Education and Community

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by  Stanley Kinard
Hands off Ray!
Ignorance allied with power is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.
-James Baldwin
Educator, sports legend, and community leader Ray Haskins is under attack.  Mr. Haskins was recently dismissed as principal of M.S. 390 where he served for the past two and a half years. M.S. 390 is located across from the Albany Houses, which is known to be a dangerous housing development.  Despite the reputation of his “hood,” Mr. Haskins is well known and liked by his students, parents and a host of community residents.  Through Principal Haskins extraordinary
leadership, a previously troubled school is now under control. 
Why fire Principal Haskins when for two years now the Board of Education awarded him an incentive bonus for exceptional student performance on standardized English tests (the ELA)?  Math scores at his school also improved this year.  Principal Haskins is also a recent recipient of the Magnolia Tree Education Leadership Award along with Dr. Renee Young and Frank Mickens.
There is neither precedent, nor rationale for his dismissal.  This past year Mr. Haskins received two disciplinary letters in his file, both for non-academic reasons.  One letter was for ordering carpet for his school and not using a Department of Education approved vendor.  According to Mr. Haskins, there are no D. O. E. carpet vendors.  If they do exist, he says he couldn’t find them at the time this order was placed. 
The other letter placed in his file addressed his lateness in submitting an evaluation of an assistant principal.  Mr. Haskins does not feel that these two cases warrant his dismissal-  neither do the 5,000 persons who have signed petitions in support of him keeping his position.
In addition to his career as principal, Mr. Haskins is highly regarded as one of Brooklyn’s best coaches.  He served as basketball coach at Long Island University, where he led them to a berth in the NCAA playoffs.  Furthering his commitment to both sports and students, Principal Haskins is currently a member of Brooklyn U.S.A., an organization which provides scholarships for student
athletes. 
Why is Principal Haskins being removed?  Ray Haskins along with numerous other public school principals are being systematically removed from their positions in order to make spaces for new graduates of the chancellor’s pet project, The Principal’s Leadership Institute.  Chancellor Klein is looking to open up positions in order to fill them with principals graduating in from his new
Institute.  Whereas the re-training of Principals is a good idea generally, it cannot masquerade as the rationale for rampant dismissal of qualified leaders like Principal Haskins.
Ray Haskins belongs to us.  We should support and protect him, not allow this injustice to take place.  Black role male models are rare, especially at public middle schools, which are the most out of control in the city school system. He has proven his capacity to deal with this endangered middle school population of black children. Principal Haskins combines street credibility with
true community appeal.  If the black community cannot make a commitment to saving Ray Haskins, then we as a community are in real trouble. 
Our community must come together at this time to say “Hands Off Ray!”  The Ray Haskins Support Committee asks that you please email your outrage to Chancellor Klein directly at http://www.nycenet.edu/webforms/chancellormessage.aspx.
Black New Yorkers for Educational Excellence will salute valedictorian Tiffany Schley on Thursday, July 1, at 6 p.m. at the House of the Lord Church.  Tiffany was denied her diploma for speaking out during her valedictorian’s address.  She provided a pointed critique of the negative situations at the High School for Legal Studies. 
Tiffany is an inspiration to both young and old, and we will take this opportunity on Thursday to express our appreciation fully, openly and uncensored.  The Chancellor has been requested to present Tiffany with her diploma personally at Thursday evening’s event.  Tiffany will also receive other awards, including the Harriet Tubman- Ida B. Wells award, appropriately reflecting her warrior spirit. Thank God for Tiffany, who came just at the right time. 
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The New York State Legislature and The U.S. Congress have passed bills requiring Underground Railroad Education be taught in all elementary, middle, high schools and colleges.  This legislation was passed in 1997, but to date, no comprehensive curriculum has been implemented. 
Black New Yorkers for Educational Excellence hosted an Underground Railroad forum at LIU this past month.  Presenters outlined curricular objectives, shared information, and gave us updates on Underground Railroad activities.  The Schomburg Library was commissioned to develop curricula over 6 years ago, and BNYEE is attempting to get an update on the status of their efforts.  It is a primary goal of BNYEE to launch a crusade to engage our community in the
development and implementation of African centered curriculum this next school year.
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Our community’s newest High School, Bedford Academy, had 100% of its students pass the Math A Regents.  96% passed the Living Environment Regents, and 90% passed the U.S. History Regents.  This is an incredible feat accomplished within the first year of the school’s existence.  Mr. George Leonard and his staff should be applauded for the excellent work they are doing.
P.S. 21 students are again among the top performers in the city based upon the results of the citywide reading and math exams.  The consistent success of this school, located across from the Brevost Houses has been nothing short of amazing.  This tradition of excellence began when Regent Adelaide Sanford served as principal, followed by Alice Uzaoga, continued under Dr. Renee Young, and now under current principal of P.S. 21 alumni, Harold Anderson.
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Condolences go out to the family and friends of educator and athlete Mr. Albie Grant, who made his transition last month.  Mr. Grant was a star player at LIU, who brought tenaciousness to the center position.  Family and friends will dearly miss him.  Someone should host a community memorial for this beloved departed brother.
Peace and Blessings