In Students at the Center, we have long advocated that it’s not enough just to have quality teachers, rigorous curriculum, safe schools, and any other items on the list of strategies to improve education for the young people struggle with school. For the last twelve years, we have demonstrated through the students we teach in these most challenging schools that strategic additional resources are necessary.
In our case, the major structural changes and funding resources we have brought to our small model include a) classes with a 15:1 student teacher ratio and/or an additional resource teacher in the class at least two days a week and b) training and using students as a resource to assist in education at their schools and their neighborhood feeder schools.
None of this has happened inexpensively.
And for the last twelve years whenever we and our fellow teachers have asked for additional—and in many cases differential—resources to assist in our work in New Orleans public schools, we have been answered with silence, blame, or outright hostility.
So now it is both frustrating and exciting to hear the two main leaders of our historically lowest performing schools argue for much greater levels of funding. In the budget submitted to the state board of education last week and reported on in The Times Picayune, the city’s daily newspaper, on Monday, March 3, 2008, we learn that the state-run Recovery School District now spend over 65% more per pupil than the locally run school district spent operating the same schools before Katrina.
RSD superintendent Paul Vallas claims that the pre-Katrina spending on public schools in New Orleans was “far from adequate.” And in the same article, attorney Paul Pastorek, the new state superintendent of education who served over 10 years on the state board of education, explained the increase by saying, “Why don’t we look at this as an opportunity to see if we can prove that very poor kids can be educated on a systemic basis?”
We in SAC are glad that this day has arrived.
Our enriched setting won through grants and hard work at pre-Katrina Douglass High School provided the setting that students such as Raul Dominick, featured today in our continuing series on students writing about their parents, needed in order to deal with and learn from and through their own difficult life experiences. Raul earned admission to college, despite attending one of the bottom five high schools in the state.
We hope that with the significant increase in funding a much higher percentage of students at Douglass and schools like it can receive the attention Raul needed to successfully complete high school and enroll in college while dealing with major neighborhood and family trauma.
What up? How are you doing? I hope fine.
Well since you’ve gone away, my life has been a roller coaster. Last night, I was watching your favorite show on Monday, Monday Night Raw. I can still remember you and me sitting up watching Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock. My mother, she’s been ok, but still regrets the fact that you’re gone, because it’s kind of hard raising three kids. Now I’m doing my best to help her, but when bad news comes around, then she’s depressed.
Can you believe that your baby boy went to jail? He and his friend were in the parish on his dirt bike, and when his friend saw the police, he started running and the police arrested your son for a crime he did not commit. Then you have your middle son, who’s thinking he’s a man but only 14. He’s talking back to our mother and also doing horrible in school. We’re trying to help him, but he doesn’t want it. I wish you were here so you could put him in line like you did when he tried to curse you out.
Now, your mother, she’s been doing ok. She’s been having some heart problems, but when we visit her, her world turns from bad to good. I know she’s been missing you, because every time she looks at me, she thinks it’s you. You know she’s still cooking that great Cuban food.
Dad, my life without you has been difficult, but don’t worry. I did all you told me to do before you died. I have graduated from middle school, passed all four parts of the GEE, will soon graduate from high school, am going to college in the fall, and last but not least, especially, have not smoked or had a drink. I can see you every time I’m tempted, telling me “you bet not do it,” with a belt in your hand.
So dad, I hope I made you proud, and I hope you will watch over my brothers, your mother, my mother, and also me.
Love Your Son,
Raul Dominick, Jr.
The opinions expressed in Student Stories: A New Orleans Classroom Chronicle are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.