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Wednesday, May 28, 2014


I will be writing more about public schools, but I took a week to enhance my poetry skills and here is one of the poems.


The workbench is crawling with tech; a monitor, keyboard,
two computers, cords, CDs, wires, drives, speakers and power strips.
You stand there, smiling, with something in your hand I cannot name.
My hard drive has crashed and neither Josh nor John can save it.
You, who always learn by seeing, hook up my drive
to the old operating system on the network, then hook up your drive
to the new operating system on the network.
The data is easily transferred, and you are in your happy place.
“Friggin’ genius,” your counselor would say.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


I traveled to Springfield Illinois for a meeting yesterday and met a woman named Kristy Gravlin. Kristy worked in the Portland Public School System during the years of 1969 to 1997. She was privileged to participate in a K-5 school under the leadership of Superintendent Robert Blanchard, and Principals Robert Harold and Betty Campbell. The Superintendent came to the conclusion that bussing wasn’t working, so he built took six existing schools in poor neighborhoods and revamped them into Early Childhood Education Centers. Bob Harold wrote the program called “Follow Through,” which was a K-3 program which continued what HeadStart programs did. They were set up to take half the population from the neighborhood and half from people who asked to allow their children to attend. The district sold the program by having meetings, talking it up in the media, and taking questions from any interested parties. The program was so successful that there were always about 50% more requests than openings.

They had a full staff, including teacher and assistant in every room, they had music, gym and computers with support staff who were happy to differentiate materials/activities for each student. The parents wanted their children to attend because they saw the students doing well, they knew the teachers cared and there was a parent program to train parents in educating their children. Parents were encouraged to volunteer in the;postID=1120389847388138709school (sometimes several in a classroom at the same time) and babysitting was provided for siblings.

The program ended when Ms. Campbell retired, the district required the same curriculum throughout the schools, and they lost the impetus to integrate. The state also legislature required a scripted curriculum. So why did this atmosphere of trust and experimenting end? I challenge Barbara Byrd-Bennett, and even Arne Duncan to implement some changes that reduce the re-segregation of U.S. schools.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Little Rock Central High School, 57 Years Later: A Weekend Observation

Little Rock Central High School National Park

   Last weekend I was honored to visit two good friends in Little Rock, Arkansas. We raised our kids together and have attended church together for decades, and we have shared viewpoints in a Small Group discussing Current Issues as they relate to Christianity.
   I was 9 when the Little Rock 9 had to be protected by soldiers (soldiers!) when they attempted to attend high school at Little Rock Central with white students. It was a shock to me and my family, and we watched it unfold on our black and white TV set. It was easy to condemn the whites who cursed at, spat on and threatened nine black children just because they were black. I have never understood why someone could be condemned by a circumstance over which they have no control. I have stood my ground when a beloved neighbor said, "Us whites have to stick together." My response, "I'm sorry you feel that way."
   So how is Little Rock School System faring today? Having spent only one weekend there in my entire life, I can't pretend to know that much about it. There has been progress. Blacks are free to buy housing wherever they wish, if they have the money. Black children didn't stare at us when we drove through their neighborhood. Black adults on their porches didn't notice us.
   There is a but. Blacks have adequate housing, but pay white landlords instead of owning. Whites now pay for elite private schools and blacks are educated in an inferior, poorly funded public system. Much of that same trend exists in many cities, including my home town, Chicago. Why is it that my generation - the Hippies and the love children who were going to make the world a better place - have been unable to mitigate circumstances in the slums? Where are the dreamers and social activists that changed women's rights, supported labor unions and fought for civil rights? I hope Sojourners Magazine can locate this generation's social justice leaders on June 18-21 at Georgetown University. It's time for all of us that have been blessed with adequate income stand up for those who have not. I always admired my parents, who were aware of what was going on in the world, even as their hair grayed. Paying attention is the least we can do.