Nov 11

Never Again

Today, the Superintendent of Council Rock School District – one district over from where I went to high school –  had to send out this letter:

Dear CRN School Community –

Please know that, sadly, we have experienced acts of vandalism and harassment at Council Rock North in the aftermath of Tuesday’s presidential election.

One incident occurred in a girls’ restroom, where on a hanging piece of paper someone wrote “I Love Trump,” a derogatory comment about people who are gay, and drew three swastikas. In a different girls’ restroom, someone wrote the following graffiti directly onto a toilet paper dispenser: “If Trump wins, watch out!” In a boys’ restroom, two swastikas were drawn directly onto a restroom stall. In addition, a Latina student found that a note had been placed in her backpack telling her to return to Mexico. There is a related report of inappropriate comments being made to Latino students as well.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough how inappropriate these actions are and that they simply will not be tolerated. These incidents have been reported to the Newtown Township Police Department and an investigation is being conducted by both the police department and the school district.

By writing this message to our parents, my hope is that we can collectively wrap our arms around this issue and stop any further incidents from occurring. We are better than this, and ours is a community that must be based upon a mutual respect for ALL people, and ALL of Council Rock. I regret needing to write this message, and I do want to emphasize that these actions are likely the responsibility of a very small number of individuals whose actions should not damage the reputation of the larger group.

And this is one of far too many acts of hatred that has happened in the last two days, since Donald Trump has won the election. There were a serious of acts of racist and anti-Semitic graffiti in S. Philly yesterday. This morning, someone had spray painted “KKK” on the steps of the School District. An #SLA graduate student of color was told, “Go back where you came from” in a store outside her college campus today by a white young woman. Someone painted “Black Lives Don’t Matter” on a wall in Durham, NC. Someone wrote “Trump!” on the door to a Muslim student prayer room at NYU. (cite: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/day-1-trumps-america_us_582497afe4b0cdd5e7e99e86)

The list goes on and on…

And there’s only one thing that makes me more sick about all these attacks than the attacks themselves. It’s that the President-elect – who wants us to believe, if one takes his Election Night speech on its merits, that he wants to heal the nation – has been silent. And no, I didn’t really have an expectation that he would speak up. And no, I don’t really believe that he has any understanding what it means to be the President of all Americans, nor any desire to be the President of all Americans. But that’s what he is now, and as such, he has the moral obligation to condemn these acts that people are committing in his name and under what they presume is the protection of his election.

His silence is noted. His silence must be met with our voices.

For we who refuse to allow these actions to define our country have an obligation to protect those who are attacked, have an obligation to call for the legal system to take action against those who perpetrate them, and have an obligation to call out all those in power who either do nothing to stop them or, through their words and actions, give cover to those who commit them.

We cannot be silent in the face of hate and bigotry. We cannot allow our silence to further embolden those who would seek to spread terror. We must guarantee – with our words and our actions – that the civil rights of all Americans must be protected and defended.

Anything less than that is simply un-American.

#NeverAgain

 

Mar 28

Stewardship

Several weeks ago, I voted in favor of a contract that took me from a 12 month employee to a 10 month employee – even though I know that I’m going to work for much of the summer. The contract also now has me paying more for health care and all in, it will mean that I see about 15% less in my paycheck every week.

I voted for it, not because I really am excited to make less money, but because it was the responsible thing to do in the midst of a massive budget crisis. If we are to make the case that we, as principals, are the responsible stewards of the education of the children of Philadelphia, then we have to be willing to lead and make sacrifices for the sake of our children. I am proud to say that the contract passed with overwhelming support from principals.

Today, many of those same administrators went to City Council to ask our council members to end the political squabbling and make the hard decisions to put the children above the politics and fund our schools. Specifically, we need City Council to do the following:

  • Pass the extension of the 1% sales tax extension.
  • Shift the property tax millage so that the School District gets 60% of the revenue, not 55%.
  • Press the PA State legislature to approve a cigarette tax for Philadelphia.
  • Work with the Philadelphia delegation and the parents and students and educators in Philadelphia to demand a fair and equitable funding formula and to restore charter reimbursement funding at the state level.

These are not easy decisions for our council members. No one likes passing new taxes. But leaders do what is hard. I was thrilled that several members of council told us – unequivocally – that they will vote in favor of the proposals to create and sustain funding streams for our schools. I was honored to stand with my fellow principals today and ask City Council to do what is hard.

This is about the children of our city, which means this is about our city and our future.

When SLA students asked me about the contract the principals just signed, and they ask me why I voted for a contract that lowered my take home pay, I told them simply, “Because I care more about you than I care about the money they took.”

Now, we need our political leaders to speak powerfully and clearly to our students and say, “I care more about the children of this city than I care about political posturing.”

We – the principals I stood with today and the politicians who serve in City Hall – are merely the stewards of our city for the amazing young men and women who will inherit it. We will be judged by the quality of our stewardship. It is long past time to be worthy of that stewardship and simply, powerfully do what is right.

Sep 25

Politics on Facebook

So someone found my blog via a search for “Politics on Facebook.” I was really saddened by what I found when I searched on that phrase. Most of the articles were about keeping politics off of Facebook or unfriending the people who post their politics online.

That’s frustrating to me.

I’m frustrated because it bothers me that people are writing article after article about how to keep political views off of Facebook when that’s exactly what should be on Facebook. Because behind those articles is, I imagine, one of the following sentiments:

  • “I don’t want to see opinions that are different from mine.”
  • “I don’t want to be bothered by politics when I’m goofing around on Facebook.”
  • “I’m just sick of politics.”

Back in 1998, David Shenk wrote Data Smog about how people could use the internet to create a powerful information filter so that a person never saw ideas other than the ones they already agreed with. This year, Eli Pariser The Filter Bubble, talking about how the way data is parsed on the internet is actually changing what information is being delivered to us. Those are powerfully dangerous trends that we see every day in the increasingly acrimonious and polarized political arena. Our politicians and, worse, our media are mirroring us, not looking to listen or build bridges or find common ground. That cannot be good for us as a nation.

Into that fray comes Facebook… where one may have to deal with the fact that their third-grade soccer teammate is now a huge Tea Party supporter or a died-in-the-wool liberal Obama fan. And I say that’s a good thing. But only if we seize the opportunity for what it is. It is a chance to talk and listen – a chance to argue to learn, not just argue to win. When old friends actually have to deal with each other’s differences and still find ways to reconcile themselves to the friendship, that has to be good for us as a nation.

So I say, keep politics on Facebook. Let’s learn to listen to one another. Let’s learn to debate and discuss with people who believe in ideas different from our own. And let’s remember that spending time discussing what we think and how we feel about the direction our nation is taking should be time well-spent.

After all, it has to be more important that Farmville, right?