Roberto Clemente staff speaks out against proposed move to Pioneer High School Building
Photo by Melanie Maxwell for AnnArbor.com
We, the Roberto Clemente staff, are fully united in our disapproval of the proposed move of our program to Pioneer High School, contrary to the report presented to you by central administration on March 13.
It is impossible to maintain the integrity of Roberto Clemente if it is to be housed in a comprehensive high school, as “a school within a school.” History, within Ann Arbor, has shown that “school within a school” models are not successful, such as Middle Years Alternative (MYA) and New School. Our identity will be stifled at Pioneer or any other comprehensive high school. Be not deceived, our students, parents, and staff will be treated like second-class citizens; the whispers already are being heard.
Central administration is expecting us to go from 13 classrooms we now have in use (not counting our gymnasium, computer lab, media center and three separate office spaces) to six classrooms in a wing of Pioneer, again compromising the integrity of our program.
We further want you to be aware the program review omitted our parents, staff, and students. How can one fairly assess our program by omitting those who have the most history and knowledge? This evaluation of Roberto Clemente has been a sham. The Clemente community stakeholders, parents, students, teachers, alumni and retirees have not had an integral part in the administration’s report.
Last school year, several of our staff members implored you to give us time to collaborate with AAPS staff and other stakeholders if it was determined that our building would be closed.
If you accept Ann Arbor Public School’s Superintendent Patricia Green’s proposal and move us to Pioneer, this is the scenario:
- The loss of a safe haven for our students who have not been successful in larger environments. They will be returning to the same negative environment they were escaping from. Some of our students are fearful of attending a large, comprehensive high school.
- The isolation of our students. The loss of the Clemente Family culture, climate, intimate classroom settings and small class sizes.
- The loss of our strong leadership and voice. Either immediately, or after one year, you will be expecting us to fall under the umbrella of a Pioneer principal. Our students will be confused about who has jurisdiction over them: the principal of Clemente or a Pioneer principal. We also will not be able to use the intercom for our principal to communicate with our staff and students, which is one of the effective strategies we are able to use in our location.
- The loss of our trimester schedule. We will be forced to change to a two-semester schedule resulting in less instruction time for our core classes and more difficulty for students to recover lost credits.
- The loss of flexibility to adjust our day. We have weekly rap sessions/mentor time, ACT prep activities, guest speakers, etc. Rap sessions often last longer than the allotted time, and we have the freedom to adjust the bell schedule for the rest of the classes that day. How will that effect electives our students may be taking?
- The loss of support for our students. Clemente staff will not be able to provide the same level of service and support for students integrated into Pioneer’s elective classes.
- The loss of pride our students exhibit for being a part of the Roberto Clemente family. Uniforms set the tone and expectations for our building. Uniforms diminish the economic and social barriers between students, increase school pride and sense of community, promote positive student behavior, and improve the overall learning environment. Statistics show student concentration improves, and there is an increase in attendance and graduation rates.
A potential loss of revenue from Ypsilanti Public Schools from our shared programming with their at-risk population (we receive $4,000 per student, per trimester — approximately $100,000 this school year). Furthermore, the Ypsilanti Board of Education and parents may not be willing to handle the burden of transporting students deeper into Ann Arbor. This income we generate from our partnership with Ypsilanti has never shown up in the reports presented to the Board of Education.
Contrary to the report, the transition of our students to the secondary summer school at Pioneer was neither smooth nor successful. Clemente students struggled tremendously. Of the more than 800 students that attended Pioneer last summer, only 16 were Roberto students. Three did not finish summer school, another student completed summer school, but was so badly scarred by the experience she was unable to transition back into our environment and has left our program. Overall, 25 percent of our students were not successful. Our normal summer school enrollment is about 85 students.
Roberto Clemente’s building, at 4377 Textile Road, was designed and constructed in 1994 with the input of our stakeholders - parents, teachers, and students. At one time we had as many as 135 students in our program, and we would be able to accommodate that many again provided we have the teaching staff. Throughout the years our staff has been downsized, as many as two a year. As a result, our student population has shrunk. As of two years ago, we lost the staffing to support an eighth-grade class.
We, as part of the Clemente family, would like to know what the board members true intentions are for our building. The members of the board have not had any public discussions about the future of our site. The best thing for Clemente’s program would be to remain in our own self-contained building on Textile Road. Whose needs are more important than the most vulnerable population of our young people? How will our students ever have a chance to bridge the achievement gap under the status quo?
It appears as though recommendations are few, but how about this? For a $200,000 proposed savings, eliminate the $54,000 annual pension payment for the superintendent, mandate a $50,0000 salary reduction, and acknowledge the $90,000 in revenue that Clemente brings to the Ann Arbor Public Schools. Problem averted.
Kathleen Ardan on behalf of The Roberto Clemente Staff
Kathleen Ardan has been at Roberto Clemente since 1982 as a paraprofessional. I am a resident of within the Ann Arbor Public School District and have had three children graduate from it - two from Community High and one from Huron (by way of Clemente).