We talked with four people last week who were vital to our research:
Thursday morning we talked with Michael Zeller. He emphasized speaking to an audience that is NOT involved in public education. The current Academie Lafayette kids and Southwest High School kids would graduate before the partnership even started, so they would not be the ones attending school together. He explains that even though Southwest High School can hold around 1500 kids, it only enrolls about 500, which is a waste of space. He wanted us to work with Border Star and Hale Cook, and other KCPS at the east. Though we were thinking short-term, he told us to think long-term. There were many projects that tried to solve the issue, but Michael said they tried to solve the problem too rashly and too quickly. The challenges he listed included bringing in the middle, white class back into the public schools. He replied that its about bringing in human capital. One example he gave was The Walking School Bus, which was a BikeWalk KC initiative. Kids would walk together and pick each other up with an appointed chaperone.
On Friday, we first met with Jean-Claude Diatta (VP of K-3 at AL). As someone who came from Senegal, he seemed very interested in our topic of diversity and integration. He asked us to think about what our ultimate goal is, and what do we want to do about diversity. The activity involving the kids, he said, should be very active, in that they should know the benefits of diversity and be aware of the importance of diversity. He commented that even kids within classes have trouble getting along with different genders (in his experience as a 5th grade teacher). Stressing the importance of history, he said to think about why this phenomena is happening and try to educate people about it. He then talked about the metaphor of a tree and its shadows. The sun, or the unifying point which touches all things, creates shadows as an effect. But he said that more of the "shadows" should overlap with each other in order to create a "better shadow." What he means here is that we have to improve collaboration and unify people across race and class. In response to our ideas, he thought it was effective to target kids, who would then effect their parents. Near the end of our meeting, Jean-Claude mentioned that he has a friend on the east side of Troost, who actually confessed that his area is not as dangerous as people make it out to be. According to a study, the biggest contributing factor to crime is the lack of street lights. When there were no street lights, crime rates shot up. But people seem to connect crime with race, and make it a bigger issue, when in actuality, it has to do with simple solutions as repairing street lamps. Overall, he thought our ideas were good, but told us to think more about the interaction between the children and the process, rather than the output. He then suggested we read Some of my Friends are Black by Tanner Colby.
Afterwards, we met with Leslie Kohlmeyer and Heather Royce. Heather brought up some good points about the practicality of our ideas. She said that many people want to "use the kids" for their own cause, and wants to make sure that they're protected (in terms of privacy). Leslie noted that the main issue with enrollment is money, not actually race. Academie Lafayette in actuality only accepts about 67 kids, due to the sibling pool policy. The problem, she said, was that the minority applicant pool has remained consistent, but the white application population has skyrocketed three times more than from when the school started. Leslie told us that she wants to flood the pool with minority applicants, but she also did not want to give false hope because many families get turned down each year. Another issue, she said, was that lower income families need to plan ahead and the lottery (of getting accepted into AL) did not provide a guarantee that the kids would be able to attend. After we told her about our ideas, Leslie was more drawn to our video idea, while Heather was more drawn to our public mural idea. Leslie's been working on her own video for AL in order to promote it. She wants to highlight AL's diversity in a subtle way in order to recruit more minorities. Heather liked the public mural idea because she thought it would be good for the school. There is a lot of blank space in the building, and therefore, a lot of opportunities to decorate it.