Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Bully Project

I had this really detailed post written.  Yesterday, over on Twitter - Sara Goldrick-Rab suggested that maybe school choice was a good option in light of failing Madison schools.  Rebecca Kemble countered that schools aren't uniformly "failing" -  there *are* successful programs out there - we just need to provide sufficient resources to fund them.

Somehow, in the midst of it all, Sherman Middle School was brought up as an example of what is working. So I started writing out a list of all the good things happening at Sherman - the successful programs that are raising achievement, etc. 

But I just deleted it. 

You see, tonight - my 13 year old daughter asked me to watch the movie "Bully" with her.

I just spent 90 minutes crying.  Near-sobbing, actually. Because for the entire movie, all I could think was: "If those kids had been at Sherman, they'd still be alive."

Of course, there is no guarantee of anything in this life. But the one thing that Sherman (under the leadership of Principal Hernandez and his amazing, dedicated, incredible staff) does better than any school I've ever seen is to create a culture of acceptance, community, and respect.

Sometimes I get a bit sad because so many people choose to opt-out of attending Sherman. There's a report out there that lists the # of kids in the attendance area who don't go to their "assigned" school. Last I saw, Sherman has one of the highest numbers of families who opt-out. Who can blame them? Look at our demographics:  72% low income; 25% ELL and 70% non-white.  We are a very diverse group. That's scary. I get that.

But, at the same time - at the *very same* time - Sherman also has one of the highest numbers of families who live outside the attendance area who *opt-in* to attend. Kids who don't fit in elsewhere find a welcome community at Sherman. When a student at Sherman has a difficult situation, everyone responds with support.

As I tucked my daughter into bed tonight, I hugged her tight and told her how incredibly proud I was of her and her school. Not for the advanced math they offer.  Not for the great books programs. Not for the amazing WCATY programs.  Not because they cook with L'Etoile chefs. Or any of the other academic achievement programs we've enjoyed at Sherman....(and there are many.)

No, I am most proud of the community they have created. From the leadership of Mike Hernandez, to the support of every single amazingly dedicated teacher/staff member, to the students themselves.

Sure, there is still lots to be done. Problems exist. Big ones. The achievement gap has not disappeared.  Poverty persists. But at Sherman, they are operating from a base of strength, compassion, and community.

...and really - go see the movie. It's on Netflix and iTunes. Have your tissues handy.

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