I am often asked how the children of Brighton feel about their school and what they know about our school having the label of low performing. I spend most of my time in the K-4 building and I really do not think many of the young children have any knowledge of this label. The older children I am sure know of Brighton’s reputation. I was told that years ago when Brighton High School was closed quite unexpectedly, one student told someone from our district office he planned to drop-out because he knew he did not have the background to make it in the other school. The inequity of standards we have for our schools is of great concern to me and I believe this is the most blatant discrimination our children of poverty and color face.
Discrimination comes in other forms. I have found discrimination can be unintentional. For example, we took our fourth grade students to a County-Wide Science Field Trip. Several things happened that day that made me feel very defensive about our students. We were the first school to arrive and the facilitators were not quite ready and we were not given t-shirts to wear.Even though we were given our shirts at the end of the day, this made us the only school at the event without matching shirts for the day. Students asked me about why they did not have the same shirts as the others.Then when they dismissed us by schools, our school was the last to be called. A child sitting next to me asked me why we were last and I replied it was probably the bus order. There was nothing intentional about any of this, but when you already feel you have been slighted this adds to your defensiveness.
Other times this discrimination is more blatant. Our principal invited the cheerleaders from the high school most of our students will attend to come and cheer at an Academic Pep Rally. My first reaction when I saw the cheerleading squad was there were no cheerleaders of color. For a high school that is 37% African American with a growing Hispanic population, I was surprised. I thought what message is this sending our students. I was further upset when a teacher from this same school said to me, “I guess our school does pretty good considering we have students from your school with your low test scores.” Our school sends less than 50 students a year to two different high schools. I do not think our children are the problem in this school. However, our students have the label of “those Brighton kids”.
In the afternoon as we load the buses, I often look at the faces of “these Brighton kids” silhouetted in the bus windows. Their faces haunt and inspire me because I know that someday Brighton children will have to compete with the students from the highest performing schools in our area for the same colleges, scholarships, jobs, and opportunities. I also know our school is the best hope for our students to have an equal opportunity for success. Therefore, our school has to be of the very highest quality to give “these Brighton kids” the education they are so deserve.
I encourage your comments about your experiences and opinions. I appreciate the comment from my State Superintendent of Education, Joe Morton. Dr. Morton has been very supportive and encouraging of my choice to work at Brighton. He actually made a surprise visit to our school on opening day. Dr. Morton has a personal interest in our school as he began his career as a teacher at Brighton. I am very appreciative of having a State Superintendent that has a very hands-on leadership style with schools in Alabama and has such a great heart for Alabama’s children.
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