Letter From Betsy L. Angert, Educator
100 Penn Square East, Suite 505
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107
Reference… School Closures, Phase-Outs, Co-Locations, and Turn Arounds – The Journey for Justice
May I reintroduce myself? We met on January 29th, 2013. I was in line, awaiting entrance to the Hearing “The Impact of Closing (Turnarounds, Phase-Outs, Restarts, Co-Locations) Of Neighborhood, Community Based Schools In 18 Cities Across The United States” At the time, I was impressed with your kindness and willingness to chat. Only once home did I come to understand more about you and why you might have graciously extended your hand and card. I read your personal account. The Power of a Teacher’s Kindness http://www.ed.gov/blog/2011/05/the-power-of-kindness/ via @usedgov
To think that you rose from poverty, and experienced how the “lack of resources” can disable our capacity to dream… Perhaps, that is why you are so supportive. That you know what it means to be the object of discrimination helps explain why you thought to walk out amongst the crowd.
From your written words you do, seem to understand, that the Teacher and School are but an element of education. Test scores and academic performance on a battery of tests are not enough to foster success. The community as a whole, and the connections within it are the strength every student needs to do more than survive. If our youth are to thrive, they need to feel safe, secure, and cared for.
You wrote…“I don’t believe that performing a life-altering act of kindness is restricted to teachers only, but the teacher can be a powerful positive influence and is often, sadly, the only caring adult in a young person’s life.”
We are one, Professor Williamson. I too believe the community counts. I have seen this over and over acting in my own life. Within a stable neighborhood, everyone knows your name, your family, and your situation. The adult next door can be a surrogate Mom or Dad, as an Aunt or Uncle. When a child is in need, there is more than one adult in a stable neighborhood willing to show and say, “I am here for you honey.”
This is lost when our little ones must travel far from home, sometimes for hours a day, just to attend school. On the road, nobody knows your name. Nor do they likely care to. A student’s forced to ride far or walk to a distant school is disconnected from the niceties that are a stroll through the neighborhood.
As you know, when schools are torn asunder so too are our communities. Our children suffer most. Parents too feel the pain. A local area school is like the kitchen in a home. People come together to connect and exchange. Food, for thought and the belly, is shared in our neighborhood schools. Events are planned. Performances are held. Local area schools offer far more than a test or just any old Teacher; these learning communities and those within nourish our souls.
Indeed, I was reminded of this when I read your essay and in your actions on that Tuesday, as I, and the others, waited to enter the Department of Education building. In your biographical statement, it was noted that you teach at Temple University. When I was a child I spent much time on the Temple campus and in classrooms. My parents had returned to college and thankfully, they took me with them when they attended classes. Feeling connected to my Mom’s and Dad’s lives felt good to me. The memory lives large.
While at the DOE, I happened to find myself next to two women, each from a suburb of Philadelphia. I left Philadelphia before I was ten; therefore, I do not know my way around the city. If people say they are from here or there, near where I lived in my youth, it means nothing to me. I can only recall the streets within walking distance of my home, my school, and a few other local landmarks. Who would have imagined that I would meet two who too have a relationship with Glenside elementary, but on that January 29th day, I did.
In my life, I was as the students forced to shuttle from school to school. My family moved often. I felt the pain of being different, not part of the community, disconnected from the history of the neighborhood.
I also attended an inner city school for a time. The lack of resources or more excellent trained Teachers, that too was my plight. Worse than that, I felt how disheartening it can be to live without dreams. My classmates had no hope of attending college. I was more fortunate. I knew my situation would not last a lifetime. Indeed, my parents were in school and worked to be sure that I too would go on to college, which I did.
I became an Educator. Then, I moved to Florida where I now live. Here, Charter Schools flourish. The public schools might as well have perished. Public education is not supported; only standardization and endless testing thrive. Schools campuses are as prison camps. Students are locked out of libraries and computer labs. Our youth are locked in or opt-out.
The “Parent-Trigger” laws promote more Charters schools and ensure that private industry profits from public funds. As was discussed during the Journey for Justice Department of Education Hearing, School districts may have to share space with charter schools under legislative proposal – http://owl.li/hz5ar
The relationship between charter schools and traditional schools could soon get a lot cozier under a legislative proposal that could require them to share space.
The bill, proposed by a state House education subcommittee, would require districts to make space available to charter schools for free if a traditional school’s enrollment falls below 50 percent. Charter schools could also have free access to vacant school district buildings.
In Florida, the investment in a selective “school choice” agendas, and, or privatization is great. You may have read about Jeb Bush and his Excellence in Education Foundation. Their Emails establish the push to privatize public education, E-mails link Bush foundation, corporations and education officials http://wapo.st/VXOwdH
Each further depletes our community schools, and leaves children behind. Students lost to the promise of “success” that never comes miss out on a real education. Human Resources, dedicated, experienced deeply professional Teachers, Counselors and Social Workers, denied students who need them, harms us all. If we do not invest in the future in impoverished areas, in communities of color, in localities that serve the underserved, we invite failure.
Imagine the loss to us all if your high school, Professor Williamson, had closed due to poor standardized test scores, or a dwindling population. If an Education Management Company replaced experienced Educators with young “Teachers” trained over the course of six weeks, would there have been a John Y or a Mary A to help you? I fear, maybe not.
I thank you Professor Williamson for being you and reading my thoughts. I am grateful for your open hand as the Director of Communications with the Department of Education. If you choose to call and chat, I welcome the opportunity to share more really and fully. I can be reached at..
Please feel free to share my letter with your fellow Associates at the Department of Education, and those within the Civil Rights Division. Again, my sincere thanks….
Save Our Students, Schools, and Society! Rebuild the American Dream Through Equal Education! Hope and Action Are Alive!!!!
May life bring you peace, prosperity, pleasant dreams becoming the best of your reality. May your life reflect the goodness that is you . . . Betsy L. Angert