Wednesday, February 22, 2006

SF's John SWETT Elementary School - WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED!

San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center - FULL ARTICLE
This School MUST NOT be moved!!!
by Dee Gray and Lisa Gray-Garcia/PNN Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2006 at 10:18 AM

Students, parents and families of the Fill-no-mo/Western Addition face more displacement and removal . This time its from the San Francisco School Board

"I am a member of the get-along club" the excited voice of 17 year old Tamicka Baker, blasted through the phone. POOR staff had been referred to this powerful young African descendent woman by her mother, Anitra Baker, mentor , teacher and paid parent laison at John Swett Elementary School. John Swett, an elementary school located in the Western Addition neighborhood, is one of the schools slated for closure and then subsequent merger with John Muir Elementary School by a 4-3 San Francisco school board vote.
For the many dedicated, involved and engaged, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunties, cousins and friends who make up the innovative, multi-cultural, multi-generational mix that is John Swett, this was more than a blow, this is the devastation of a community.
There are other words that come to mind for the closure of this majority African Descendent school located in ground zero of the Western Addition aka Fill-no-more, which effectively "relocated" and "removed" several thousand of its Black residents not so many years ago under the myth of "redevelopment. Words like Diaspora, descimation and destruction.

As parent and grandparent of a 2 and half year old boy, Dee ( my mother and co-editor of POOR) and I’s worldview is informed by Afro-centric values which means we are already feeling the struggle to be involved and stay involved in the life and education of a child once they enter a Euro-centric (Amerikkkan) public school system. A system based on Western values of separation and independence which inherently does not respect the direct involvement of parents and grandparents in the learning, teaching, and mentoring process of a child while he or she is on school property. A system not based on eldership and interdependence.

John Swett Elementary School is different. Very different. "We are on campus with the kids as paid parent laisons,” said Anitra Baker, “ I teach them dance and music, my husband, Dawayne is a coach, yard monitor and mentor, and then we open our home to kids on the weekend to help them with their homework. The school is an extension of our home.” After Dee read about the slated closure of the amazing John Swett, she was stunned. John Swett, Dee realized, was in fact an example of the Afro-centric “Village” in action i.e., eldership and interdependence of families, children, teachers and community. The “village” that everyone refers to but never really understands. A village that is taking care of its people, its children, its families. A village about to be dismantled. “The older girls who graduated (From John Swett) act as mentors and tutors to the younger kids”, Anitra stated. D

ee spoke first to the dynamic Anitra Baker, who has seven children who are either attending school there or are alumni of the school and continue to act as mentors to the younger children in the Get Along Club, The Little Sisters with Soul and/or the choir that Anitra leads on campus. “Eldership says that everyone older than you is responsible for your well-being and welfare. So it makes no difference whether its your sixteen year old cousin and you are nine, that person is responsible for looking out for you, for teaching for guiding. Everyone in the village is responsible for making sure that the next generation advances to the next higher level, to a person of good character.”

Excerpt from The Nature of Mama an interview with Dr. Wade Nobles from POOR Magazine Volume 4 MOTHERS “Closing this school is a crime” In our search for answers about the closure vote, we sought out San Francisco School Board member Mark Sanchez, who along with Sara Lipson and Eric Mar voted to keep Swett open. Mark outlined the stated reasons for the Muir/Swett proposed merger

It's overall budget cuts and the loss of several thousand students from the system
It’s a proximity issue; there are two schools in the Western Addition, John Swett, a somewhat small school which has an 81% enrollment versus John Muir which is a large school which is under-enrolled with 55% capacity.

Mark went on to describe another more problematic, highly controversial use for the John Swett School, i.e., its proximity to the school board and therefore convenient office space for the School board [or 'school district'].

“If the proposed merger goes through it would be very difficult to replicate the programs and teachers and community that exists now in John Swett, I know of at least one dynamic teacher who is not planning to move to John Muir,” Mark added Mark’s reference to “the programs lost in the merger” would be Swett’s extremely innovative arts-based curriculum, which unlike John Muir is not based on the No Child Left ( Alive) Behind scripted curriculum inspired mandates that many conscious teachers and parents find harmful to students. Mark continued, “Mergers are not the only way to deal with these kinds of issues, for example Ortega and Sheridan were not merged, because they are going to pursue becoming K-8 schools,” Mark concluded, “A sustained amount of protest can urge the board to bring the school up for discussion."

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