The humor began with the observable reactions of President Doreen Richardson and Vice President Darleen Klase. They were obviously disinterested in receiving feedback from Windsor community members and parents who do not perceive the achievement gap along racial lines. Or should I say, those parents that see the achievement gap through a more comprehensive and holistic lens.
This is emphasized by the e-mail response that I received from Doreen Richardson, dated Thursday morning at 8:29AM, that stated, “The Board is committed to this course of action and views it as part of a comprehensive transformative agenda for improving Windsor Public Schools.” I received Doreen Richardson’s e-mail in response to my questions regarding the waiver of the bidding procedures (see http://windsor.patch.com/blog_posts/parent-response-to-the-boes-decision-to-waive-the-bidding-procedure-for-the-equity-and-excellence-review).
So I guess, Doreen Richardson, I am sorry that you had to waste your time Thursday night listening to parents who elected you and your fellow BOE members to your current positions. Hopefully, we will not make this mistake again.
Let’s consider, for a moment, that culture is the essential and unrealized key to closing the achievement gap measured between White and African American students attending Windsor Public High School. The tremendous amount of resources that have already been used by the Connecticut State Department of Education in regards to providing a Culturally Responsive Education could be used to design a multicultural in-house professional development training in about 1 year (see http://www.windsorct.org/boe/news/12.11.27_culturally_responsive_ed.pdf).
Unfortunately, there appears to be no members of our current board with any experience in research (unless we count the Democratic puppet Superintendent Villar). This is exemplified in Doreen Richardson’s e-mail response from Thursday, in which she also stated, “[t]he Board is confident in its selection of Dr. James and Loyola University. Their expertise, experience and resources will round out the District's capacity to evaluate and problem solve issues around teaching and learning at our high school.” It is important to also note that after reviewing Doreen Richardson’s posted resume on LinkedIn (see http://www.linkedin.com/in/doreenrichardson), she has no experience in teaching and has never worked within a public school system.
With that said, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by Doreen Richardson’s e-mail and her observable detachment from individuals testifying against her decision to promote Dr. Marlon James as the only option (also known as a self proclaimed super hero) for closing the achievement gap. He is cited by the Hartford Courant, October 19, 2012, as stating, “[teachers] perceive that minorities can't handle the same workload as white kids” (see http://articles.courant.com/2012-10-19/community/hc-bridging-achievement-gap-1020-20121019_1_latino-students-black-students-minority-students). The article continues, “… in 2011 about 50 percent of the district's white 10th-grade students scored at or above goal on the reading portion of the Connecticut Academic Performance test.” This leaves 50% of our white tenth graders not achieving grade level. What are we going to do about the kids at Sage Park, including the African American, Latino, and White children, who are not achieving at grade level?
And what about elementary schools? Hasn’t it also been shown through research that reading level in 3rd grade is a significant indicator of later academic success? (see http://www.chapinhall.org/sites/default/files/Reading_on_Grade_Level_111710.pdf). My son is in first grade, he is white (well actually ½ Portuguese, but Google won’t give me a clear answer on what his ethnicity would be, but since we operate, according to Dr. James solely through stereotyping, he is white)… anyways. My son is 7-levels below grade level in reading based on his DRA scores. Does he not get the same right to do well in school because his teachers are not making the assumption that he is an underachiever because he is visibly white (well except for the first week of school when he is still so tan he could be perceived as Latino, unless his blue eyes and blonde hair automatically make him white)?
When I was told Thursday night at the BOE meeting by an African American parent, an individual I would call my friend, that I “will never understand what it is like to be black,” I realized that this is the line that the BOE President Doreen Richardson is drawing, with or without realizing it. Does the fact that I am not black make me not capable of understanding the discrimination that an individual can experience in response to a preconceived group stereotype? I was a single mother for the first three years of my first son's life from 20-23, I received state assistance, I used WIC checks, I am a young person in recovery, I am an individual from the lowest socio-economic class (but please disregard all of that because I have a degree and I am white). How dare anyone assume that I don’t know what discrimination feels like and how dare anyone assume that another individual does not have the capacity to understand what another human being has experienced or is going through. And with that said, why would we want to promote a division between our children because we can’t get our thinking straight enough to realize that disregarding procedure is dooming our town to developing a minimalistic approach to solving the achievement gap.
It appears that, similarly with Dr. James, Doreen Richardson is carrying out her current work as a Consultant for Scribes and Strategies to “seek[ing] to engage its clients in mission-centered strategic planning and analysis, and business communications,” by using her position as the Board of Education President to gain credibility in her professional career. Based on her current mission to not include anyone that doesn’t support her beliefs and decisions, it would appear that the Windsor Public School system is her first job with this company, and hiring Dr. Marlon James to find results that support her mission will advance her career.
Lets consider for a moment why I did poorly at Windsor High School. I had underlying behavioral health symptoms that were not acknowledged or addressed by Windsor High School and I chose to assimilate into the drug culture of Windsor High School, which was made up of all ethnicities. Has anyone even considered other variables that could be contributing to the achievement gap? Probably not since they don't have experience with research (except for the Superintendent, who I should also note will be receiving his review only by a select committee of the BOE comprised only of Democrats; see http://windsor.patch.com/articles/republicans-excluded-from-superintendent-evaluation-committee). There are underlying factors that are not attainable by waiving the bidding procedures and going with a researcher that has one, predetermined approach to solving all achievement gaps.
My overall impression of the Thursday night Windsor Board of Education Special Meeting is one of embarrassment for the disrespect and lack of creativity demonstrated by our elected officials. I would also have to say I am still in overall shock because I have learned that the lines of division have been drawn so clearly between black and white. This is not the Town of Windsor that I called home when I graduated from Windsor High School only 8 years ago, and I draw this conclusion with a heavy heart and mind.
I would also like to make note of a charter school in New Haven that has closed the achievement gap (see http://www.pbs.org/closingtheachievementgap/program.html). Upon reviewing the program description, there is a clear difference in demographics between the students of Amistad and Windsor High School, with Amistad’s student body being comprised of 66% African American, 33% Latino and 2% White. Does this mean that we will close the achievement gap when we have these same demographics in Windsor High School? When we can focus exclusively on children of, as the CT Department of Education calls, “colored students”? Doesn’t that sound absolutely ridiculous? I feel sick even considering that the town that I have called home for more than 20 years is being divided along racial lines.
SHOULD I RESPOND TO DOREEN RICHARDSON'S EMAIL? I feel sick even considering how much she is promoting her own personal agenda and how her ducks are falling in line. This is clearly demonstrated by the majority of BOE members not questioning her decisions to waive the bidding procedure and hire the person she feels is the best man for the job. A decision that she has made based on her previously established personal relationship with Dr. Marlon James. I believe in accountability and the current elected BOE members are not showing us that they apply this value to themselves.