Saturday, May 31, 2008

The other thing that set me off last week:
The power of programs such as the Rabouin memoir project render more disturbing some news emerging recently from the Recovery School District: That some of our most historic and community-based schools, including Rabouin and Douglass high schools, are slated for closure in the next few years. Rabouin and Douglass are the two schools that SilenceIsViolence has worked most closely with on music- and literature-based anti-violence projects over the past couple of years. There is no question that these schools have struggled in the post-Katrina educational landscape (and before), but they also offer opportunities for reaching and nurturing our young people that will be squandered if they close.

Douglass, for example, boasts an acclaimed writing program called Students at the Center, which is directed by Kalamu ya Salaam and Jim Randels and has proven inspirational to scores of at-risk kids over the past twelve years. Rabouin, meanwhile, was the source for YA/YA (Young Aspirations/Young Artists), a youth arts organization that has kept hundreds of young people off the streets and engaged in the visual arts since 1988, exporting positive examples of New Orleans culture around the globe in the process. Rabouin students continue to work closely with prominent local arts institutions such as the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.

If these schools close, these programs will be lost. Less sensational, but just as damaging, educational and community voids will be left in the neighborhoods these schools occupy.

What is the trade-off? What is to be gained by the closure of these schools and the dispersal of students to other schools and to trailer classrooms? We do not really know, because no true public discussion about their proposed closure has taken place. What we do know, and what we experience daily in the form of overt crime and more subtle unrest, is this: The closure of neighborhood schools and the accompanying disruption of the delicate social networks our young people form and rely upon have terrifying implications for our still-recovering city. Public safety is directly impacted by disoriented communities. The cycles of youth-centered violence gripping our city demonstrate the petty but very real ways in which this disorientation can fuel fearful territorialism and threaten entire communities.

As students finally settle into new school communities, we should be very cautious about disrupting these communties anew. We would like to see a more open discussion of the reasoning behind and the benefits of closing Douglass and Rabouin, because the cost to the students who identify with these schools would be quite high.

And yes, Rabouin was where Dinerral Shavers began a high-school band program.

Here's something else I missed as well.

I told someone recently that trying to deal with the stuff that comes with living here was like playing Whack-A-Mole with a thousand moles popping out at you all at the same time. Which ones are more important? Which ones can you effectively reach? How many more do you need to knock before you can keep going? Which ones absolutely should not live to see the light of day?

Douglass and Rabouin deserve more of a chance than they are being given in the current Pastorek-Vallas-charter-schools-demolitions-closings-budget-cuts*-
high-teacher-turnovers-vouchers environment that is ruling these days

Must muster up some more strength (and rustle up a job with a more goyische resume) to get to whackin' again.

*link from Suspect D.


swampwoman said...

My dad went to both schools in the late 40's - Douglass (when it was called Nicholls HS) and Rabouin where he learned his trade - would indeed be a tragedy if they both closed...

saintseester said...

I've been following your resume observations, and I am curious. How is it "too Jewish?" What sorts of jobs are you looking for to match your skills? Good luck with it all!

Leigh C. said...

It's too Jewish in that, for the past five years or so, I took graduate-level courses at a Jewish seminary in NYC, my jobs shortly following have been with Jewish organizations, and, with the exception of one good stint, the teaching I've done has been mainly of Jewish subjects in the religious school at my synagogue. Trying to downplay all of that while trying to, say, get a more secular job has not been easy.

Oh, that I could seriously flaunt my five years managing a studio/gallery and glassworking as though it were yesterday...but that was pre-little guy. *sigh*

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

From what snippets I've seen as far as the "plan" goes, the arts and humanities are going to be moved to Carver.

But I only saw that on a sheet of paper, for a few seconds, so I'm not sure how much water, if any, that holds.

These two schools were slated for some other type of instruction (such as the public service academy focus at Doug).

I just wish there were ways we could work on making our schools more neighborhood oriented while at the same time getting some academies open for the whole city....

Leigh C. said...

"I just wish there were ways we could work on making our schools more neighborhood oriented while at the same time getting some academies open for the whole city...."

Hammer. Nail. Head. Right on.