Chapter Seven: March

16 Mar

Confessions of an Urban Principal/All Children Are Gifted.

by Frank Murphy

Installment 5 of 9

A nurse is assigned to our school three days a week. On the off days, I handle any medical emergencies that arise. Rashida, a third grader was the patient who awaited me in the office. She had put her fist through the classroom window during a temper tantrum. She is a sister to Rashid, the fourth grader I had transferred back in December to a disciplinary school.

Fortunately, her injuries weren’t severe. Several small superficial lacerations dotted her fingers, knuckles and wrist area. I swabbed them with antiseptic and applied band-aids to a few of the slashes. This child was luckier than most. I have seen some nasty wounds that were acquired by other children in this same fashion. When I finished, I sent her to sit on the bench in the hallway.

Ms Sample contacted her home. During her conversation with the mother she learned that this would be Rashida’s last day at Meade.

The Philadelphia Housing Authority planned on relocating this family to a house in another neighborhood. Several blocks of dilapidated homes and vacant lots within our school boundary area are about to be bulldozed. Once this tract of land is cleared, the construction of one hundred fifty new homes will commence. There will be a significant drop in our student population next September, when the substandard housing units in this area are razed.

Behavior problems should also decline with the exodus of some of our most troublesome students and their families who reside on these forgotten blocks. After this incident I gave up on the budget for another day.

Another new Regional Superintendent was introduced at today’s principals’ meeting. She is the fifth person in the last seven years who has held this position. Her introductory speech included all of the usual reform rhetoric.

“We are here for the children. We will have high expectations. We are accountable. We will continue to increase our test scores.”

Her speech might have been moving and inspirational, if I hadn’t already heard it so many times. So we have a new face for our leader, one who will carry on as usual.

The “Old Man Super” conducted the meeting. It was his last. He started at eight thirty and concluded by one. The agenda consisted of a “to do” list for the next month. The items listed were fairly self-explanatory. The enclosures that were included with the agenda provided more details than the speakers. Most of the talk from the podium was preachy and officious.

Mr.Vallas’ plan for the gifted centers was a major agenda item. The principals were instructed to list on a form the names of their students who are demonstrating academic promise. When completed it was to be sent to the regional office. What would be done with this information  was not made clear to us.

Many of the principals expressed concern over the prospect of the region creaming into a gifted center the highest achieving students from their schools. I shared this concern.

I considered drawing up a list of all the students like Luis and Arthur who attend Meade. They are gifted in their own manner. All children are gifted in some way. Aren’t they? If these are the gifted children I send to Mr.Vallas’ special schools, then perhaps real school reform might occur in North Philadelphia. But I know that these children are not the ones that the central office plans to target. I decided that I wouldn’t turn in a list. I would wait and see what response I received for not complying with this request.

I counted the minutes to the conclusion of this monthly ordeal.


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