The final class day is in session, an interesting close to the school year as education lays the foundation for a productive society – and for every other topic covered throughout the year.
The school day begins in a familiar way with the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance, in sync. Then, a pop quiz that challenges the 60 members of Leadership San Antonio to recite the Texas Pledge from memory. Let’s just say, we need to study. After the morning announcements, it’s time to get to work.
Central Catholic High School Dean of Students Ali Goljahmofrad starts off first period with two questions some may argue are as difficult as those you’d find on a STARR test: “What is the purpose of education?” and “How do we accomplish this?” The class takes a few minutes to consider the questions – with puzzled looks they write down their initial thoughts.
With some group discussion, a consensus arises: The purpose of education is to prime global citizens who contribute, and we do that through relationships and by creating a cohesive environment. Or as Ali says: To build confidence, character and critical thinking. Despite a variety of different answers to the open-ended question, we all agree the photos on the screen of student(s) that we care deeply about are the reason we are now carefully writing our “verse” with the hopes of influencing theirs. We are in the middle of our verse – write yours to inspire others. Who is your purpose?
Our second period gets political with Texas State Representatives Dan Huberty (R) and Diego Bernal (D). Our guest lecturers describe the 48 meetings that took place during this year’s legislative session that led to the historic approval of House Bill 3. While there are still issues for future discussion groups – like how to condense the 17 school districts in San Antonio – we all agree that there have been great strides made with the $11.6 billion school finance and property tax reform bill.
CLIFF’S NOTES: The San Antonio Independent School District will receive $36 million over two years.
[Bell Rings] We head into a generous seven minute passing period, and board our air conditioned charter bus. It is a little upgrade from the field trip transportation we all remember.
HOMEWORK: Pick a student that rides the bus, and ask them what an experience it is to ride the school bus on 101 degree day. How about having to fast walk across a school campus and barely making it to next period due to a three minute passing period?
Period Three: History…and a little math. Remember those 17 school districts within the City of San Antonio? Journalist Bekah McNeel from the Rivard Report tells us that is no accident. Looking at the maps those seemingly random lines are reinforcing segregation and economic disparity. This subtle segregation has been happening for as long as we can remember. They say history repeats itself – and this class serves as a perfect lesson heading into debate.
Public v. Charter, you know we had to! Moderated by Key Ideas Education Director, Jenn Maestas, the panel includes Michele Brown of KIPP Texas Public Schools, Luis Figuerroa of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a public school parent Christina Martinez, and a charter school parent Carisa Heiss. Following a passionate discussion with great points made on either side we all agree that, above everything else, we want our students to attend good schools. The question remains: how do we make all schools good schools?
It’s lunch time! We had a hefty breakfast, but we’re ready to refuel after a packed first half of the day. Lucky for this class, we all get the same delicious meal (if only that were the case for all students). Thanks to the culinary students at Sam Houston High School we enjoyed a grilled ham and cheese, but each bite was bittersweet as we listened to discussion of the many social issues our students face, daily. Moderated by Judge William Cruz Shaw, the panel included Melissa Kazen of Communities in Schools, Denise Barkhurst of Big Brother Big Sisters, and SAISD Nutrition Director Jenny Arredondo. Food insecurity. Broken households. Lack of mentors and role models. Teens working to support their family. The list went on, and reality set in. Don’t forget to count your blessings.
A young lady steps up to the mic and her words fill the room as she leaves us with, “I’m in both ROTC and the Culinary Program. We work hard during and after school, but sometimes it would be nice to enjoy a day out on a field trip.” A simple request, but one that is not always feasible due to a lack of funding. All work, no play? That’s a motto that we need to discourage, especially when it’s young people that we are talking about. Listen up, our students are bright and they have a lot to say.
Our classmate, Glenn “Coach Rev” Revell of East Central High School blows the whistle then it’s outside to the football field we go. Recess? Not quite – this is an opportunity to get a sense of what those difficult realities facing our students really mean. Coach Rev lines everyone up in the end zone for a “privilege walk” exercise where he asked a series of questions related to privilege or disadvantage, including questions about their family, household, disability and race. All factors outside of our control, but nonetheless factors that allowed us to take steps forward on the field. Some took a step after every statement, while others only took one. At the end of the exercise, seeing where our classmates were on the field allowed us to visually see how privilege affects each one of us, and how we all start the “race” of life at a different place. On what yard line did your race begin?
[Bell Rings] Seven minutes to get on the bus, LSA!
Our final period takes place at Edgewood ISD’s Brentwood Middle School, a STEAM-based (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) school where kids have been roaming the decorated halls for just three short weeks. We end on an optimistic note, learning about the innovation that many of our schools and teachers are integrating into their classrooms. We take notes on many interesting programs happening throughout the City. Did you know that SAISD has a Chief Innovation Officer on staff? Or that the SA Reads program is using creative strategies to meet the challenge of getting all third graders reading at grade level? What about the magnet high school, CAST Lead, that is focused on the retail and hospitality industries that is scheduled to open in the East Central Independent School District next year? There are a lot of great things happening throughout our community – it’s definitely something to smile about.
CLIFF’S NOTES: CAST is an acronym for the Centers for Applied Science and Technology. CAST Lead will be the fourth CAST school to open in San Antonio – there is also CAST STEM, CAST Tech and CAST Med.
It’s almost time for the final bell! But first, a chance to engage with the students! This was the highlight day for many members of the LSA class – we had to yank some of our classmates out of the classroom for our closing ceremonies.
*drumroll* Go, LSA! Go, EDU! The energy was contagious as we ran through a banner and entered our very own pep rally. Cheerleaders chanting, the Kennedy High School drumline bumping! The best part? When the EDU-CRU presented Principal Reyna of Brentwood Middle School with a $4,400 gift for field trips, of course! Get it? #LSA44. Our students work hard – they should get the opportunity to play hard, too.
HOMEWORK: What was your favorite field trip as a student? It’s never too late to relive your school day memories by making another visit to see what you’ve been missing since your last field trip – and how the experience may have changed for today’s students.
Today’s lesson was an important reminder to all that education is the foundation on which everything else is built. A strong society is not possible without a strong foundation, so it is vital that we placed an increased emphasis on making all schools good schools and preparing our students for the future, regardless of the privileges they may have or disadvantages they may face.
THE EDU CRU