The state of public education in New York City is at a crossroad. There is much political and private debate about what should be done about the Common Core Standards, Testing, Charter Schools, Co-Location Schools and Mayoral control of education. The issue about what is wrong with public education seems never ending, but on Saturday, Oct. 26, to highlight what is right, the NYC school system, Black Caucus of the Council of Supervisors and Administrators( CSA), honored legendary school leaders at a luncheon held at the Restoration Corporation Skylight Gallery in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
These leaders, CSA President, Ernest Logan; Dr. Sheilah Bobo, Dr. Mildred Boyce and Dr. Frank Mickens (posthumously) all have one common trait. They are all products of the NYC school system. Their schooling was at a time when educators viewed teaching and education as viable tools for creating productive citizens. Knowledge was gained through critical thinking not persistent testing.
Each honoree has more than 30 years of experience in the NYCDOE. There was a distinct pride in knowing that their contributions to the education of the children of New York City was not unnoticed, as evident by the many former students and colleagues in the audience. Comptroller John Lui paid tribute to the honorees. He, a product of the public schools, told the honorees that “the past years have been challenging for you and your students. Education must be taken from the hands of bureaucrats and put back in the hands of principals so that teachers can unleash the tremendous potential in public schools. It is about our collective future.”
Public education has made great strides since 1966 when there were only six Black school administrators in NYC. Today, CSA has approximately 1400 members and each of the honorees paid tribute to those who paved the way for their success. Dr. Sheilah Bobo has 40 years of valuable experience as a principal and in other leadership positions, She thinks that “there is little appreciation for longevity in the DOE,” but appreciates, her peers support since they “understand the value of life long learning.”
Dr. Mildred Boyce had set her sight on being a teacher from childhood. She was the principal of Phillipa Schuyler Middle School in Bushwick-a gifted and talented school- for many years. Being recognized by CSA was a “special honor” and” it is a joy to be a mentor for new principals,” she said.
Dr. Bernard Gassaway, current principal of Boys and Girls High School in Bed-Stuy, accepted the award for the late Dr. Frank Mickins. He agrees that “no one can fill the shoes of Frank Mickens,” so he takes the experience gained from Dr. Mickens and uses it to propel forward. “There are challenging times ahead but we are here for the children,” he continued.
For decades, Black New York has been confronted with the fact that NYC’s educational system has been failing to produce quality education for most Black students. Black parents are still looking for solutions in a flawed system. That’s why Ernest Logan believes that educators must “always be excellent at what they do. The Black Caucus promotes excellence. When children do well, adults do well. Children must always be in our thoughts. On our journey we must keep the goal in focus and do no harm to children.”
The educators honored were just a sample of the dedicated many. Some of the successful prior students came to thank their teachers for their unconditional commitment and for inspiring them to be the “Best of the Best.”