Ann Arbor: Tough luck to troubled teens?
Do you wish to relive your adolescence? Imagine being poor, having a learning disability, suffering from depression/anxiety or having no supports. Adolescence at best is a difficult transition in one’s life. At worst, it can be a nightmare.
Forty years ago, Ann Arbor Public Schools already understood what it was like to grow up under difficult circumstances. In 1973 the Ann Arbor Board of Education agreed that a specialized educational program was necessary to support teens that were unable to be successful in the traditional high school format.
Over a 21- year period, Roberto Clemente Student Development Center evolved from a program that existed as a “school within a school” (at Forsythe Middle School), to a building located outside of Belleville, to an elementary school in rural Pittsfield Township, to the building that Roberto Clemente resides in today.
Ann Arbor Public Schools invested its resources to bring this much needed program from its beginnings when teachers provided students transportation to a far-flung location, all the way to today with a school they can call their own.
Do we citizens of Ann Arbor think that today’s teens have fewer problems than in 1973? We need to ask ourselves why suddenly it seems to be a good idea to shut down the Roberto Clemente School building and return to 1973. If the program had worked well then, would the Board of Education have found a need to build the new Roberto Clemente School in 1995?
Ann Arbor Public Schools’ budget crisis has seen Roberto Clemente as “low-hanging fruit”. The students and families involved in this program are less likely to adequately speak out in support of their life changing and, yes, life-saving, program. Despite the concern these families feel for their struggling children, most are ill equipped to lobby against much larger, more popular programming within the district. A great many of these students are either minorities, economically disadvantaged, learning disabled, mentally disabled or led by homes with only one parent.
Do you know how much this “low-hanging fruit” is worth? The highest estimate is about $340,000, the value of a mortgage for many Ann Arbor residents. The overall budget deficit numbers for the AAPS is estimated to be about $9 million dollars. Imagine hobbling 40 years of life-transformational efforts to save $340,000. Imagine the actual “real life” costs our community would pay if we chose to marginalize the essence of this school.
The proceedings of the last school board meeting might have you convinced that the relocation of Roberto Clemente has been taken off the table. A closer look reveals the decision is being delayed until the administration completes a redistricting study. Roberto Clemente School is a valuable asset to our community. Relocating this school and sending it back to 1973 will undermine its essence. Please consider signing our petition addressed to the AAPS Board of Education: “Roberto Clemente: A Powerful Program that Serves Our Students-at-Risk”.