Sunday, February 17, 2008

My Old School

My old school has made the local paper again. At least this time there's some glimmer of hope:

While the location of Evans is in the commission's hands, [Evan's new principal] Christiansen is doing what he can with what he has.

He painted over the scuffs on the walls in the main office. He recites the pledge of allegiance and holds a moment of silence every day.

He increased the number of after-school clubs from six to 36. He doubled the number of advanced-placement courses and increased the number of students taking them from 72 to 540.

Evans now has a motto emblazoned across its facade: Evans High School: A Place of High Achievement.

Christiansen knows he has a long way to go, but he does not feel daunted.

"I've never failed anything in my life," he said. "And I don't plan on doing it now."
The saddest thing for me is that when my parents moved to Pine Hills in 1960, they did so because Evans was the best high school in the county. Now?
Christiansen recalled that an Evans visitor, who had recently been to Ghana, shook his head as he toured the campus. "He told me this looks like any building in any third-world country he's seen."
There are just so many appalling details in this story. I think this is the second worst:
The air conditioning didn't work in the building that houses seniors and science classes.

"I raised holy hell and got a chiller here," [Christiansen] said. "It's been going on for 10 years. We don't even have A/C for our students? Aren't they just like any other kids? Don't they deserve what other kids get?

"I believe we have one of the worst facilities in the county, and probably Central Florida, and likely the state."
Just to be clear, that building without AC has almost no windows.

But I think this is the worst detail, at least from a visceral standpoint:
For the new administrators, one of the worst features was what students called "the green mile," a reference from the Tom Hanks movie The Green Mile about the walk from death row to the execution chamber.

At Evans, it's the 6-inch-wide green stripes that border the campus' concrete walkways. For years, students had to stay between the stripes. They couldn't step over them, even to eat lunch on the benches in a weedy courtyard.

They felt penned in, like animals.
Wow. We thought the place felt like a prison when they put barb wire on top of the chain link fence that encircled the campus back in the 1980s. No wonder the so many of the students act like animals: that's all anyone ever expects of them.

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