Saturday, November 22, 2014

"Why Don't You Go Back Across the River"

Most of us at RICH don't mind getting criticized.  But when adults make judgments and decisions that hurt kids because the adults need to protect themselves or their egos, that's just sad.  The above words were uttered by the Executive Director of an organization who was incensed because RICH had found colleges for three of our students that differed from the recommendations from his organization.  In all three cases, the students chose the colleges RICH recommended, colleges that were more challenging but which we are confident the kids can succeed in.  I had said I had been working with kids for thirty-five years, eleven years on "this side [East] of the river," where the highest concentration of low-income kids live.  Two of the kids we had worked with for four years, and one for two years.  They all either live or hang out within a few blocks of my house in Anacostia; it is easy for us to know these kids quite well.

Fortunately, I don't think there is anywhere near the animus or pettiness among the staff at Anacostia High School.  The new, interim principal, who asked us not to return to the school this year, probably wanted control of his building, and the presence of our tutors and mentors probably threatened that control.  The expertise of our staff can be intimidating to a new principal.  Hopefully the data and outcomes we have amassed over the four years there will eventually convince school administrators to allow us to come back and continue our work there.  If not, RICH and the District of Columbia Public Schools central office, which has told us they would like us to work in "as many schools as possible," will work hard to find a good place or places for RICH to work during the day.

The rewarding news for RICH is that 100% of the students we have reached out to this fall want to keep working with us.  None of the students or parents (or teachers, for that matter) can understand RICH's not continuing at the school.  Thanks to the good folks at the St. Philip's Church, RICH has been able to continue its MATHlete, WordSTARS, and College Prep programs, and tutor or monitor most of the students we worked with last year at the school (the Keep Up and Village Watch programs).

RICH never fully recognized Dr. Ian Roberts, who was lead principal during our four years at Anacostia.  Dr. Roberts allowed our tutors and mentors unprecedented access to classes, meetings, and student data.  As a result, RICH's impact for the students there was tremendous.  We may never be able to repeat the four years of work we did at Anacostia, but we will try.