Iam here, sitting in prison when I should be out, following the inspirational teachings and high expectations of so many of my teachers who recognized my potential and believed I would accomplish many good things.
I have no doubt disappointed them and I am so sorry for that. But my life is not over and I intend, during my post-incarceration life, not only to fulfill their visions of me but ultimately to go far beyond them in my achievements.
In the meantime, let me share with you what some of my teachers did for me:
Mr. Harris actually was my first male role model. The first Black man I truly adored, admired, and looked up to, and wanted to please and be like.
When I look in retrospect, Mr. Harris actually was my first male role model. The first Black man I truly adored, admired, and looked up to, and wanted to please and be like. He created an environment for me to learn and excel—that had as a foundation Black history, Black Pride, African culture, and education.
He implanted in me the idea that I had “unlimited” potential and told the youthful me that I could be the first Black President of the United States of America [I missed that one]. When I look back, he may or may not have truly believed this, but that was not as important as the fact that I believed it when he said it. That compliment filled me with pride, and now, as an adult, I understand its underlying message—that I was not limited in potential or achievement because I was Black, poor, and lived in the Public Housing Projects.
Never once did this man acknowledge nor speak to what others may have thought—people who expected so little of people like me who were existing in a place of hopelessness due to our socio-economic environment. And it is because of what he taught me and the pride he instilled in me that, in part, I am the man I am today. And because of his influence, I do not suffer from self-hate nor low self-esteem as so many do who come from the Hood (like myself).
In this sense, he was my first Father-figure. He inspired me in numerous ways, even though I was not conscious of it at the time and maybe was not ready to accept his words.
Mr. Harris was my teacher in South Central Los Angeles, located in the Pueblo Del Rio Housing Projects—known as The Pueblos, and home of the Notorious Blood Street Gang called the 52 Pueblo Bishops. For many of us, Mr. Harris was a Savior (sent all the way from Tennessee), but like the Black Jesus of Biblical times, we did not know his true worth–while he was in our presence.
Perhaps because of his own African roots, he taught us more than the basic curriculum. He taught us to speak English correctly. He was a role model because he spoke English with the same degree of perfection as any scholar. But because he was from Tennessee, we always laughed (because of his accent) when he taught us the specifics of grammar and composition. As an Teachers Who Tried to Help Me:
Brown urged to ‘reaffirm the vision’ of funding law
A team of researchers found that, two years into the state’s new school financing law, “nagging concerns” are tempering the enthusiasm that school districts and county offices of education have for the Local Control Funding Formula.
In their final report, due out in several weeks, they will urge Gov. Jerry Brown and the State Board of Education to “reaffirm the vision” of the new funding law –shifting decisions to the local level, closer to the classroom – or risk losing the opportunity “if we don’t get it right.”
The researchers – Julia Koppich, president of Koppich & Associates, Julie Marsh, a professor at the University of Southern California and Daniel Humphrey, an independent consultant – discussed their preliminary findings Friday at an event in Sacramento sponsored by Policy Analysis for Public Education, or PACE. Following up on an initial analysis a year ago, they and a team from several think tanks and universities based their new findings on a review of 50 second-year LCAPs, the planning documents that districts must create and update annually, an in-depth analysis of seven to nine districts’ efforts, and interviews, over two years, with 226 district and county office leaders, parents, teachers, school board members and community organizers. The LCAPs took effect July 1.
No one, Koppich said, pines for a return to state funding dictates under the former system, or wants to relinquish control over budgeting and planning. District officials see benefits from engaging the community, a core element of the LCAP process.
But the researchers concluded that old habits of mind die slowly. District and county officials trained in complying with state rules have little experience in long-range, creative thinking; the researchers said they saw few districts involved in true strategic planning.
A “mindset shift” will take time, Marsh said, noting that one county leader expressed a hope to become more than an “L-cop” of the LCAP. But district and county officials also told researchers they worry that the additional state money they’ve received in the past few years will not be sustained, that a teacher shortage on the horizon will become a consuming challenge and that the help that the state has promised through a new state agency will not materialize. That agency, the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence, with a small staff and budget, is charged with guiding districts’ efforts to improve and will intervene if districts are persistently struggling.
The report will not identify individual districts, and the researchers didn’t single out any by name in their presentation. Among the findings:
Mixed success on engagement: Some districts made a concerted effort to involve parents and the public with surveys, meetings and information translated to languages other than English; some districts have hired full-time community outreach staff or partnered with community groups to reach out to parents. But they also found generally a small turnout for meetings and a low return rate of surveys. In other districts, engagement diminished, perhaps by design, since districts assumed an LCAP update, due a year after the LCAP’s creation, required less participation, Marsh said. A poll last summer sponsored by Policy Analysis for California Education found that two-thirds of registered voters hadn’t heard of the Local Control Funding Formula, a larger percentage than a year earlier.
Advocacy increases: In some districts, teachers unions seeking a larger share of funding dollars collided with wealthy parents asking for more Advanced Placement courses and groups like the American Civil Liberties Unions, which advocate for low-income students and underserved minorities. Reflecting these “adversarial relations,” some LCAPs have incorporated what “the loudest voices” want, at the expense of a more coherent vision, Marsh said.
LCAP complaints: The state board adopted the final LCAP template and regulations a year ago, but the researchers found some district officials still weren’t sufficiently clear about the purpose of the LCAP, and some were confused over what funding to include in it. Despite continuing efforts by the county superintendents association to strive for consistency in oversight, districts complained about conflicting and contradictory interpretations of the regulations.
They found universal frustration with the LCAP template, which district leaders described as “unwieldy,” a “nuisance,” “self-defeating” and a “beast of documents” that does not allow districts to tell their story in a fashion people can read, Koppich said. In the LCAP’s second year, many districts’ LCAPs were hundreds of pages: a record 853 pages in one case, she said. The annual update section became an exercise of “cutting and pasting” material from the year before – not a thoughtful revision.
“One superintendent said he had to provide CliffsNotes to principals to understand” the LCAP, Koppich related.
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