By Nico Simino
With two elected officials in attendance, one of the city’s foremost educators led a lively discussion on the state of the city’s public schools at last Saturday’s Vanguard Independent Democratic Association (VIDA) monthly meeting.
Dr. Lester Young, Jr, of the Adelaide L. Sanford Institute, who led an education reform focused conference last month at the Concord Baptist Church of Christ, 833 Marcy Avenue, reiterated many of the proposals he had brought up at the conference, as well as the importance of electing a new mayor next year who backs the proposals.
These proposals include focusing on comprehensive early childhood learning from the ages of one to five, designing culturally sensitive programs for all children, focusing on policies and strategies to identify “special needs” schools before they become low-performing schools and are forced to close, and devising a plan to include more history, practices, beliefs and traditions of the African Diaspora into schools’ curriculums, especially those located in largely black communities.
Young also highlighted other, more common and accessible goals that need to be accomplished like more after-school programs, which he said are “purposefully cut by the mayor to save money”, and more career and technical training opportunities in central Brooklyn.
“Nothing changes a youngster more than their first paycheck,” said Young about the importance of career training programs for young people. “How do we provide more jobs, through the help of the mayor’s office, to the kids in central Brooklyn?”
Young also touched upon the notion of electing a new mayor during the next election “who will endorse and fight for these proposals.”
“The mayor controls education, and if we don’t get the right person in the mayor’s office, then we are in trouble,” he said.”We need our community to stand up and advocate these recommendations. Our current elected officials should endorse a clear set of education principles.”
Myrna Williams, a former city public school principal and attendee at the meeting echoed this sentiment.
“(Mayor) Bloomberg is not serving the community well,” she said. “A child can pass any test as long as you expose them to it.”
Bedford-Stuyvesant City Councilman Al Vann, who was also in attendance, concurred with Dr. Young, stating that he voted against mayoral control of the education system.
“If he [Bloomberg] gets mayoral control, he controls the budget, and that’s what he wants. He doesn’t know anything about education, his chancellor was not an educator, so it’s destroying our system,” said Vann, adding with mayoral control over the city schools he hopes the next mayor endorses Young’s agenda.
Bedford-Stuyvesant state Assemblywoman Annette Robinson, who was also in attendance seconded Vann.
“There is no reason for us not to be on one accord about education,” she said.
Young also introduced the idea of having parents and community members determine whether a local school should be closed down or not, an idea that is already in practice in California and is being introduced into the state Assembly here in New York.
Currently, the city determines if a school is failing and can close it down if deemed necessary.
To find out more about Young’s proposals log on to http://www.sanfordinstitute.org/.