Tag Archives: North High School

Chris is parked in Yum Yums!

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If Jett could vote, he’d vote for Bernie!!!

FEEL THE BERN, WORCESTER!

By Chris Horton

The news came on Wednesday night:  Bernie’s coming to Worcester!  Within hours it was all over social media! For eight months people have been asking me “When is Bernie going to come to Worcester?” and I had to say I didn’t know. 

Now suddenly here he was, on his way, no one could say why, or how we ended up at North High. There were people to call, reporters who I didn’t think knew we existed started calling, other events had to be called off, everyone had to be alerted to suddenly shift gears. 

The actual event was organized by a national Sanders Campaign advance team who descended on Worcester and recruited volunteers with lightning speed, with the help of our new Central Mass Field Organizer Lisa Mosczynski who came on board just last week. Turns out they chose North High after trying everywhere else – but surprisingly it worked out very well, with over 100 volunteers organized on the spot to handle a complex event like clockwork.

The event was scheduled for 5 pm, doors open at 4. It was a cold but bright and sunny at 3pm when we arrived to report for volunteering.  Several hundred people were aready lined up waiting to get in and a dozen volunteers were already at work.

Prominent among the volunteers were a group of red-shirted nurses from the Mass Nurses Association, who arrived with well-known activist Sandy Ellis. They spoke at the pre-meeting about how their union and profession have been hammered over the years and how only Bernie is offering hope of winning a national health insurance plan like Single-Payer/Medicare for All that we desperately need.

I took on working the line, getting people registered and giving them stickers to get in.  And letting them know about the We Want Bernie Worcester event afterwards: “Beers for Bernie” at the Compass Tavern! 

By the time the first people were allowed in a little after 4, the line snaked out all the way to the street, easily several thousand people.  In sharp contrast to the lines at the DCU for Trump last month, there was a good scattering of people of color and Spanish speakers.  The mood was upbeat and festive – while many of us are angry, we didn’t bring our anger to the event.  It was about creating a future we could believe in.

Way out by the street some cars stopped at the entrance and people started shouting “He’s Here!  Bernie’s here!”  I kept working along the line, talking to people, getting the ones the first wave had missed signed up, for maybe 15 minutes, but kept hearing “Bernie’s here!” Finally he came into view, not 10 feet tall, not even 6 feet tall, no Secret Service crew, but this curly-haired slightly-stooped old man working his way along the line with a few staff, shaking everyone’s hand and exchanging a few words with everyone on that line!  Getting old myself as I am, I wondered at how he can find the strength to carry on like this, his second rally of the day, plus by all reports keep up with his many committee assignments in the Senate in Washington.

My own words to him were “Good job, brother!”  I hope the warm glow in my heart as I shook this heroic leader’s hand resonated with him and gave him another ounce of strength.

As it turned out, more than 3,500 people were able to crowd into the building, 1,700 into the gym, and maybe another 300 outside, on little over two days’ notice, at a time when the college students were still away!  The spirit was incredible! 

It was a love-fest; we love this old man who has spent a lifetime speaking and working for us, who is expressing and interpreting our anger, our hopes and dreams, who has declared that we can and will take our country back from the billionaire class and their corrupt servants and agents.  Who declared with passion that we will win in the March 1 Primary and sweep to victory this November, we build a great movement to transform America and put Bernie in the White House to be our voice in Washington!  And how we took courage from him and from each other in that room!

One piece of the story that was not much commented on: Worcester’s State Rep. Mary Keefe, in her first appearance as a Sanders supporter, introduced Bernie (excuse me, Mr. Sanders!) in a rousing and inspiring speech, where she also called on the audience to volunteer for the campaign!

Mary’s own campaigns have been inspiring models of grass-roots activism. This campaign will take the model one step further. Volunteers will be assigned to call and knock on the doors of their own neighbors, and invited to take on the role of Turf Captain in their own town or village, ward, precinct or even micro-neighborood. This is really exciting news! This is a new kind of campaign, laying the foundation of a new – but really very old – kind of politics!  The politics of a “political revolution!”

Berine’s speech touched on so many issues.  This is not a one-issue campaign.  This is a multi-issue campaign.  Job creation. Get big money out of politics. Bring our work home and stop the trade deals that are shipping it overseas. Stop Global Warming.  Racial justice.  Free college education and make the Wall Street speculators pay for it. Criminal justice reform and legalizing marijuana.  Economic equality and the right to join a union. A path to citizenship for the undocumented. Equal pay for women. Raise the minimum wage and guaranteed paid family leave. And many more! Most campaigns hire focus groups to pick one or two key issues to keep hammering on; not this one!  This is the Everything Campaign! 

And it’s working!  Because we are all, whatever our issues, whatever movements we’ve supported, profoundly stuck, unable to gather together the power to win our key demands, faced with a Congress, with state and city governments and programs, that say there is no money, we have to cut, make do with less. 

We’ve all been driven to despair, and we are all in one way or another up against the same ultimate obstacle, the same group of a few thousand billionaires and multi-millionaires who have hijacked our political system, accumulated vast sums of money taken from our work and our taxes, purchased our newspapers, radio and TV networks to use like their private mouthpieces, and are now strangling our economy and driving us to ruin.

And Bernie is calling us all together into one great movement to challenge that “billionaire class” for power and take back the resources we need to make this country work for all of us again!

The spirit of that crowd was so different from Trump’s crowd!  There was anger there, including anger at Trump and the thinly disguised racist lynch mob spirit of his campaign, but there was love too, and no room for hatred! Yes, a Trump heckler would have been booed, but he would not have been in danger.  I sensed that we will stand together when the time comes unafraid.

Near the end of the rally, Bernie shouted out to us:

“Congratulations!  Now you are part of the Political Revolution!”  The crowd shouted out our assent!

I wonder, do the people in that room really understand that there’s a whole world of people out there who have not been seeing Bernie on the nightly news, who don’t know anything about him, who incredibly may not even know his name?  People many of whom are angry, afraid and living lives of desperation, who don’t know where to turn?  People who haven’t voted in years because they don’t see the point and don’t trust that their vote will make a difference?

Do the people shouting agreement to being part of a political revolution get it that we are not going to get those folks’ support, not going to get them to the polls, unless we, each of us, actually step outside of our comfort zone, put aside all the pressing demands of our lives, to organize, go out and find them? Unless we actualy go out and talk to them?

Will they answer the Campaign’s calls to get involved, now, and show up at meetings, phone banks, canvassing events?

“Do you feel the Bern” they were asking each other like it was a chant, and the reply came back “I feel the Bern!”  I am so glad they feel it, so glad we all feel it.  But what does it mean? I don’t know what has been holding most of us back, but now is the moment to get over it and get out there and “Share the Bern” with their neighbors, with people they would normally pass on the street without ever really talking to. 

Now is the time to turn that Bern feeling into a mighty flame that will transform our neighborhoods, towns and cities, transform America, and win us back the future we know is possible but which many of us had come to despair of ever seeing!

March 1 is less than two months away!  If we can win the primaries we can beat Trump in November.  We can do it,  but there ain’t no one gonna do it for us!
 

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders comes to North High School January 2

North high School 2015
Kudos to Worcester’s North High School students, staff and the City of Worcester!

By Gordon Davis

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is coming to North High School January 2.

This is a good thing for North High School and Worcester. Although it is not quite on the level of President Obama visiting Worcester Technical High School on graduation day, this is a very big deal!

I cannot say I agree with U.S. Senator Sanders on everything, but I agree that the excesses of capitalism need mitigation. Mr. Sanders, who represents Vermont and is an Independent who leans social/progressive Democrat, is trying to reduce the economic disparities of the American profit system in order to save it from itself. Although he thinks this is revolutionary, it is not. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the New Deal in the 1930s to save capitalism from collapsing in a crisis similar to the Great American Recession of 2008.  Saving capitalism is almost a traditional or conservative political agenda.

I disagree with Mr. Sanders in that I do not think the profits system, economic disparities, and their superstructure of racism should be saved. Generation after generation, we go through an economic crisis of one sort or another. It is time we had a system where American corporations are not legal persons and money is not speech.

Getting back to the issues of Senator’s Sanders visit to North High School: For years North High students have been the butt of color-blind racism. I remember when the old North High School on Salisbury Street was closed and the kids from the East Side had to go to a remodeled middle school building, the former Harrington Way Junior School.  Students and families on this side of our city did not have a new high school for 100 years!

In the 1990s the City of Worcester had an opportunity to build a new high school. There was a discussion whether to build a New North High School or a new vocational school. Some people suggested that the two high schools be combined. This discussion did not go far, as many of the Worcester Voke Alums seemed to look down on the students from North High as not quite as good as the Voke students. I have no other explanation for not combining the two schools except a sort of color blind racism.

Even after the new North High School was built, I remember Worcester City Councilor Konstantina (Konnie) Lukes complained about the bad kids at North High School. She quipped: “Maybe it was not a new building that they needed.” I am even more upset that some of the teachers have taken the attitude of the need for full-time Worcester police officers in the Worcester Public Schools because of the “bad” kids. The hurtful words of the Marine who headed up JROTC comes to mind. Even the EAW says that the teachers need police protection because of bad students. All of this is hurtful and discouraging to the students. 

Our children are no different than children elsewhere. I think color blind racism is a factor behind these comments and policies.

Kudos to U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders for choosing to come to this inner-city school whose students have in many ways been emotionally and verbally abused by so many!

May this Bernie Sanders event be the start of a great new year for North High School, all of the children in Worcester, the City of Worcester – and Bernie Sanders!

Arresting kids in the Worcester Public Schools

By Gordon Davis
 
At least 19 students have been arrested in the Worcester Public Schools between September 2015 and November 23, 2015. Of that number, at least two children were arrested at the middle school level.
 
The two arrests at the middle school level are especially concerning, due to the young age of the children. I find it hard to believe the children had to be arrested at school. With all of the doctors of education in the Worcester Public Schools, there must be an alternative to arresting young children in the middle or elementary schools. There should be a City of Worcester policy against arrest children at middle or elementary schools.
 
Because of the political hysteria, based to some extent on racism, some people on the Worcester City Council and the Worcester School Committee of Worcester ordered police into our school without a Memorandum of Understanding and appropriate knowledge of the police officers’ duties or restrictions.

This action was not well thought out and now the City of Worcester is out of compliance with the statutes. Being out of compliance might mean that all of the Worcester Public Schools students arrested might have been unlawfully arrested at school with right of causal action.
 
M.G.L. Chapter 71 Section 37 P requires that a School System have in place a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Police Department:
 
“The superintendent and the chief of police shall enter into a written memorandum of understanding to clearly define the role and duties of the school resource officer which shall be placed on file in the office of the school superintendent.”
 
Worcester Police Chief Gary Gemme has stated to the local press that he feels that the vast majority of people/parents supports police in our schools.  Unfortunately for us, Chief Gemme is spinning as he offers no evidence. The Massachusetts Human Rights group is collecting signatures of a petition on the issue with more than 100 signatures at last count.
 
Chief Gemme has made another presumption in that he says the cops in the schools are doing good. Without a MOU it is not clear what the they are doing. There is no evidence that the police are improving safety and education.

There are several reports, including an ACLU report, that shows police in the schools are a source of students leaving school and then going into the “school to prison pipeline.” Many of these students are from poor and minority neighborhoods.
 
On the issue of the MOU Chief Gemme asserts that he does not want the police to become school disciplinarians. The facts show that the police officers are already the school disciplinarians. According to Public Safety Liaison Officer for the Worcester Public Schools, Robert Pezella, most of the arrests of students was for disruption and disorderly.

Disruption is not a crime anywhere and should have been handled administratively per Chapter 222. Disorderly is vaguely defined and subjective. The actions of the students should likely have also been adjudicated under Chapter 222.
 
The cat was let out of the bag when Mr. Pezzella stated to the local press that the MOU would likely not be approved until after a safety audit was completed. 

The question Mr. Pezella has unintentionally pointed to is why cops were put into the schools BEFORE the Safety Audit was completed!!!
 
I believe Mr. Pezella is a good man who has been asked by the City to clean up a mess created by Worcester School Committee woman Dianna Briancharia and Worcester City Councilor Michael Gaffney. Mr. Pezella several years ago helped my wife with an issue at UMass Hospital – he was excellent.
 
This fiasco of putting police into our public schools possibly is being covered up. Mr. Pezzella has not mentioned how parents, students, teachers, principals and advocates will have input into the so called Safety Audit or the MOU. 
 
This statement from Mr. Pezzella is troubling:
 
“There’s a fine line between disciplinary and public safety and, in some cases, student unrest could lead to a possible arrest of a student.”
 
Like his misstatement about disruptions, student unrest is not a crime either.

For teenagers it is normalcy.

The question arises about a possible bias on the part of Mr. Pezella’s thinking about students. The use of the phrase “fine line” is curious on the part of Mr. Pezella, as the statute makes it clear that cops are not authorized to enforce school policy, only law enforcement and security. Everything else should be administratively adjudicated.
 
”School resource officer”, a duly sworn municipal police officer with all necessary training, up-to-date certificates or a special officer appointed by the chief of police charged with providing law enforcement and security services to elementary and secondary public schools.
 
The losers in all of this are the children in the Worcester Public Schools who are compelled to go into a learning environment in which they can be arrested on the most frivolous or subjective of reasons without recourse to their rights found in Chapter 222. The environment is filled with police officers who do not know for certain what they can or cannot do because there is no MOU. An environment created by the racist rants of some Worcester city officials. 

City of Worcester is Hiding its Policy on Police in our Schools

By Gordon Davis

A small group of parents, students, and activists met November 18 to discuss the City of Worcester’s policy on the duties of police officers in the Worcester Public Schools.

Earlier in the year the Worcester City Council voted to put a full-time police officer in each of the five Worcester Public High Schools.

The Worcester Public Schools and the Worcester Police Department are required by statute to define the policy regarding police in schools in a document called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

So far no one from the City, not the WPS Superintendant, not the Mayor, not the City Manager, or the Police Chief has responded to requests for the MOU.

During the discussion several people said because the policy of full-time police in schools was implemented in a panic based on false assertions that the schools were unsafe, there was no time to think through the legal requirements.

The required MOU likely does not comply with State laws at this time. Mr. Pezzella, public safety liaison for the Worcester Public schools, said in October 2015 that the current MOU is outdated and needs revision.

The Mass. Human Right Commission (MHRC), a nongovernmental organization, functioned as the umbrella from which the people in the meeting will advocate for justice for the students and parent.

Although not officially representing their respective organizations, there were people from the Worcester NAACP, an UU Church, the Progressive Labor Party, a Latino group, a student group and a social service agency.

Ruth Rodriguez, a local activist, gave background to the “school to jail pipeline.” She said some in the corporate world were financing programs designed to have schools fail. The children would then be more at risk for incarceration and poverty.  She stated that Latino children are most adversely affected by suspensions and expulsions, although every child in poverty was at risk. Ms. Rodriguez is also against charter schools for siphoning resources from public schools.

Gwen Davis, a Worcester resident (and my wife), whose children went to North High School, said police in the school are a part of the school to prison pipeline and these are some of the issues of the BlackLives Matter civil rights movement.

Dr, Sonya Conner, a professor at Worcester State University, said she thought the way the Worcester City Council was able to ram through the policy of police in the schools was to divide the teachers from the students. She thought the group should reach out to the teacher’s union on this issue.
Another speaker said the ACLU in Boston has helped with the effort regarding the MOU by providing outlines and guidance for the writing of MOU.

The guidelines from the ACLU indicated that:

1. Police should not be used in any school discipline, as these are covered by Chapter 222 of the Acts of 2012 – and not the criminal statutes.

2. The police should be trained in childhood education, especially adolescent behavior.

3. The police in the schools should receive training in disabilities accommodations for children.

4. There should be no arrests on campus for any reason other than public safety emergencies.

The MHRC has been collecting signature on a petition to the Worcester City Council and the Worcester School Committee regarding the City’s policy of police in schools and plan to present the petition to City Council and the City School Committee after Thanksgiving.

The group also made plans to write to the Parent Associations of Worcester high schools and middle schools to make a presentation about the MOU and the rights of parents and students found in Chapter 222. Another suggestion was to leaflet the students at the City high schools with hopes of getting the information to parents.

There is no apparent reason why the City is hiding its MOU, except that it wants to keep the students, parents, and the public ignorant of its policy or its lack of policy.

This policy information is in the public domain. 

Let us hope City authorities respond in a positive way to this effort that can only help all concerned, especially the children, and reduce the City’s liability exposure.

Go, Gordon Davis, go!!!!!!!!

STOP Arresting Kids at School! … and THE REAL RACE DIALOGUES

By Gordon Davis

In September 2015 there were reports of two fights between kids at North High School in Worcester. The details of the fights are sketchy, but it appears that the first fight was between two female students. That fight was broken up and the students taken to the office where while still upset they refused to comply with instructions given to them. Instead of being sent home and having them return with their parents, the two girls were arrested. Something similar happened with two male students.

When I went to high school I got into fights, but the police were never called and the disputes were handled administratively.

In both cases at North High School there were charges that nine staffers were assaulted but not injured or harmed when they tried to break up the respective fights. How the staffers were assaulted was not described in the news story. An assault is defined as a threat or an attempt to injury without actually injury. Battery is the charge for injury or harm intentionally inflicted.

It might have been better for all concerned for the students not to have been arrested at school. Arresting kids in the heat of the moment when there is no immediate clear and present danger will, more likely than not, lead to bad decisions by the staff and the police, as well as be harmful to the kids. The schools know who the kids are and where they live; there is no chance that they will flee the state. There is no need for arrests.

Should there be a need for legal actions then this should be decided after the emotions of the event have passed. The child and parent could be summoned to court. The whole concept of putting children in handcuffs and having them booked  at the police is not good pedagogy.

On September 19, 2015, a new group called Men of Color Think Tank organized what it called “Real Race Dialogues.” The Men of Color Think Tank seems to be an outgrowth of the BlackLives Matter new civil rights movement.  Its membership is multi-racial, but some people are called “white allies” instead of members.

Michael Jerry one of the organizers of the event and apparent spokes person for Men of Color Think Tank gave an inspirational introduction to the Real Race Dialogues.

Although enthusiastic, many of the things he spoke about have a history in Worcester. For example, Mr. Jerry thought the best way to get a person of color elected was to have a slate of candidates. It is generally accepted that bullet voting is the better way to get a candidate elected. It is bullet voting that is thought to allow the top vote getters to get the most votes. Mr. Jerry’s enthusiasm and seeming ability to look at new ideas will go a long way to help the organization and its goals.

At the so called Real Race dialogues there was a table at which the participants discussed education. My impression is that there was honest and creative talk about racial issues in Worcester. Our table included parents, teachers, students, and other people sincere in their desire to end racial disparities in schools.  

Several issues came to be discussed: the development of a school to job pipeline, the coordinating of organizations working with children to ensure that each child at risk has a mentor, alternative curriculum and after school programs, and the ways of reversing the false perception of North High Schools as “bad” kids.

The issue of North High School took up most of the discussion time and some concrete plans were made including changing school policies such that no kids are arrested at school. Although this no arresting kids at school policy makes good pedagogy and common sense,  expelling the  criminal justice system out of the  schools will be a difficult task as many people still fear Black and Latino and poor kids . These misguided people, some of whom are racists, want to use the power of the state to “control” the dark skin people they fear.

Worcester and the Department of Justice – meeting #1, May 18, 2015

By Gordon Davis

The first of several race relations discussions initiated by Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus began last night at the YWCA, Worcester. The discussions, so far, seemed poorly designed and did not reach the people who needed to be at the table.

Young men of color were conspicuously absent.

In the meeting room, which was filled to capacity, young men of color and those who interact with them could be counted on one hand.

Muhammad Ali-Salaam of the Community Relations Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) explained as best he could what the discussions were about. He had with him a team of facilitators who sat at each table.

Mr. Ali-Salaam said that the DOJ came at the request of the City Manager. The discussions on race relations were intended to vet Augustus’ plan for more diversity in Worcester government/public life and to get input from the community. Augustus said he is hopeful that these discussions would be more fruitful than the other discussions on race held previously in Worcester.

In response to a question about the DOJ investigating the Worcester Police Department for misconduct and Worcester City government for malicious prosecution, Mr. Ali-Salaam said the petition for such investigations should go to Ms. Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for this district. She has a field office in Worcester.

Mr. Culin Owyang, Deputy Attorney General for Massachusetts, said he and the Attorney General hoped to have a positive impact on Worcester’s discussions on race and to give them some structure.

On the subject of Worcester District Attorney (DA) Joseph Early Jr. recusing his office from the prosecution of a Worcester police officer accused of beating a shackled prisoner and transferring the prosecution to Attorney General Maura Healy’s office, Mr. Owyang had no comment.

He said DA Early should be asked those questions. He had no comment on why DA Early did not erect a legal wall around the prosecution or appoint a special prosecutor.

Several people in attendance said the racial tension in Worcester has been centered around Black Lives Matter demonstrations and Worcester Police misconduct and alleged public safety issues at North High School.

There were few, if any protesters, from Black Lives Matter and no high school students from North High School.

Why???

The outreach could be better for the city’s upcoming discussions on public safety and education.

Two young men of color who were at the meeting expressed disappointment with the low turnout of young men of color.

Born Taylor, a young Black man, said he felt that some good could come from the discussions, but he also felt that the division of attendees by table could have been better. He thought discussions would not attain some of their goals if more young men of color did not attend.

Caleb Encarnacion-Rivera, a young Hispanic man, said he came in order to help the improvement of the city. He was especially motivated because now he had a child in the Worcester Public Schools.

Like Mr. Taylor, Mr. Encarnacion-Rivera hoped that more young men of color would attend the future discussions.

Two Worcester city councillors, Gary Rosen and Sarai Rivera, said they were there to learn more.

City Manager Augustus said we should not be held captive by the past, where similar discussions started out enthusiastically but nothing significant came about.

One white woman said there is no racial problem in Worcester. She said that there were only agitators stirring things up, causing the problems. While she was speaking, my thoughts went to the old civil rights movement where Bull Connors said something similar about happy Negroes and outside agitators.

Another white woman said some in the room were unaware that the term “color blindness” in terms of race had shifted from a relatively progressive phrase to a code word for institutional racism. Although honest and a plea for discourse, such comments will make the discussions difficult for some people of color.

A black woman who said that the DOJ should investigate the Worcester Police was booed by some white people, even though the facilitators told the participants that they should be respectful of everyone’s ideas and opinions.

Instead of reducing racial tensions in Worcester, the discussions might be the source of increased racial tensions.

One person noticeably absent was Brenda Jenkins of the YMCA and the Mosaic Cultural Complex. She is an important Black leader in the City of Worcester. Several people came to me and asked me where Brenda was. They speculated that she might not have come because the populations she works with did not go.

There are also rumors that the City of Worcester is pressuring Brenda’s program – the Mosaic Cultural Complex-  by reviewing the funds the City of Worcester awards her group. Is Augustus going to pull Brenda’s funding to pressure Brenda to “shut up”? Or has that already happened? Or has Brenda, like other Black leaders in Worcester before her, people of color on the city payroll, people of color with ties to Worcester city government/jobs/funds self-censoring herself??? To save her city money?

I suppose the politics of Worcester might suddenly change, and the city will take more substantial and positive actions towards race relations.

Unfortunately it looks a lot like business as usual – or worse.

Worcester gets a visit from the Department of Justice

By Gordon Davis

It was announced recently that the City of Worcester invited the Department of Justice to hold discussions on race.

The question arises: Why doesn’t the City hold these hearings directly? People have been demanding that there be increased scrutiny of the police department, a review of the seemingly racist overreaction at North High School, and the lack of written city policies on developers hiring Worcester residents for their Worcester construction projects.

Many people have said our public schools are underfunded and a part of a system that will have negative racial impacts.  The people who have gone to Worcester City Council meetings, Worcester School Committee meetings and other meetings are still here and no one from City Hall has asked them to begin a “discussion” on race.

The Department of Justice will work with Worcester through the Worcester City Manager’s Coalition against Bias and Hate. This group consists of very well meaning people, but as a group it has not spoken out against the racist murders of unarmed working class people, especially Black men. It has not spoken out against the racist over-reaction against North High students. It remained silent when the issue of jobs for Worcester residents was raised at the former Worcester County Courthouse. The Coalition against Bias and Hate is run by the Worcester City Manager to give him cover on issues of race.

This cover for the City is seen in that it went to the media first before it contacted any Black or Latino person who has raised his/her voice against racism.

The Coalition has said it would announce a schedule for the race discussions on April 24. This makes no sense, given the urgency of the issue. The arrest of a police officer for allegedly beating a handcuffed prisoner at the City lock up adds more urgency to the situation. I don’t think that the City’s Coalition against Bias and Hate has the experience or will to do anything  substantial against racism, given its track record. However, I will keep an open mind on the issue.

The discussion of race should include the urgent discussion of police conduct and that of Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus. He and Worcester Police Chief Gary Gemme are seeking charges against two people who have participated in the Black Lives Matter new civil rights movement and were at the Kelley Square Black Lives Matter protest. This is an obvious attempt by the City of Worcester to intimidate other people who have raised their voices against racism. There is no evidence that can be used in court against the two people, but the City is going forward with its prosecution next week, on April 15.

There will be a rally on April 14, 6:30 p.m., at Worcester City Hall, Main Street, in support of the people being persecuted by the City of Worcester. On April 18, 1 p.m., there will be a discussion of race and police conduct sponsored by the Massachusetts Human Rights Commission and the Progressive Labor Party at the Worcester Public Library, located at 3 Salem Square in downtown Worcester. Be there!

Worcester City Councillor Konstantina (Konnie) Lukes owes the City and its residents an apology for her “support the police department absolutely” resolution. Her resolution and statements made by Michael Gaffney have made it that much harder to appropriately scrutinize police misconduct. This issue should also be discussed during the DoJ discussion on race.

The Department of Justice coming to Worcester and the arrest of the police officer in Worcester for alleged civil rights violations are a sign that the Black (All) Lives Matter new civil rights movement is making an impact. These things would not have happened, if it were not for the protests, meetings, workshops and marches of the people speaking out against racism.

Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Melinda Boone’s North High School update …

 emailed to the Worcester School Committee and other city officials. Public info – full text:

The past two and a half weeks have been a mix of very high points and a couple of very challenging points at North High School. This update summarizes some key events and actions that have occurred during this time period. The school continues to experience a reduction in the numbers of students engaging in disruptive behaviors. The School Liaison Officer and an additional WPD officer continue to have daily presence at the school supporting in a community policing role. The Safety Intervention Team and the Climate and Culture Team both continue to meet on a regular basis continuing to develop specific plans to strengthen the North High School Action Plan and monitoring progress of efforts. The dedication and commitment of the faculty and staff to these teams and the many facets of the Action Plan have resulted in positive and meaningful experiences at the school.

One obvious challenge occurred on Sunday, March 29, 2015 when Principal Dyer sent a letter to her faculty in response to a column that had been written and published in a local media publication. As you are fully aware, Mrs. Dyer sent a letter of apology to the faculty on Friday, April 3, 2015 addressing the manner in which she handled that response that impacted the relationships being developed at the school and put the school back into the media focus. You each received a copy of that apology to the faculty. Since the letter and apology, Mrs. Dyer continues to work with her faculty to reclaim the momentum that was occurring prior the letters.

Another high profile challenge occurred last week when two female students were engaged in a fight over a male student. As a result of the students failing to comply with directives from the school administrators, and eventually the police, they were arrested.

Key Highlights:

College acceptances continue to roll in for seniors including recent acceptances to Boston College, Smith, UMASS Amherst, Tufts, Rensselaer, Worcester State, Boston University to name a few. Across the hall from the Gear Up office at the school is the College Hall bulletin board.

Students presented “Once Upon An Island” for two successful nights last month at the school.

The first Parent/Teacher Dinner and AP Night was held with over 200 in attendance! North High students presented AP classes to families, operated the music and sound systems, provided school tours and babysitting services, and served families side by side with their teachers.

TJX provided a luxury bus twice to shuttle students to their headquarters providing career and financial advice.
UMASS Medical School interns and North High School were highlighted on Chronicle last week. Here is a link to that show: http://www.wcvb.com/chronicle/only-artifical-patients-for-anthony-everett/31992818

The JROTC Unit won two awards for their excellent presentation during the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

At this week’s Faculty Meeting teachers presented on the National Honor Society and Community Service, upcoming Blood Drive, Walk for the Less Fortunate, and Restorative Justice/Perseverance Circles.

[ Dr. Melinda Boone, superintendent, WPS]

ICT supports what these folks are saying! NO to police with GUNS at North High! YES to School Superintendent Dr. Melinda Boone and her strategy for SUCCESS at North!

Here is the complete, unedited Public Statement of Support for North High School and Superintendent Dr. Melinda Boone from a coalition of Worcester minority community leaders and their allies:    – R.T.

A group of several leaders of color which include faith-based leaders, educators, activists, youth workers, cultural groups and multi service organizations have been meeting weekly since January to discuss how we can leverage our collective leadership capacity to address community needs for all residents in our city.

Given the recent events surrounding North High School, we felt it pertinent to respond in support of our over 25,000 students in the public school system, comprised of more than 60% students of color and 70% low-income students.  Many of us in the community share a deep concern for the urgent and ongoing needs at North High School and have been incredibly alarmed by the inflammatory comments being made about our children by the general public.

We stand with the North High School community to embrace the best version of what the school truly represents in our community.  We applaud the students who have demonstrated such strong resilience and commitment to their education and the parents who are stepping up to reclaim the narrative for their school.  We appreciate the teachers and administrative staff who show up everyday with one agenda in mind and that is to educate our students.

We requested and were presented with a meeting to discuss our concerns with Dr. Melinda Boone, Superintendent of Worcester Public Schools, Lisa Dyer, Principal of North High School, Joseph Petty, Mayor of the City of Worcester and Edward Augustus, Worcester City Manager.  We want to thank Dr. Boone, Principal Dyer, Mayor Petty and City Manager Augustus for responding to our sense of urgency around this matter.

Both Dr. Boone and Principal Dyer presented us with a timeline of events and response to those events.  We found that the information provided helped to dispel myths about the school, which have been perpetuated by local media and self-serving politicians.  It became clear to us that a campaign of misinformation has been waged against the school.  While there have been incidents of concern, the level of scrutiny received by the school has been misplaced and counterproductive to the school and administration’s efforts to create a positive climate for students and faculty.

We urge the Worcester School Committee to work with community partners to support the efforts led by the Superintendent and North High School administration.

We strongly agree with many of the targeted and universal approaches being taken and support the school and administration in their efforts to:

Engage students, parents and faculty in these important dialogues.

Expand North High’s effective restorative justice programming beyond the ninth grade

Address the structural challenges which can contribute to interpersonal violence in the schools such as the number of transitions during the school day and additional support for special education programming at the school

We also think there is room for improvement within the school safety plan and we have full confidence that we can approach existing school leadership and administration around our concerns.  In particular, we believe the increased police presence and police surveillance at North High School is a reactionary response to increase the perception of safety.

However, this should not be a short-term or long-term solution.  Research has shown that the more encounters young people have with the police, the more opportunities for unnecessary arrests and involvement with the juvenile justice system. We propose that Worcester Public School’s focus on identifying the root causes that have contributed to the cultural climate of the school and has led to the perception that North High School is unsafe.

Specifically we recommend the school revisit its plans and:

Decrease police presence in the schools and  increase trained, culturally competent parent liaisons and/or highly experienced youth workers who can be the ears on the ground, responding to conflict before it arises and building strong networks of support among faculty, staff and the student body.

Engage leadership from communities of color, who are largely underrepresented in the school’s faculty, administration and community partners at the school, in both the planning and implementation of community-based strategies to support students, parents and faculty.

Review school personnel policies around the use of social media to ensure that public comments and posts by school personnel do not perpetuate racial bias against students of color and racial discrimination under the law.

Reallocate teacher professional development resources to support district-wide inclusion training.

We look forward to working with and supporting the students, parents, faculty and administration at the school as well as working with the Educational Association of Worcester whose mission includes cultivating a spirit of understanding and good will among its members and the community.  As in the past, when our communities are collectively called to action in focused ways, we can be a strong enough force to help turn the tide in a positive direction for our children.

The following organizations and groups stand with leaders in support of this statement:

Belmont A..M.E. Zion Church
Black Clergy Alliance
Black Legacy
Centro Las Americas
Christian Community Church & The Shalom Neighborhood Center
Discrimination Law Agency Advocates
Future Focus Media Cooperative and Youth Training Institute
Men of Color Think Tank
Mosaic Cultural Complex
Mt. Olive Pentecostal Church
Our Story Edutainment
Pleasant Street Neighborhood Network Center
Women of Color in Solidarity
Worcester Latino Ministers Alliance
Worcester Roots Project
YWCA of Central Massachusetts

Order of Speakers:

Maritza Cruz
Independent Community Activist

David Jerry
North High School Parent

Brenda Jenkins
President and CEO of Mosaic Cultural Complex

Joyce McNickles, Ed.D,
Adjunct Professor, Emmanuel College
Social Justice Educator and Consultant
Co-Chair of the YWCA Racial Justice Task Force

Keesha LaTulippe
Community Organizer and Equity Consultant

Celebrating the good at North High School

By Edith Morgan

I’m sure you have all heard the story of the blind men who were asked to describe an elephant: the one standing by the tail said elephants look like a rope; the one in the middle thought they were like a wall, and the one at the front end said they were like a snake. (That is an abbreviated version, of course).

Looking over the media frenzy about events at North in the past couple of weeks reminded me of this story, and also of the edict about what sells: “If it bleeds, it leads.”

So, in the absence of a fire, explosion, death, or other newsy calamity, we have the usual stuff designed to make headlines and cause fear and panic. So, I feel compelled to restore he balance.

For example, the “fight” at North High School involved about 10 students, according to Principal Lisa Dyer ( I believe only three were actually arrested), and the last bomb threat was NOT a local call, but was traced to Melbourne, Florida.

When I got in touch with various persons at North High,  I was met with so much gratitude and help, so much eagerness to tell the story of all that is being accomplished, that I just HAD to round out the picture, and give voice to students and staff who are boosters of their school.

Mayor Joe Petty has been quoted as saying, “There are so many good stories coming out of that school – those kids should be proud.” And many of them are, and they took the time to write down some details for me.

All mentioned the fact that North High is the most diverse high school in Worcester, serving recent arrivals from all over the world: about 30% of North students are learning English. And about 85% of North students live below the poverty line – and many are the first in their families to go to college. These facts place a greater responsibility on the staff to help them get into the best colleges.

The school is structured into three “learning academies, one on each floor:”

1. A School of Social Systems and Justice (SSJ) headed by Assistant Principal Elizabeth Lupafya:  offering electives in criminal justice, forensics, psychology, introduction to government and early childhood education. Seniors can participate in internships at the courthouse, fire stations, and elementary schools.

2.The Health and Science Academy (HAS) headed by Assistant Principal Bruce O’Connell, offers the Alled Health Program, As part of the Worcester Pipeline Coalition, with UMAss Medical school.  Students now can graduate as  Certified Nursing Assistant – and soon there will be opportunities to be EMT’s and other health professional certificates. (This program was featured on Channel 5 this year). Five students each year go into the Nursing program at QCC>  Course offerings include pathophysiology, CPR, and human anatomy.

3. The School of Technology and Business (STB)Headed by Assistant Principal John Creamer, offers electives in technology, marketing, and multimedia. Students here mostly do their internships in-house, serving North’s tech and audiovisual needs.
As can be seen, great experiences in exploring various types of careers and interest are available to the 1300 students at North High.

North High students have a direct pipeline to their school principal: approximately 12 students meet with their principal every Monday morning at 6:30 a.m. as members of the Principal’s Advisory Council – working on ideas for graduation rate improvement and establishing routines that will help students want to stay in school.

North High senior Nancy Lopez wrote me a great essay detailing …”how amazing North High is)… She says that    “North is home to every kind of student that anyone can think of: we have the musicians, the artists, the writers, the builders, the thinkers, the doctors, the nurses, the dancers the mathematicians, the engineers – we have it all!” She then details the clubs:  Art ( led by Mr. Harthan), Music (led by Mr. Thibodeau, and Drama Club led by Mr. Savage – meeting after school and  sharing their productions with the public. There is also a program called CSI (Collegiate Success Institute)  that partner with  Holy Cross College, and is open to Juniors. For those taking SAT’s , there is LGR (Let’s Get Ready) offering free help to Junior and Seniors to help them develop strategies for getting perfect scores.

Lest I have given the impression that it’s all study and no  human service at North, here is a brief foray into community serve by North students:

Of course, there is the NHS (the National Honor Society) according to Nancy, a “community of students who, besides being excellent students, also love help their community ). One example is their holiday project helping 50 families in need of food.

I have not the space to detail all the AP courses being offered at North, nor the winning athletic teams fielded by North. Those are features shared by all Worcester Public high schools.

But perhaps not all of them also offer great after-school activities like cooking classes, yoga and Zumba!

Nancy closes her remarks  thus: “I think that what really makes us  unique is the fact that we are so diverse yet we have strong relationships between staff, teachers, and students. ……Thanks to God, my mother and North, I have a roof … where to sleep, an education,   and … places where I can go and fulfill … my passions.  North High has an AMAZING staff that is willing to do WHATEVER it takes to keep their students safe, warm, fed, clothed and loved.”

Student Bryan Paula also wrote about how North High had become his home these last four years. Besides naming all the programs and opportunities I have  already mentioned, Bryan talks about North High’s Posse program, making it possible for students to get full college scholarships. Many North High students are accepted  into renowned schools. And the Worcester Tech/North High track team is “currently  doing fantastic and is on their way to nationals.” Bryan concludes his remarks thus: “As expected, the experience is not the same for all students, which is why I can only speak for myself … . We are all trying to fix our home, and we are doing our best to coexist”

North High School also has a very active ROTC program, with many community service activities in addition to their regular duties, and Major Godin sent me a long list of all the events that his cadets have participated in the past year: Earth Day at Lake Park; staffing the March of Dimes Walk ;putting out grave decorations for Memorial Day at Hope and Rural Cemeteries, setting up Treasure Valley for the Boy Scouts; staffing Canal Fest, Revolution of 1774, and StART. They also participated in the Columbus and Veterans’ Day parades.

There is so much more to tell! But I hope InCity Times readers have a little of the flavor of North High, as it really is, through the eyes of some people who are there every day and who make their contributions in so many ways. My thanks in particular to Principal Lisa Dyer, students Nancy Lopez and Bryan Paula, staff members Major Godin and Bruce O’Connell  who took time out between snowstorms and their February vacation to answer my plea for information about the great people and programs at North High. It is always easier to criticize and tear down, but I have found that when you ask people to focus on the good, everyone is so eager to help.

In the present difficult times, I was very gratified to see how easy it was to get so much positive feedback in such a short time – and appreciate the courage it took to go against the tide of fear being created . I always remember that “the coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but once.”

Let us keep speaking up in defense of the best idea America has to offer: A free and quality education for ALL its children.