Monday, December 3, 2018

Testimony to NYC City Council Education Committee About Discrimination in School Sports

My name is Dr Mark Naison. I am a professor of African American Studies and History at Fordham who has written extensively on Race and Sports in US History. But more important, for purposes of this hearing, I was a graduate of New York City public schools who ended up as captain and number 1 singles player on the Columbia University tennis team, and who had two children, Sara and Eric, who attended New York public schools and played varsity tennis and baseball at Yale University, None of us would have had that opportunity had not we played on public school teams in middle school and high school. It is simply unconscionable that many students in New York City public schools, the vast majority of whom are Black and LatinX, attend schools which have a tiny number of school teams or no teams at all.

Not only does an absence of school teams undermine student morale and academic engagement, it maximizes discrimination against Black and LatinX students in college admissions. As James Shulman and William Bowen point out in their book "The Game of Life: College Sports and Educational Values" being a recruited athlete is the single most powerful admissions advantage in getting into the nation's top colleges, having more than twice the impact of being an under represented minority or a child of an alumnus. Since 20 percent of students at Yale, Harvard and Princeton, and 40 percent of students at Williams, are recruited athletes, lacking access to sports puts Black and LatinX students in New York City at an added disadvantage to those they already experience due to race and class

As my mandated two minutes of testimony comes to a close, let me talk about a specific school where this criminal denial of educational opportunity takes place. On the Roosevelt Educational Campus across the street from Fordham, there are five high schools which have no men's and women's soccer teams, even though a good portion of their students come from West African and Central American countries where soccer is the major sport, What this means is that there is a whole generation of future Fordham, Columbia and Yale students in the Bronx, students who only differ from me and my children in race and class, whose talents and opportunities are being suppressed because of lack of access to athletic teams

This discrimination has to stop NOW. Every New York City public high school student must have, at the very minimum, opportunity to play on school teams, in soccer, tennis, track and field, baseball and softball,  baketball, volleyball, and swimming, Until that happens, New York City is not only out of compliance with Title Six of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is out of touch with the egalitarian values this City claims to stand for to the nation and the world


Jerome Krase, Ph.D.
Emeritus and Murray Koppelman Professor
Brooklyn College
Former Football, Baseball and Track Team Member, Brooklyn Technical High School 1956-1960

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Luis Torres and Steven Ritz- The Heroes of PS 55

When the NYC Department of Education put a Success Academy elementary school on the 4rh Floor of PS 55, an elementary school located in the middle of the poorest and most decayed public housing complex in the Bronx, the Claremont Houses, they probably thought they were dooming the public school in the building. Their expectation was that the charter school would siphon off enough parents that the public school's enrollment would shrink to the point that the charter school would take over more and more floors and eventually get the whole building
What they didn't count on was the brilliance, creativity and tireless determination of the PS 55 principal, Bronx born and raised Luis Torres. Under his guidance, not only has the public school in PS 55 blossomed, it has become a center of educational creativity which people from all over the world come to visit!
How did Luis Torres do this? It was through a combination of old school administrative skills-bonding with teachers, students, and parents- and the kind of new school educational entrepreneurship that is needed in today's hostile educational climate. Not only did Principal Torres fund raise tirelessly with local business like the New York Yankees to bring in funds the school needed for better technology and equipment, he was determined to give his children everything schools in wealthy areas have plus programs catering to the special needs of youth in the Claremont neighborhood.
And here, in addition to bringing in instructors to organize dance teams, basketball teams and a tennis program, he decided to create a home for another resident Bronx genius viewed with skepticism by the NYC DOE, Steven Ritz, the founder of the great science and urban agriculture program, the Green Bronx Machine. Ritz, pushed out of a Bronx high school where he began his remarkable program, was not only given a huge lab on the third floor of PS 55, he was given a large area on the school grounds for an outdoor space to grow vegetables. What Ritz was able to do in those spaces was nothing short of miraculous. Not only did he grow enough vegetables and greens- both indoors and outdoors- to help feed the more than 500 families who attended the school, he created a hands on science curriculum based on his gardens which energized teachers, inspired students, and uplifted the morale of everyone in the building
If you go visit PS 55, as I have done with my students, you will see an oasis of energy, health, and creative activity in the midst of one of the poorest communities in NYC's poorest borough. Vegetables growing out doors and indoors, a full service medical clinic, a schoolyard resurfaced for softball, soccer, and tennis, special programs for immigrant students, and an atmosphere filled with hope.
Luis Torres has created a school that is a gift to the children, parents and people of New York City. But let us not forget that it was once a school designated for failure.
We need more principals to follow Luis Torres example and for the DOE to transform public schools, not charter schools, into showcases for educational innovation