Friday, April 12, 2013

Pondering Thoughts: Election Recuperation

Sipping a homemade caramel-coconut milk latte, looking out the balcony windows, watching the gentle breeze in the trees, tiny buds swaying, I'm sitting here, looking out at the future and pondering the past few months, wondering if it was worth it.

I recuperated at home the past couple of days, I really didn't realize how physically exhausted I'd become over the past few weeks of the election.  The week of the election we went to Chicago so even then, I was on a fast pace.  When I finally sat down, I realized I had a lot to process.

Someone complimented me on the way I ran my campaign, dubbing me the "thinking man's candidate" and someone else said they really respected me for running in a community like Kirkwood.  The accolades meant a lot to me because it was a hard race, very hard, one I am still processing.

Like anyone who lives in a community and wants the best outcome for their children, I tuned into the election, to what all the candidates had to say, I was a voter as well as a candidate.  I am concerned about the failure of our school district to hire diverse teachers, their failure to create a positive environment where all children are accepted, and their continued reliance upon the popularity contest-perpetual high school-old boys and old girls network.

Some of the things I am musing about are the enormous achievement gap between the black and white kids, especially the kids from Meacham Park, the boys especially, who have a gaping hole in their learning.  These are not the kids from the city who have been reduced down to 4% of the school population, no these are the home grown, from here, Kirkwood kids who live in Meacham Park and have attended Kirkwood schools since kindergarten.

Something is wrong in the soup.

I tried to shed light on the issues of educational disparity and that having teachers with cultural competency and administration with a commitment would make a difference.  Robinson Elementary, the school where my daughters attends, has some of the district's worse performance scores of a segment of its black population.  Are there black teachers at Robinson? No.

What about at Nipher Middle School, the next step for these kids, the home school for the majority of the MP kids.  Yes, they have a retiring black art teacher and one black female science teacher who only some of the kids will get.  What they do have is a black BJC (not Kirkwood employee) social worker who is there to keep order and be the muscle for the majority white school and all white female administration.  Like Robinson, the school is led by white females with minimal cultural competency. The principal at Robinson is at least using the terms of white privilege but I am not sure if there is a commitment of success throughout the school or the district.

Now, as I mentioned in my campaign, before my campaign, and after my campaign, I hold parents accountable and students responsible for their behavior.  The teachers only have them for a part of the day.  Parents are absolutely responsible for preparing their children to learn, that means providing them with a full and nutritious breakfast, a good nights sleep,and the materials needed for success.

Someone once told me that they did not have what I had.

I am a work-at-home writer and a marketing strategist between projects.  I do not have money dripping off my balcony trees and our family lives on a tight budget.  I am blessed that my husband's profession does provide my girls with opportunities to take private music lessons and to travel, but under no circumstances are we wealthy.  We are just very committed and educated parents who make our children's education a priority over superficial material items.

The library is free, something else I point out to parents.  Kirkwood has an excellent children's and teen's section with librarians who truly care about the children.  They carry a variety of books, have computers and now e-readers available.  My girls are often the only black kids there.  Oak Bend is another library that feeds into our community and there are more blacks there and more black (though questionable) books offered.  Reading is the number one thing parents can do to help boost their child's academic performance.

Now, as I also discussed, there is an economic and racial element to how education is funded and that this plays directly into the attitude of some teachers.  Chicago is closing 54 schools - in black areas, St. Louis is closing schools, Kirkwood ended their longstanding relationship with the VICC program, and black students are sitting in sub-par classrooms while the nation has priviledged kids like the girl who used her connections to the WSJ to write an article whining about why they are not in the Ivy Leagues.  It is not equal and it is a concern.

What can be done about it all?  My husband insists the Common Core Standard will help urban students and force their teachers to dig deeper, raise the bar, and level the playing field for kids who are in schools without an iPad Mini in every hand.

There has to be a partnership and a commitment to all the students and not just those in the West County suburbs whose family have the privilege of paying for a $500,000+ home.

Is a school administrator making close to $300,000 the answer to the educational disparity?  Is white washing the district the answer? Is ignoring the taxpayers who do not want renovations to Lyons stadium at the expense of ACT scores the answer? What will it take to put the focus on the actual students -regardless of their race, income, and zip code - who sit in the classrooms and stop demonizing the teacher who are working hard, the parents who are working hard, and the students who are working hard to achieve success. What will it take?

So, I am sitting here in my home office, musing over my third cup of coffee with the homemade caramel, looking out at the trees, catching up on my academic reading and writing, knowing that it does matter, it did make a difference and I will keep making my daughter practice her multiplication tables.

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