Friday, April 29, 2011

Are Young Men & Women Being Inadvertently Groomed for the E.A.G.L.E School?

Adults must take care that they do not appear hypocritical when dealing with the subject of bullying. Much of adult behavior that has been in the press & media lately may be interpreted as bullying. For instance, our President was recently bullied into showing his birth certificate.

What is it called when a "homeless person" is arrested for sending her child to school out of district? If you are homeless, you have no district. Talk about transparency.  What is it called when you push a person around who cannot or will not fight for themselves?
Teachers and working class people all over this country are being bullied. Micromanagers in corporations and smaller businesses are indulging in behavior that may be compared to bullying. It is systemic in our society, corporations and school districts.  When a competent and conscientious worker on any level is constantly stressed about whether he/she will have a job tomorrow, there is evidence of bullying. 
Teachers must be careful when doling out punishments that the punishment fits the crime or infraction. For example, how long should a student be removed from the learning environment when the infraction was “tapping on a desk”?
Children emulate the behavior around them. We must all look within and take our own advice. The Golden rule applies to everyone. We must be ever mindful that our actions are not saying, "do as we say, not as we do." Is it really such a mystery as to why our youth are beginning to rely more and more on bullying behavior in order to get their wants and points across to each other?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Our NeighborHood is Strong: We must Grow our own High Achievers!

It has been suggested that we should have as a goal to bring back those who have deserted our troubled public schools. The idea is that we will work hard on improving ourselves so they will want to return to town and committ themselves to learning in their own community with the rest of us.
We worry ourselves over the 23 new Charter Schools in NJ.
If you visit the NJ State Department of Education website you will note that we are basically encouraged to open a Charter. Why? Divide and conquer is not a new concept to us. There is one reality that may have slipped our notice. To quote from a letter to the editor in the Suburbanite, "Charter Schools are simply private schools funded by public money."  The taxpaying public pays for Charter Schools. Who governs them in NJ? In some states, it is the local board of educaiton.  Take the highest scoring students from a district and put them in a Charter School and notice higher test scores. Abra Kadabra! Where is the hidden magic? Of course the test scores will be  higher. Anyone can teach those students. Something is at work here that has nothing to do with children. Look deeply and learn. Some athletes leave the public schools, because low achieving athletes are showing them up on the football field, on the basketball court and the list goes on. Face it, many times the great athletes are not the best students. Start earlier in the life of the athlete. Make sure he/she learns to READ and WRITE IN ENGLISH. THE TESTS THAT THESE ATHLETES AND OTHERS DO POORLY ON ARE ADMINISTERED IN ENGLISH, NOT MANDARIN AND NOT SPANISH.
Use the links here. Read and stay informed on what our Governor and his cohorts are doing to public education. This did not just begin. It is a plan that has been gestating in the womb of deception for quite a while now. We do not need anymore surprises.
 (Will Charters always be free for students?)
How did we allow this to happen? When did we go back in time? Did we not pass this way before?
This is the most perfect example of how history may teach us some very valuable lessons. When my home county of Warren, North Carolina was integrated circa 1968-69, after I left, little Christian Schools sprang up all over the place. Did we just learn that these little schools now have the support of the NJ Department of Education?  I say forget about Charter Schools. We have a lot of work to do in our own backyards. Make sure our boards of educations are knowlegeable. Our attention must be turned within. 

We must concentrate our energies on the students in front of us? When we consider this, grow your own takes on a whole new meaning. Start  in nursery school. Start at home. We have few choices left. Do we want a college education to become something available to only the rich? Public schools have the hardest job, because they embrace all students. This is the RIGHT thing to do. We must turn our weaknesses into strengths and rededicate ourselves to growing our own high achieving students, teachers, principals, even boards of educations. A good artist uses whatever medium available. So let's get going my people. It is time to stomp the yard to the rhythm of some found sounds. We have all the tools we need to grow our own. All we need do is keep our hearts and our options open for change. Roll up your  sleeves NJ residents. We have only begun to realize that the battle started while we were napping.

We must stop thinking the negative about our own neighborhood schools. Somewhere down the line we lost our way. It is not too late. We still have control. Our children recognize our confusion and our apathy. We need more faith in the strength and resilience of our own characters. We must become better models. There are many positive things going on in our communities.

On Saturday, March 19, 2011 we watched a line of young ladies grades 6 and up proudly dressed in their red and white accept awards at a Delta Luncheon. They were well dressed, well spoken and well on their way to preparing themselves for a college education. We must not cease having high expectations for our children.

On my honor, I will do better. Will you make the same committment?

"It takes a village to raise and educate a child. Welcome to the village."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

"The Dreamer Cometh!"

..."Tell a man he is unworthy of the ideal he has built into his life; he has still something to live for. He may yet strive! But God pity that one who has persuaded himself that his dream is false! The ideal must be true and eternal. It can never be shattered. We may forget it; we may barter away for dross that which is priceless, but whatever our weakness, the Dream is true. Let the cynic scornfully say, "The Dreamer cometh!" With the sobered confidence of youth. with all the humility of manhood we can answer in the very words of cynicism, 'We shall see what will come of his dreams.'"
Excerpt from Dwight Whitney Morrow's commencement speech at Amherst College June 26, 1895
"Education makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave." Baron Brougham and Vaux (1778 - 1868)
"The foundation of every state is the education of its youth." Diogenes Laertius

Friday, April 15, 2011

Initiative # 6 Small Learning Community:: The Instrumental Music Initiative

"It is keep your cultural foundation intact as you rebuild." James Elmore Morrow. Dwight Whitney Morrow's father.

It seems like only last year when the Drama and Dance Programs in  the middle schools in Teaneck, NJ were being dropped. I was teaching those subjects at TJ at the time. A group of students came to me with a problem. They, yes they had heard that one of the principals had suggested  that those programs were expendable. Susan L., Greg S., Jessica R., you know who you are. I will never forget what you did. That one grand event changed how I will view the power of teenagers forever. Three students spear headed a campaign that collected over 1,500 signatures asking the Board to leave their programs intact. That was one of the most emotional moments of my life. They taped together hundreds of sheets of loose leaf filler notebook paper and rolled it up. When they were finally allowed to speak, they rolled the long wad of paper down the right aisle of the auditorium, up the stage steps, across the board 's long table and down the steps up the left aisle to the other auditorium entrance. All because a teacher they respected suggested that they, their parents, neighbors, business owners and other taxpayers were the only ones who could save the program. They had to vote yes on the Budget. One young lady testified that dance was the only reason that she got up every morning and came to school. Right, Susan L. The programs were not cut that year. In this time of economic crisis and budget cuts Dance and Drama are still offered as electives in both Middle Schools along with Instrumental Music and Visual Art.
Dr. Carlisle's Iniative #6 Small Learning Community. I was reminded of those events when Gary Hollander presented his proposal for the Instrumental Music Program at Dwight Morrow High School. He was alone. I wanted to go up and stand beside him, because I know full well what he is going through. He is reinventing the wheel as he tries to rebuild a once respected program. One man does not a music program make. As quiet as it is kept fine and performing artists spends years perfecting the craft. A Small Learning Instrumental Music Program in the high school must have a feeder program from the lower grades. Dr. Hollander needs support from the Community and the Board.  Changing the colors may not have been such great strategy, but we can get pass that. Surely the District can afford maroon pants for everyone. The band always looked real fine to me. (2 or even 3 colors interchangeable for the garment  below the waist is a compromise. Right?) Has everyone forgotten Mr. Ashley, Wallie Richardson and a score of other fine musicians that instructed the young musicians of Englewood?  The classroom at right is slated to be sound proofed and made into the band room. That decision should be brainstormed a bit more carefully. We must not allow vocal music to be lost in the mix. The Janis E. Dismus vocal class was superbly represented and it included some great voices.  Vocal Music also needs a larger more content specific room. Is anyone doing the outreach and research into what is required in chorus and band rooms? Should these rooms be located in a central location? Poor middle school, where is your auditorium?
What ever happened to Mr. Ashley's sound proof classroom? The band needs the benefit of being able to practice on stage.  If memory serves, Mr. Ashley's classroom was down the steps below Dizzy Gillespie Auditorium. The value of the Fine & Performing Arts must not be underrated. Sometimes these core areas are the saving grace for borderline students who find nothing else attractive about school.
While driving forward in our zeal to create professional "looking" people we must remember that some subject areas require less formal attire. The Art teacher appeared very uncomfortable and quite frankly needed a smock. In her eagerness to gain approval, she dressed in attire that she was afraid to get dirty. It was obvious. This actually made the day's activity a bit awkward to observers.

"Every art is social. It is the result of a relation between the artist and his time." James Truslow Adams

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What is "The Zone" at Dwight Morrow High School"?

Does anyone know? Please comment below if you know the answer to the question in the subject line.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Englewood Schools Tour: 5th Stop Dwight Morrow High School

Dorian Milteer is principal of Dwight Morrow High School. Dr. Carlisle called him as we all climbed out of the school bus. We waited outside for him to greet us and conduct the campus tour. As we entered the main hallway I was astounded at how dark and dismal it was. A former classmate and now coach of the basketball team sat in the far right corner against the wall. He wore a sweat suit in the traditional maroon and white Raiders colors. I did not recognize him until he approached me as we left the main office. I could not see him there in the darkly lit corner. The principal said it was because there are no windows. There were no windows in 1969 either, but the hallway was not that dark. There was not sufficient light to photograph any of the historic plaques in the lobby. Certainly with the many advancements in technology we should be able to light a hallway. The lack of illumination made me uneasy standing in the vestibule of my own Alma Mater. The dismal climate created by a lack of light should be rectified immediately.

Inside the office this poster was the first thing I noticed. The Quote of the Week stands in the center of the office. "Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it." Marian Wright Edelman.
At right, Walter Jones looked on as we observed a Math class that was described as inclusive, because it was a mixed level group. There were 2 teachers, one for the content area and one for in class support. It was stressed that the in class support person aides everyone in the class when needed. The teacher made a mistake in writing a problem on the chalkboard and was corrected by a student. One must conclude that the student was paying attention and clearly understood the lesson.

 It should be noted that the upstairs hallway is more brightly lit than downstairs. We spent some time in the library/media center that is being remodeled. As a student, that was my favorite room in the entire school. I loved sitting on the window seats and peering out the windows. It was a great place to read and study. Some panels in the room are being torn out altogether, because of decay and insects in the plaster behind the wood.
The room is filled with old books and furniture that will probably be discarded. The contractors were working busily as we visited. The air was thick with the smell of plaster and other chemicals used in the renovation process.
The stuffy area was a mess, but it was good to see the work being done. I was present at several meetings when our then Superintendent decided that we did not need libraries. I remember asking him if it was possible to take a computer screen to the many places a book could go. He did not have an answer for me. He was permitted to single handedly dismantled the libraries. As I reflect on my question, I realize that it is entirely possible now, but not affordable.

In contrast to the dismal and dark entrance to the main building, what used to be Martin Luther King Jr. Hall (Academy@Englewood) is a brightly lit area. The student commons area is located directly to the left of the modest lobby area. The commons area was mostly empty. There was no real worry of getting students in pictures, because they were not seated in the study area. I was concerned about the vast, bright emptiness so I asked the question. I wanted to know if students from the traditional High School were allowed to use this area. I was assured that they would be made welcome as long as they were well behaved. I later learned that is not possible, because DMHS students are on a totally different schedule and would never be able to show how well behaved they are or are not. In retrospect the brightness of the area at right made me realize that a good coat of paint would also help to brighten the hallways of DMHS. A fellow visitor was well known by the Commons area attendant. They embraced and posed for a photograph. Another point of reference, DMHS does not have a common area.

We made our way upstairs to Dr. Hall's World Studies class. He was described as being the type of teacher who might very well teach in a college or University. That description was very interesting given the size of his room. The room was so tiny that the students were literally sitting on top of each other. There was no doubt that the Dr. knew exactly what he was doing. A student was asked to explain the day's lesson. She responded with the lesson's objective without hesitation. They were watching and reacting to a slide projected on a small screen. Book bags were stacked against a wall making it difficult to find space to stand. There was no air. Being ashmatic and diabetic, I was forced to leave almost immediately. As I stepped into the hallway, I remembered the room. It was formerly a book closet back in the days when numerous textbooks needed storing. "Our best and our brightest" were being instructed by a college level teacher with a Doctorate Degree in a book closet. I suggested to both Dr. Carlisle and Mr. Milteer that Dr. Hall should have a larger classroom for the comfort of  himself and his students.

We were running out of time. Dr. Carlisle had devoted most of his day to us. The Bio Medical lab was the final destination on our tour. The teacher, Claire Kennedy did not have a class and spent the time discussing the HS Musical. Coming from a district where the Arts had enjoyed a degree of distinction before the Governor's cuts I was  not impressed. Englewood has not embraced the Performing Arts. This was evident in the showing made by dancers who appeared at the last school board meeting for the primary reason of collecting money for tickets. It was not  a temptation to purchase, because although they wore their Capezio heels and dress rehearsal costumes they were reluctant to perform anything. They also giggled an awful lot in a way that trained student perfomers seldom do.

Back at Liberty School where the board offices are located. Dr. Carlisle was asked for a follow up meeting with all persons from the tour. He rushed off to his duties and the visitors conducted a meeting in the parking lot. We all decided to request a meeting with Dr. Carlisle. He has agreed to a follow up meeting. As of now I do not know the date or time. I assume his secretary will contact us all soon.

On the right  is a photo of our original tour group. We  also had a meeting in the parking lot after our visit. I recommend the tour to anyone interested in learning about Englewood's schools. The tour was referred to as a "Dog and Pony Show". The concept is very understandable, because it was superficial. What else could it be? I am glad that I participated. I would like to suggest that all members of the Board of Education take the same tour. This time the Eagle School upstairs from the Board offices should be included. The Vincent K. Tibbs Child Development Center is a feeder school for the Kindergarten program at Quarles Child Development center and should  also not be ignored.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Englewood Schools Tour: 4th stop Janis E. Dismus Middle School

Carmen MacchiaAbraham Alarcon
These two men represent the guiding team at Janis E. Dismus Middle School. Mr. Alarcon is acting principal.  Mr. Macchia is a retired Blue Ribbon principal brought in by Dr. Carlisle to help reorganize the school. It is curious that even though he is only acting principal his picture is the only one pictured on the homepage of his school's website alongside his goal for students in the school. Janis E. Dismus is already showing signs of change. They too have a reception desk as you enter. This area needs work and they should probably build a permanent reception desk in the same area. We visited the Middle School 2 times. I will not separate the visits now. We were not expected on our  first visit. It took place during the lunch periods so we did not see much more than the facility.
In the above photograph Dr. Carlisle demonstrates that he is on a first name basis with the people that he has delegated to guide the Middle School climate in a more productive direction. Even though he always wears a suit he demonstrates that he is willing to get down in the trenches with the worker bees and help solve some of the real problems faced by the Englewood School District. He has shown that he has willingness to learn. The ladies below had just finished serving lunch to the entire school and were a little perplexed as to why I wanted to take their picture. Employees such as these ladies very often undervalue the importance of their services.

On the wall outside the office is a collage of names. Beside this collage is a slogan that reads "Caught Being Kind". Students who demonstrate kindness towards others are singled out and given the honor of having their names included on this collage. This means that even if you are not an A student, you may be recognized for your strength of character and kindess towards others. I like that. Janis E. Dismus is headed in the right direction. It is going to be a long road one step at a time. 

Above is an area dedicated to the National Junior Honor Society high achievers. The Student of The Month area is above a case that I would like to see some athletic trophies in one day. The areas for both are much more formal than in the past. It is a more attractive display. Throughout the building there are signs of change. I must also note that this building is much cleaner than it used to be. Much cleaner.

Students created the "Helping Hands For Japan" mural to show solidarity with Japan because of the troubles wrought by the earthquake and Tsunami. Projects like these help students to develop social skills crucial to becoming caring nurturing human beings.
The most impressive change was the transformation of the Middle School Library. It is so refreshing to have an Educational leader who believes in the fact that every school in the District needs a library/media center. The very thought that a school system would allow the libraries to become such desolate places has been bothering a lot of residents for years. Many of us remember when this new approach to libraries was introduced to our system. We were powerless to do anything as we watched the heart of our school buildings fall into benign neglect. In a very short time new life has been pumped into this area.

Finally, the flag at the end of the hall is a magnificent addition to the hallway. Janis E. Dismus Middle School is well on its way in appearance to becoming a fantastic facility. There is a lot of work that must be done that cannot be seen with the eyes. We hope that the same rigor that was shown in changing the look of the school will be utilized to affect change to the curriculum and student achievement .

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Englewood Schools Tour: 3rd Stop Dr. Leroy McCLoud Elementary School

Michael Brown is the clean cut principal of Dr. Leroy McCloud Elementary School. Grades 4, 5, and 6 attend this school. We were met at the reception desk by Limona Wright who is part of building security. The welcome desk in each school is a very positive step in the right direction towards improving school climate. One of the parents inquired about visiting a regular classroom. The answer was that there was no regular class. Mr. Brown agreed to show us what was close to what he thought she wished to see. It included students with various labels including the "Ivys". I did not know that these labels were also being used to identify and separate our children at this level. I was surprised when we walked into the room. The teacher was one of my former students. It was not a set up. I had never met Mr. Brown before in my life. I had heard my neighbor speak of him, because he was principal in her son's school.
We were taken to the left as we entered the building so we did not get to see very much of the new wing. I wanted to see the Library. It is really nice from the outside.
Dual Language is still emphasized. Dr. Carlisle seemed proud of a teaching team that consisted of a Social Studies and Language teacher. The shortness of the visit did not allow us to see any of the lesson. .

Dr. Leroy McCloud Elementary School's website homepage does not include a vision statement. It lists the district mission statement only. I expected a statement at this level that would naturally grow out of the ones already indicated in the lower grades. This was disappointing because vision statements should not disappear as the students grow older. They should become less general. Perhaps this is something that should get a bit of attention. The Mission of the Englewood School District is to provide educational excellence by creating a learning environment that empowers all students to achieve the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards and to master the academic and social skills necessary for success as individuals and as members of a global community.

The Englewood Schools Tour: 2nd Stop Grieco Elementary School

                             Jeff White
Grieco Elementary School is located on Durie Avenue directly across the street from the football field and stadium. It includes instruction for grades 1 through 3. We were greeted in the atrium by Jeff White, the principal. He was in his shirt sleeves, covered in ID badges and immersed in the daily activities. The pristine school was buzzing with activity. Several classes passed as  we waited in the lobby area. The receptionist area provides a pleasant place to greet visitors and to secure the building entrance. 2 members of the security personnel were on duty in the sunny area. It is probably a chilly duty for the receptionist in winter months. We visited several classrooms. The strong emphasis on the Dual Language Program was still obvious. We were only there a short time. The students seemed engaged and responsive in the classes we visited. They were well behaved in the cafeteria and halls. It is a beautiful facility with a grand entranceway and the children seem very happy.  I have one issue with the atrium area. It is an Elementary School. As a precautionary safety precaution the second floor balcony area needs rethinking and should be secured more effectively. 
I was especially impressed with the room to the right. That is a magnificent view of 
Winton White Stadium.  I do not know how the room is used, but it would make a great place to relax andb lunch. I am glad my neighbor signed me up for this tour even though the visit was short and covered only a tiny preview of a day in the life of Grieco Elementary School.
The following vision statement appears on the school's homepage.

The Vision of Grieco School is:
To develop and maintain an atmosphere that is positive, caring and respectful;
            To foster a love of learning that encourages creative problem solving, risk taking, and critical thinking in our learning community;
To create an environment in which students are able to integrate knowledge and learning into daily life in preparation for the 21st century and to embrace and respect cultural diversity;
To allow each person to achieve his/her potential through a community of collaboration in which he/she will become a contributing member of society.

Friday, April 8, 2011

April 7th Board Meeting Highlight: The PIE Award

The recipient of this week’s Patron Influencing Education (PIE) Award was Ronda Drakeford. It is really not quite clear what Ronda Drakeford has accomplished to earn this honor. She is listed as  the person to call when contacting the Junior Raiders of  Englewood. I assume that she is a volunteer, because she is not employed by the district. As of March 10, 2011 Ms. Drakeford’s name was listed as having filed to run as a candidate for a seat on the Englewood Board of Education. Ronda Marshall Drakeford is listed as an employee at the Bergen County Academies in Hackensack, New Jersey. Her title is College and Career Assistant. The League of Women Voter's only hosted 4 candidates at Monday's Meet the Candidates program. Ronda was not in attendance.

The Englewood Schools Tour: 1st Stop Donald A. Quarles Early Childhood Center

We rode on what the kids call the “yellow cheese” bus. I was encouraged by the fact that the seats have belts. Our first visit was Quarles School. It houses pre K and Kindergarten.
Magalye Matos, PTO leader at Quarles believes in Putting Kids & Family & Community First. She was the first to welcome my neighbor and I when the board meeting was hosted at Quarles in March. She is shown at left listening intently as a parent explains her concerns. The Englewood Teacher's Association (ETA) gave parents and teachers a rare opportunity to break bread and communicate with Dr. Carlisle and other members of the community.  2 of the Current candidates for the board of education were also in attendance. Thank you Galilee Methodist Church for sharing your facilities on Tuesday, April 5. It is significant to note that when you click on Quarles PTO under the category of staff it comes up empty indicating only staff. Do we need a PIE award over here guys?
I have never understood the concept behind the planning of an Elementary School with outside access from each classroom. The PTO has optimistic plans for creating a garden with the children. Perhaps the desire to grow something may be turned into an infectious  positive that will contaminate other schools within the district.  The very act of gardening provides students the opportunity to work and learn about nature together. Participation in outside exercise  while creating a product in nature is priceless. Have fun bonding and gardening with the children at Quarles.

We visited a few classrooms at Quarles. One lesson followed a visit from the Englewood Volunteer Fire Department. It was impressive. The students were genuinely involved. It was apparent that the children had experienced a memorable visit with our Firemen. Marsha Howard is the Site Manager or Principal. She seems to be  knowledgeable and capable of accomplishing the mission and objectives of her school. She always wears a smile and responds with a greeting that I think is genuine.  The Quarles visit was a pleasant experience. I am disappointed when I visit the website for Quarles, because I expect to see her smiling face after the page loads. Her name should be required  somewhere on the schools homepage. Put the Superintendent's face in a small widget to the right with the others that update events on the page. Allow the website to reflect the people who work there. We should learn something about them when we visit. The goals, objectives and events on this page should be specific to Quarles school.

We expect to see repetition of the District Mission Statement on all sites, but we go to this individiual site, becase we  want to know about Quarles. We want to see faces that work with the  children at Quarles. A phone call alleviated some safety concerns and confirmed that there are indeed 2 security guards patrolling the campus of Quarles Early Childhood Center.
The following mission and vision statements appear on the schools's homepage.
Mission Statement
Every child will reach his/her full academic, social and emotional potential in an atmosphere of collaboration, mutual respect and trust.
Vision StatementTo accomplish our mission we will:Provide a challenging curriculum

Deliver effective instruction based on high expectations
Use assessments to plan instruction and evaluate student performance and growth
Actively engage families and community
Establish and maintain a safe and orderly environment
Reflect on our practices and work collaboratively to improve student learning and achievement