Last week, the freshman boys and girls at Cumberland High School had separate assemblies where speakers made remarks on several subjects.
According to my stepson, some of the remarks at the young men’s meeting were unnecessarily coarse and seemingly counter to good communication with young people. In addition, two speakers whose names I will not be using, made remarks that I would characterize as intemperate. Ill-advised, in my opinion.
According to the freshman student, and anecdotal reports from other sources, the two men in question made comments which I will paraphrase here, since I wasn’t there to hear them. In fact, I am giving you a paraphrased version straight from the student that was there.
You don’t deserve a new $36m school.
Don’t take these behaviors to the new school.
How many people are planning to go to college? (hands raise) Well, I see a lot of false hope in this room.
Cumberland used to have a bad reputation, but in years past, that has improved. Now you are messing it up again. (mentioned by teaching staff as well as administrators)
I will admit that the way these things were said might have something to do with the impressions students got, as people always do. However, these statements don’t seem like a good strategy to influence our young people, to inform them and to train them in the ways of society. It is especially not a good thing to be derisive about the educational plans of a high school class that is nearly 50% African-American.
Our student came in the door that day saying loudly, “I am going to college no matter what they say!” This is heartbreaking, because I know many students will not stand up mentally to the negative messages received that day. How many young men said to themselves, “He must be talking about me…”? How many of them felt that the negative reinforcement received that day was a self-fulfilling prophecy?
The response to our actions in calling a School Board member and discussing it, both with her and our student, is also very puzzling. The principal at the high school wrote in an email that the students must have misheard or otherwise confused the message of the presentation. Also, she mentioned in that email that my wife (who knows all too well the management style of our school division) has a problem with the School Division.
In fact, she does. She retired last year on disability after this vaunted management drove her crazy over the last several years. She is a 23 year veteran teacher at those schools, (the only place she taught after university) and she couldn’t fathom staying around to be abused like any warm body anymore. Their repeated bad decisions concerning Special Education and the schools in general wear on a teacher after a while. I have witnessed her working many more hours than she was ever expected to in order to complete work someone else had butchered horribly or hadn’t done at all, both above her in the supposed chain of command and below her.
The fact is, she deserves something better, and that’s why she left under medical advice.
But I digress.
What are the students to think now, with no official response to this outrage? Do they think that the school has their best interests at heart? I doubt it. What are the parents of other upset students saying and thinking? Did they call the school, or complain to their School Board representative?
We didn’t complain to our actual School Board member, because we knew it would do no good, him being part of the problem rather than part of the solution. You see, last year when Cumberland County elected its first School Board ever, he was the chair of the appointed board. He is no longer chair in the elected board and has been an obstructionist to the process of straightening out the mess that are our schools are in.
Of course, since he was elected, he can become un-elected as well.
On a final note, I will mention that one of the two administrators in question is part of the widely recognized and heralded “Call Me Mister” Program. The program provides resources for schools to provide good role models to young African-America men. The other administrator also is part of a similar program, as well as both men being involved in athletic coaching at the high school. To answer the question you must be asking yourself at this point, the two administrators are African-Americans. That fact has nothing to do with this complaint. It has everything to do, instead, with improper supervision of staff and an unclear message being put out that only serves to confuse the very people it is meant to help — young male students at our high school.