So, I apologize to the students at Hillside High School. I apologize to the parents of those students. I beg the forgiveness of the teachers at Hillside. My words have hurt you, and for, that I am sorry. My prayer is that we can move past that pain and have a meaningful conversation about how we can work together to make a difference at Hillside.
My apology is generated after hearing from students, parents, teachers and Earl Pappy. I’m thankful for those conversations. They have helped me understand something about Hillside that can’t be uncovered in brief discussions with a few or a quick walk through the halls at the school. There is a pride at Hillside that we all should celebrate. That pride is rooted in a long legacy, but, even more than that, it is based on Hillside quest to prove to outsiders that there is much more to this story than can be told in a few test scores or police reports.
I was deeply moved as I listened to Earl Pappy talk about how hurt he was after hearing about my blogs. Although he didn’t read them, his reaction came after hearing his students talk about how they felt. More than listen to him talk, I took notice of his facial expression. He cares for the students at Hillside. I knew after watching him speak that my mistake was in failing to witness what he has endured for the past three years.
Although there was no malice in my words, I failed to understand something deeper than what I reported. Hillside needs to be left alone to heal. Those on the outside, myself included, have failed to comprehend the pain that comes with being disregarded when you are doing the best you can to achieve your goals. Hillside needs something that state agendas and school board members lack the patience to give-loads of love and support.
Those test scores don’t tell the truth. Guns confiscated on or near school property don’t tell all that needs to be said regarding the merits of this school. Yes, Hillside faces tough challenges due to dynamics that have little to do with the people who have given their best to educate students. The problems at Hillside are related to what comes to the school, not what the school produces once they arrive.
Hillside, and so many other schools like it, is victimized by “No Child Left Behind”. Needed are creative ways to educate students; however, our fascination with measuring success has broadened that evil achievement gap that remains as a dark cloud over many of our schools. I’m shocked that students aren’t being taught to write. I worry that this generation will not be equipped to compete in the fast changing technologically centered world.
My mistake was in blaming Hillside rather than pointing the finger where it belongs-you and me. Where are those white children who live in the Hillside district? How many were granted transfers to other schools within the Durham Public School system? How many are at Jordan High? How many black parents were denied the same? How many parents decided to send their child to a private school rather than deal with all of those black kids over at Hillside?
What happened to the promise of merger? Do any of you remember how things were back in 1995 when the new Hillside was opened? We were sold a line of bull. We were told the newly merged school system would put an end to the disparities in public education caused by disparities in funding. We were also told the racial divide would come to an end. It didn’t happen because of pressure coming from parents to maintain a system similar to the one we had before merger.
I blame Durham residents for not taking merger seriously. We have become content with maintaining disparities and racial divides. We are quick to be critical of some of our schools while refusing to celebrate the power of diversity in education. We merged our schools on paper, yet failed to implement a strategy that put an end to the old mindset that forced merger in the first place.
I’m sorry Earl Pappy. I apologize to the students, parents and teachers at Hillside. I’m sorry for doing the same thing others do to pull you down while you are working so hard to move past all that negativity.
I hope you will accept my apology. If not, I will continue to work to make a difference.