"I am against the creation of the position of "Special Assistant for Community Relations" within our school district. This position which undoubtedly will command a significant salary, and be supported with equally costly staff, will only create another branch in the bureaucratic tree. What is more important, this position, in my view will make absolutely no contribution to the education of the students of Port Washington. Lest we forget, the school district's one and only business is to educate the young people of this community. It should leave the "social engineering" functions to others. As it is, our teachers are already burdened with these type of activities which take them away from what they should concentrate at all times, and that is to teach! The report of the district's consultant, Mr. Daniel Baron on the subject of "Equity in School" as reported in this paper's June 28 issue, is very disturbing. Some of his statements demand scrutiny.
His report includes a number of highly inflammatory accusations by parents and students. It is not suggested that some manifestation of bigotry doesn't exist in the classroom and/or within some PTAs. If it does, it's most regrettable and needs to be eradicated at once. However, reading the quotations Mr. Baron cites, one is inclined to get the perception that what we have here is a racist bigot infested school community. I have every reason to believe that this just isn't so! I come to this conclusion by observing the overriding interpersonal relationships between white and minority students, when my two children went through the PW School system. I also find the allegation that some teachers don't treat minority students equally, to be absolutely incredulous. If they do, then they clearly violate the law and should be held accountable.
The oft repeated word in Mr. Baron's report is "perception." That leads one to question the extent to which these accusations are valid, and to ask what sort of methodology did Mr. Baron use to justify citing comments made by students and parents? Isn't "perception" after all another form of interpretation? Did he reach these disturbing conclusions on the basis of a meaningful statistical sampling, or did he merely interview a handful of students and adults? The "perception," at least to this reader, is the latter.
Now then to some specific issues of Mr. Baron's report. He states that ... "little classroom attention paid to the contributions of minorities." What does this mean? Does it mean that in the course of the Social Studies curriculum, very "little attention is paid" to the "contributions" made by the many minorities that came to this country and wove the fabric of American society? I seriously doubt it. I agree with his recommendation ..."to increase the number of minority youth in gifted programs" but only if they qualify! The "emergence of the Latino Parents Association," in my view is divisive. If anything these parents should be strongly encouraged and welcomed in the mainstream of the various PTAs, instead of forming a separate organization. That exacerbates the fundamental basis on which this country was founded ... "e pluribus unum" "from many one." Creating separatist entities reverses the process of inclusion and that is highly unproductive. He goes on to say that ... "There is friction at home between parents and kids. As children become proficient in English, they won't speak Spanish at home" Bravo! Good for them! These parents should praise their kids and learn English from them rather than castigate them for not speaking Spanish! "Parents ...whose work schedule do not permit them to attend daytime school meetings." Many school meetings are held in the evening, especially BOE meetings. It's a sad commentary that one hardly ever sees minority parents at BOE meetings. They therefore deprive themselves of becoming part of the solution.
The request by the African-American students "to have more cultural relevant courses" needs to be examined. If the request is granted, what other courses will be sacrificed from which the very same African-American students stand to benefit? And what about equal time for the Asian-American, Latino, and other ethnic "cultural relevant courses"? Isn't that discriminatory toward the other ethnic students? The answer is obvious.
Mr. Baron's single best suggestion is the formation of the "Alliance for Equity, Access and Respect (EAR) a grassroots organization, comprised of social service agencies, clergy, parents and other concerned citizens." Such an organization being part of and having a vested interest in our community, makes so much more sense for all the obvious reasons, rather than another costly bureaucracy. By launching EAR without delay, it will extinguish what is now only a smoldering fire.
Stanley L. Ronell