I’ve been receiving letters for the past several weeks, asking me to post something about the situation at Ann Arbor’s Roberto Clemente Student Development Center. Not being terribly knowledgeable about what’s going on, and not knowing what I could possibly add to the conversation, I’ve been reluctant to jump into the fray. But, this morning, I was sent a letter by a sophomore at the school, along with a request that I share it with my readers. Here, however, before I share the letter, is a little background from Terry Carpenter, a teacher at the school that I was able to reach this evening for comment.
A very brief update for your readers: Roberto Clemente is an alternative school servicing mostly black and mostly poor students. It is a part of the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS). AAPS, like many (if not all) districts in
Michigan, is really struggling financially. AAPS has a decent “savings account” but, in an effort to balance the budget, has proposed several cuts. One of the those proposed cuts was to move or dismantle Clemente. We at Clemente feel we are quite successful with a population that has not shown success elsewhere in AAPS. A student-led effort has gotten “the word” of the AAPS Board that we are “off the chopping block” for a year. However, I continue to encourage people to attend the board meetings. The next one is tomorrow (June 13th) at 7:00 PM, on the top floor of the Ann Arbor District Library. It has been truly an honor to work with these amazing students.
And, here’s the letter that I received this morning from a Clemente student by the name of Tia Jones.
Hello, my name is Tia Jones and I am a sophmore at Roberto Clemente Student Development Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Roberto Clemente has been on the chopping block of the Ann Arbor School Board of Education since mid-April of this year. Once the school staff and students heard that Clemente was going to be closed down, and/or
consolidated, our hearts broke.
The struggle to keep our school where it is has been really hard because the board members don’t seem to be understanding nor listening. Roberto Clemente has been in the Ann Arbor community since 1974.
The Ann Arbor School District has failed many of the students at Roberto Clemente. The schools stop teaching us because we are either “black”, “bad”, “disrespectful”, or everything in between. We, the students, have been ignored since elementary, and we are still fighting to have our voices heard.
Ever since the “Roberto Clemente Family” has been on the cutting block, we have fought hard. We have written testimonies of our experiences in Ann Arbor Public Schools, and we feel that no board members expressed that they cared about what we had to say. The many things we spoke about were extremely heartfelt and honest. It hurt many of my peers to just be ignored time after time.
It has been a long tough fight, and they have given us another year only to make the choice about consolidating us with our comprehensive high schools that have failed us from the beginning. Most of the board members have not taken the time to actually come to the school to see how it is run, and yet they jump right to Roberto when budget cuts are
proposed. They are really strangers to us, and it shouldn’t be that way, because they work for us, as a community. We all have dreams we want to reach, and we all, as students, and community members, need Roberto, as it has saved many of our lives. We have no board that reflects on the community. The board attacks African Americans, and poor students first. They are supposed to be educators, but they don’t seem to care about every student’s future. We, as students, are being forced to walk down a dark road with no sidewalks, both literally and figuratively. “Exceptional” is what is on the school’s website, but this district and board has not truly learned the meaning of exceptional. Roberto Clemente is what you call Exceptional.
Thanks for your time,
I don’t know how legitimate the analogy is, but, based on what she says, it sounds very similar to what happened at Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit.
Tia also shared the following links, for those who would like more background.
Here is a link about our Mission & Philosophy.
This link has all of the board members who have failed to look into our school community, and our programs that heal and shelter children.
We have also started an online petition. Here is the link.
Lastly, here is a link is the letter that I have written to Rachel Maddow, along with the signatures of each student.
[note: The accompanying image comes from the public website of the Roberto Clemente Student Development Center.]