Civil Rights Education Parenting Teachers Teaching

Students Forced to Reenact Slave Trauma

Teacher Terminated for Slave Reenactment Lesson:

Recently a New York City public school teacher was terminated for having her students act like slaves in a planned lesson.

Picture of slave

Firstly, there has to be a massive disconnect for any educator on any level to feel as if it would make sense for students to reenact slavery.

Slavery within itself was one of the most traumatic periods in the history of the modern world. As a professional, to make the call to project said trauma on kids, is at best reckless, at worst maybe even criminal. It’s beyond me how any person, of any race, could think this was a good idea.

Colleague Says He was okay with the lesson:

Next, and maybe even equally as destructive as the slave lesson, an African-American teacher colleague of Ms. Cummings said: “I would have let my kids take part the lesson.” Honestly, I’m not sure what’s worse. Under no circumstances would I allow students to experience such abuse. Let alone my own kids. The adults directly involved in this case failed these students from a humanitarian perspective.

The teacher and teachers that have been terminated for similar acts are potentially filing a 1 Billion dollar class action lawsuit against the NYCDOE. The suit of the teacher involved in this article is for 120 million dollars.

Moreover, society is way too litigious. Teachers have unions. If the unions couldn’t get this teacher her job back, its safe to assume that an independent arbitrator also decided that this teacher and teachers like her weren’t fit to be teachers.

Student Trauma:

In addition, to then take the trauma inflicted on students to make yourself the victim is where I draw the line. Are the families of these students suing the teacher. In my mind, they would have every right to file a lawsuit. Given the potential animus that the students will have toward school, one would be remiss to say this experience ruined permanently dimmed the light for these students.

Notwithstanding, I agree with Ms. Cummings in that this is a teachable moment, but not for her, for the students. That lesson is when you do something that is egregious as having students relive ancestry trauma, you get held accountable for it. Sometimes lessons end up in termination. In this case, NYCDOE did the right thing for students.

For those of you unfamiliar with lawsuits and how they work, NYCDOE’s insurance company will settle with Ms. Cummings. It’s less for insurance to pay than it is for them to dispute this in court.

Charter Schools Education Education Reform Teachers Teaching

My Black Teacher Manifesto

Black Male Teachers:

There is much to do about the lack of Black male teachers in school systems throughout the United States. Currently, less than 2% of teachers nationwide are Black males.

There have been some credulous efforts to right this wrong (a lack of Black Male teachers), and I applaud the folks that are on the front lines with the intent of diversifying the teaching profession. TFA has done a remarkable job addressing the issue, so has the Fellowship, and NYC to name a few.

While I applaud the efforts that are being made to populate teaching with more Black Males, I want to use this space to discuss why I almost left education as a Black male.

What I am not:

1) Notwithstanding, I am not your security guard. My job is to fill the minds of my students with knowledge. It’s not to play referee or anything of the sort.

Of course, if kids are in danger or peril, I am going to do everything in my power to make sure they are safe (even though my union contract explicitly states I should not intervene), I will. But that isn’t my primary goal in life, nor is it why I sought education as a career.

2) Consequently, I am not the translator of Black popular culture for you. If you would like to understand best the culture of the students that you educate, get to know them as people. Try to do it without judgment, and with high levels of authenticity. I mean, don’t just get to know them because you have to, get to know them because you want to make a difference in their lives.

3) Contrary to your beliefs, I will not serve as the liaison between you and black parents. Again, relationship building is critical. Call these parents and say something kind and non-judgmental about their students. You can find something nice to say about any kid if you get to know that kid. Treat parents as allies and not as adversaries.

4) Lastly, I am not your bodyguard when you do culturally offensive things that are offensive to the stakeholders that you provide service. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, and the day that you overstep your boundaries, be prepared for what comes with that.

Accountability for Self:

Taking the necessary time to tell you what I am not is only half of the process. I must take some time to tell you who I am, so we’re clear, and we can move forward in harmony.

1) I am a professional with the same credentials as you. The same way you treat any other colleague is the same way that I expect you to treat me. If you don’t expect him/her to yield a superman cape because they can identify with students and families, please afford me the same courtesy.

2) I am a team player, but please don’t take advantage of that.

Teaching Is Everything:

Teaching isn’t a bare minimum job, and since I am super invested and rooting for my kids, do not think that you can bring anything less to the table for “our kids.” And if you don’t buy into the discourse of “our kids,” you should be somewhere that resonates better for you.

3) I am a thought-partner. I am always looking for ways to help my colleagues better engage in this work. If you have ideas, I want to hear your thoughts, and I will give you safe space advice. Accepting me as your thought-partner will ignite passion, that will benefit our students.

4) Treat me as your equal. It’s alarming that in 2019 we’re still talking about equality, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this. If the kids are our goal, I can do this work forever.


This manifesto was inspired partially by

the principal/scholar who is 86 years old, and just signed a 4-year contract renewal to lead into his 90’s. There is much to do about the lack of Black male teachers in school systems throughout the United States.

Charter Schools Civil Rights Education Education Reform Parenting Politics School Choice Teaching

School Choice Matters Most for Poc (People of Color)

School Choice:

One of the main concerns that I hear from school choice pundits is “charter schools and other choice type schools take away valuable resources from school districts.” To those pundits, I ask these simple questions: What should parents do if traditional public schools do not work for their children? Should they allow for their children to be sacrificial lambs in failing schools while educators work toward fixing the problem? How long should they wait? How will they be viewed if they decide not to wait?

Many parents that exercise school choice are products of traditional public schools. They speak rather candidly about the failures of said schools. These schools have left parents with animous based on their own experiences. Even with this expert knowledge, we still have folks questioning the rights of parents to make informed decisions about the education of their children. There’s nothing more offensive than reading parents are choosing to send their students to charter schools because they are uninformed. That couldn’t be more from the truth.

School Choice Matters to PoC:

As educators, we should never question or second guess a parent’s choice. Why? Because parents have the right to make the decisions that they feel are in the best interest of their kids. We can have conversations with parents to ascertain why they made their choice, but we are in no position to make that choice for parents. Parents are experts when it comes to their children. While educators also have a level of expertness, its more broad view expertise, while the parental knowledge allows parents to be laser-focused on the needs of their children. The goal should be to support a parent’s choice, not to question it or undermine it.

School Reform:

I think we are all school reformist in one way or another. Currently, “reform” is such a dirty word that when its heard, it immediately forces some to take offense. For those offended by the word ‘reform,’ I ask if the district schools are failing, what are parents supposed to do? I’m an idealist. I don’t ever want to call someone anti-school reform. I hope that we can all agree that all schools can improve and that its the job of educators to ensure that improvement. If we can agree to look at it from that perspective, then we can all agree that in theory, we want the best for children. I don’t expect for us to agree on what “best” looks like, and that’s the beauty of it all. We don’t have to agree, because it is the parent’s choice to determine the best fit.

Animus towards School Choice:

Moreover, if you have hatred towards those that exhibit their right for choice, I ask why? Affluent parents exercise school choice all of the time. When politicians in Washington, DC decide that they want to send their children to Sidwell Friends, or other elite private schools throughout Maryland and DC, they are exercising their choice. When families on NY’s upper east side decide they’d instead send their kids to private schools with 50k yearly tuition, again it is their choice. No one unfairly persecutes these parents. I’ve never read any literature recommending these parents send their children to district schools. However, when people of color exercise their options, they become bad parents?

I have heard enough about blaming parents. We provide parents with a product. If parents are unhappy with the product, they have every right to go after the best product that will work for them. We are in no place to judge them for that. We should all support their right to choose. In my opinion, those that exercise their right to choose & stand out is because they aren’t afraid to stand up.

Education Politics Teachers Teaching

Quality Education is a Civil Right

But Here’s What You Are NOT GOING TO DO This!

Firstly, I work on Long Island, as a school superintendent of the only K-12 charter school in Suffolk County. A quality education is a civil right.

Given the history of our school; the power of the teacher’s union on LI; and a total lack of knowledge and/or understanding of what school choice means, there’s a great deal of animus towards our school and the work that we do. We have accepted and embraced this, and vow to impact as many students and families as we can, as we get them on a path to college and beyond.

For those of you unfamiliar with Long Island, it is the epicenter of the Opt-out movement. The opt-out movement was designed for parents to allow their students to opt out of NY State tests. These tests were once mandatory.

The Evidence:

Moreover, there’s an idea being floated around by state officials, & Governor Cuomo that would tie teacher evaluations to their student’s performance on NY State exams (ingenious if you ask me). Accountability put suburbia in an uproar, thus creating one of the most successful campaigns of educational defiance of the past 10 years.

Exhibit A: A prominent school superintendent on Long Island writes a letter of reassurance to his principal regarding the school’s 2017-18 growth index scores. These scores tell you if a teacher is Highly Effective, Effective, Developing, & Ineffective (HEDI). To have a score of zero (HEDI) score leaves me at a lost for words. To have a superintendent that encourages this is also very telling as well. The level of entitlement that’s exuded in this correspondence is something that won’t be afforded to a leader of color.

Letter of Assurance

More Evidence:

Exhibit B: The following is the level of proficiency of students from Tremont Elementary School in the 16-17 & 17-18 school years on the NY State Math exam. Given the 2017-18 NY State exams have now become the new benchmark, it’s unfair to compare the 2016-17 results to the 2017-18 results. However, based on this data set, twenty-eight students took the exam in 2018. One student out of the twenty-eight students who tested scored proficient. Seventeen students scored at a level one. Even though this is a minor glimpse of the overall performance of the school due to a high percentage of students opting out of the test, I don’t think anyone should be put up on a pedestal based on these results.

2018 NY State Test Scores

Here’s what we know:

We know kindergarten students from middle-class families, and upper middle-class families come to the table with different skill sets than kids that are the same age, but from a lower socioeconomic status (SES).

• We know that standardized tests are written in a manner that highlights the experiences of the middle and upper class, therefore immediately putting students with the lower (SES) in catch up mode, with the constant need for remediation.

• We also know “Children raised in homes with low income or low levels of parental education are at an increased risk of struggling academically in school” (e.g., Bradley & Corwyn, 2002; Duncan & Murnane, 2011; Magnuson, 2007).

• We also know regardless of if you are for/against standardized testing, you can find reasons to substantiate your viewpoint.

Education as a Civil Rights Issue:

Quality education is a Civil Right. Some would say it is the single most important issue of our time. Pre & Post Brown v. Board, education for black and brown students was and still is inadequate. Funding formulas, nor allocated resources can make up for a system that was never designed for the disenfranchised to be successful. I don’t want to make this an issue about race, but I don’t know very many superintendents and/or principals of the minority persuasion that would be allowed to continue their employment with these results.

Works Cited:

Bradley, R. H., & Corwyn, R. F. (2002). Socioeconomic status and child development. Annual Review of Psychology, 53(1), 371–399. psych.53.100901.135233.

Duncan, G. J., & Murnane, R. J. (2011). Whither opportunity?: Rising inequality, schools, and

children’s life chances. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.

Magnuson, K. A. (2007). Maternal education and children’s academic achievement during middle childhood. Developmental Psychology, 43(6), 1497–1512. 10.1037/0012-1649.43.6.1497.