someone who took over a smaller school and compare him to the former principal. That would not be fair or accurate either.

Mitt Romney was the guest on the Sean Hannity radio show yesterday (days before this article was published) around 4 P.M. Romney was asked by Hannity about how to reduce serious problems affecting schools including, drugs, crime, violence, and gangs. Romney failed and so did Sean Hannity because Hannity could have torn Romney apart for Romney's lack of substance. I call upon all radio talk show hosts to discuss this very important matter. Think of what you would say, something powerful that you have learned about gangs, drugs, crime, and violence in your schools or schools you have heard about. Romney told the listening audience that the unions should take a back seat and basically let the parents get the job done with the teachers. He did not attack the unions, but his answer is typical politics. The union does tremendous work in the field all year round and deserves a lot of credit. You may disagree with the salaries or the pension benefits, but let us give credit where it is due and the unions are a driving force for improvement, including demanding discipline in the classroom. Romney included restoring discipline, bringing patriotism into the schools (he did not mention the Bible and religion, but I do not fail him for that), and having teachers that know the subject. History will show us that if the schools are in communities that are poor such as Far Rockaway, East New York, or Wilmington, Delaware or Newark and there has been hardly any job creation for the residents, things remain pretty bad in the neighborhood and the schools. It has been the same way in schools in West Virginia which has always had a high dropout rate from high school. White poverty and black poverty share this history in common.

No president, it seems, has been able to tackle this problem well in good times or bad times. People criticize the Lyndon Johnson War on Poverty for failing. If more African-Americans have been rushing to prison instead of college during and since the Reagan years, this has been a major failure of Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama. Yes even Obama! Getting back to Romney and his comments, you would think that a presidential candidate with such great experience would really provide great concrete solutions instead of general ideas that we do not have to listen to. Students do salute the flag and learn many patriotic things, but our schools were never good even in days when Americans were "more patriotic." Movies like Blackboard Jungle predated union power. The unions did not create the problems or do much to increase the problem that Hannity was addressing. The unions did not have power to diminish the importance of the schools when the idea sprang up to write The Blackboard Jungle. Obviously things were out of control in schools in cities when I attended the fourth grade in Manhattan.

Parent involvement is one of the key items on the Romney list. There are struggling towns in the state of Massachusetts that Romney never probably helped when he was governor of that state. The GED situation at that time was not very good and the Spanish GED was almost eliminated. Hispanics prevented what Haitians could not do in Massachusetts. The GED had been already eliminated by politics in Massachusetts. But getting back to parent involvement, District 27 is doing something to empower the Title 1 schools by giving training to parents. The Executive Director of the Office of Family Engagement of the Department of Education of the City of New York was a keynote speaker on the second day of training. The first day started with the director of Title 1 funds for the State of New York speaking and Roberto Reyes told everyone that there has to be compliance by principals and schools. His office was ready to help parents that had complaints. Sure parents and principals work together and apparently principals stack the deck in their favor and violate or twist Title 1. One parent complained that she could not get the principal to release materials that the parents had purchased with Title 1 funds. One parent was so upset that she did not want to go inside to listen to a faulty system that she already knows about. We talked about the great need to create jobs in poor communities like Far Rockaway. This is what was need when Romney was governor of Massachusetts and the GED is so essential in that process. The high school diploma or GED is even needed at Mc Donald's and Chic-A-Filet restaurants. Wow! I cannot believe it. The latter, I am told, is expanding into the northeast now and that means that people will have to compete for fast food restaurant positions, which is a growth industry in this country. Is that America's future, Mr. Romney? I am sure that both Lawrence, Massachusetts and Far Rockaway need jobs.

Here is an important point. There are over 4 million at risk youth between the ages of 16-24 who have needed help for years and they did not get it. Now Mayor Bloomberg and the city of New York are doing something about educating those youth it did not educate in previous years. This is needed all over the country and it is was not mentioned on the Hannity Show. Why? They are not well informed.

Blackboard Jungle(1955)
101 min - Drama - 25 March 1955 (USA)
Your rating:
Ratings: 7.4/10 from 4,188 users
Reviews: 62 user |22 critic
A new English teacher at a violent, unruly inner-city school is determined to do his job, despite resistance from both students and faculty.

Romney could have offered advice to parents and schools to start parent involvement drug prevention programs, homerooms that offer students better alternatives including mentoring instead of just sitting around for the first bell to ring to change classes, helping everyone get on the road to college so No Child Will Be Left Behind and that means better counseling, providing new resources to help those students who will graduate from high school with a parent-student initiative that will increase their chances of passing college placement exams and not having to take remediation. Gang members, the friends and girlfriends have to return to school and not plague the community with their antisocial behavior and this can be done through new dropout prevention ideas and since the Pipeline to Prison needs to be reduced, more must be done to help the people coming home from prisons. The ex-offenders must be integrated into the parent involvement process and become unified with the community and the children of ex-offenders must be helped so that this vicious cycle where parent and child end in prison. Since two-thirds of the people in prison are or were special education students, a parent involvement program of intervention helping this group of youth is essential. Neighborhoods affect the schools and the schools affect the neighborhoods.

At District 27's Educational Conference on Saturday, I addressed about ten students and the question was asked by my technical assistant Yahdon Israel "What is Jim Crow?" Two students responded by saying that it was "putting on black face." The history of Jim Crow does involve a minstrel player in the 1830's who started doing that and his character was known as Jim Crow, but not one of the African-American students could talk about the segregation that hit the South during the late 1800's. In watching this develop before my own eyes, I can tell you two things, one of which has been reported for many years. The first thing is that students lack critical information about their history and our nation. The second thing is personal. In teaching Hispanics, African-Americans, Jews, and Asians on the Lower East Side decades ago, it was obvious that the Jewish and Chinese students always took great interest in learning about all ethnic groups. Those students were usually the very best students in that school. The other students lagged behind in both their commitment to trying and also learning about what was presented to them. We moved on in our curriculum and we gave tests before moving on.
Obviously it is the very best group of students that master everything and they were the students who earned the 4s of their time (students are now graded 1-4 on tests). Perhaps the system of rating students from 1 to 4 is insufficient. Maybe there should be a 4+ to identify the very top. We could then do a study of those students to determine what ethnic groups they come from. It is clear to all of us that African-American and Hispanic youth are not making it into Stuyvesant High School in New York City, even after hearing former Chancellor Klein tell us that the city is creating world class schools. World class? But whose world was he talking about?

Just the other day, I heard a radio show where the subject was killing people in America. Seventy-five percent of the killings were same race killings. My friend William Bell, the father of Sean Bell, talks about those killings and the fact that Black people are becoming extinct. The other twenty-five percent of the killings are Black on White and White on Black killings, with about eighty percent of the killings being Black on White. From my own point of view, we need the elected officials and the schools to work with the community in fighting this cancer of violence. The new Tomatherapy that is fighting cancer is fighting it from different angles. The schools are failing communities because the people in power are just fighting the problem from one angle and that is helping only the children. The whole community needs help. There are 5,000 schools that have been identified by the White House as underperforming schools but nobody has brought THEM together to learn the kinds of things that we learned at District 27's Educational Conference. This is what is needed right now. Neither Arne Duncan nor Mitt Romney is on the right page.

Martin Danenberg
7 Blazer Drive
Islandia, New York 11749

Profesor Martin Danenberg April 2, 2012 05:15 PM