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A few months ago, Wake County Public School System made national headlines because of a plan by our new super intendant that is backed by a majority of the elected school board members to return our education to a ‘community school’ assignment based policy.

This is code for, according to the NAACP and any number of other malcontents, a return to segregation. Stephen Colbert even did us the honor of weighing in by calling it ‘dis-integration.’

You likely already know the thing you should about the current policies of WCPSS regarding assignment; children are bussed long distances from one part of town to another part of town. It is illegal to assign students based upon race, so some administration of years gone by had the brilliant idea to assign based upon – are you ready for this? – the Free or Reduced Lunch program. Regardless of any particular student’s own familial financial circumstances, if he/she lives in a part of town that has a high number of Free or Reduced Lunch participants, they may not be assigned to the school down on the corner, or across the street. They may be picked up by a bus as early as 5:45am and driven 30 miles away to a school in another, more affluent part of town. This is in an effort to keep each school’s lunch program on par with every other school’s lunch program. Those aforementioned malcontents believe this somehow improves education.

Sir Isaac Newton’s promised equal and opposite law is in effect here, too. Schools in areas of town from where students are being bussed away became under capacity, so WCPSS turned them into magnet schools to attract the best and brightest students in the county for whatever fields of study; arts, sciences, math, international baccalaureate – you name it. And though a few of those schools have lost their magnet charter in recent years, many have succeeded with excellent programs – for the bussed in magnet students. The base students remain in a base education track and over a decade of data has shown that this particular group is being underserved in their far away, affluent schools as well as in their own base, magnet schools. So the $500,000 a day – yes, A DAY – being spent on transportation has been, pardon me, pissed away. What has been the return?

My ire over the inefficiencies in student assignment has recently been resurrected because of yet another injustice that is hitting somewhat close to home. ShirtlessRoland’s sister (I’ll unveil her pseudonym in a future post) is moving to Raleigh – TODAY. My joy over this will also be expounded upon in a future post.

She has 9 year old twin sons. One is autistic and requires special classes. Her base school is the same as my base school and her children should, according to the current assignment plan, be getting on the school bus with my ShortKids every morning. Except the county has decided that there is no room in the AU program at our school and declared that her autistic son must attend another, not so far away school. This does not guarantee the placement of his twin brother in the same school, however, and she will have to fill out a transfer request on Monday morning. Per policy, even if the transfer request is granted so that the children can stay in the same school, her other son will not be eligible for transportation to that school because he is transferring out of his base school.

Let me state this more simply. Wake County Public Schools cannot guarantee that twin brothers will go to the same school. If a transfer request is granted, Wake County Public Schools will send a bus into a neighborhood that it currently does not serve to pick up one child, but not the other.

It is very hard to sit and listen to our local school system receive national criticism for the wrong things.

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Oh, Crescent City how I longed to love thee. How I romanticized your elegantly decayed Creole townhomes trimmed in wrought iron lace and your majestic, antebellum, Baroque estates, draped in French and Spanish influence, if not affluence. What I found, instead, was a shit hole. If Detroit be the armpit of our nation you, Land of Dixie, are anatomically accurate in your geographical location.

I am set ill at ease by your contradictions and equally by your ambivalence towards them. You are a European city held hostage in a tropical climate and very much suffering from Stockholm syndrome. Banana trees are juxtaposed with roses. Delicately scrolled marble mantles sit atop fireplaces in homes in a city that rarely drops below 50 degrees. Oil burning street lamps provide dots of heat along already sweltering streets that are filled with rejoicing and celebration as your natives feed their deceased loved ones into the gaping, open mouths of your cemetery cities.

My creative muses were suffocated by the smell of stale urine and fresh vomit on the early Sunday morning that I set out with the high hopes of capturing photos of the fog rolling in to the French Quarter and masking your grungy apathy. Admittedly, I planned to shoot in black and white and do a fair amount of photo editing, as I now know that is from where all of your beautiful pictures have come.

What I could not figure out is why. What makes a photographer opt not to document you as you are, but instead as how you might look if the next levee breach happens to coincide with an explosion at a nearby soap factory? Why do the throngs of talented artists in Jackson Square sit and meticulously paint the city behind them, but not the city behind them? And why do the passing tourists “ooooh” and “aahhh” at their delicate brush strokes, when they can plainly see the only resemblance to reality is that water color mules, not horses are pulling the passenger carriages? Why?

But while I found your Garden District to be a disappointing visit to the homogenous unspecialness of Any City, USA, my street car ride is one of the highlights of my trip. And I fondly remember my accidental, after midnight navigation of Bourbon Street, who dons night time like a mask; darkness hiding flaws while bright streamers of colorful light averted my attention. I giggle at the thought of my stroll down Ste. Anne Street, with a belly full of beignets, a Styrofoam cup of café au lait in my sticky hand, and powdered sugar staining my navy blue T-shirt in a very Lewinsky-esque way. I could never forget the witch doctor in the voodoo museum who eyed me suspiciously and asked, “Are you,” and then looking left and right to see who might be listening and lowering his voice finished the sentence with, “a librarian?” In the days since returning home, I’ve come to miss the immutable sound track of horns and strings and sultry, gravely voices that wafted through your streets as I drifted in and out of open buildings. I feel strangely at conflict with myself, having stood on your river banks feeling protected by its embrace while fully aware of the carnage it creates when it decides to return to its original path, before man decided to scootch it over to make room for you to grow.

I believe that I have come to understand just what the men reeking of liquor and cigarettes must feel as they are lured into the darkened doorways by women in crotchless negligees or hot pink police tape. While I longed to love thee, it did not happen. Still, I cannot deny the growing pull back to your bosom.