The assignment completely erases the truth about Columbus being a lost, starving, diseased murderer, rapist, pillager, liar and criminal who invaded a land already inhabited by a civilized peaceful nation of Taino people. Tainos are the original Boricuas of Borinquen, the island home later renamed Puerto Rico by Spaniard imperialist (terrorists) in greedy search for gold and slaves.
I was outraged that in 2014 Paez has not removed such racist curriculum from the Holyoke Public School district and continues to force-feed a 70% Latino and primarily Puerto Rican student body and population such a dishonest, disempowering and dehumanizing curriculum. (Please see Friday, December 5, 2014 post on blog).
I waited to hear back from Dr. Paez and/or Principal Breish about my expressed and explicit request to replace such dishonest and racially-biased curriculum with a balanced, truthful depiction of US and world history. This is not the first time I express explicit concern around culturally-deficient curriculum. Last year, I asked Principal John Breish why he failed to execute any meaningful curriculum or cultural programming around Black history month.
Breish brushed off my curriculum concerns with: "Not to sound racist, but I think having Black history month curriculum is merely a token effort." Meanwhile for Saint Patrick's Day, Principal Breish allowed ALL the students to dress up in fun, creative green colors replete with wigs, hair extensions, beads, glitter and of course a fundraiser to match where the best costumed student won a $25 dollar prize. I still have the flyer for anyone who is interested in viewing it. I never received a respectful response last year, and he echoed the same "Not to sound racist...but, I don't think the Christopher Columbus assignment was completely wrong about him; he [Columbus] was remarkable."
Why Rethink Columbus?
"Students at Jefferson High School in Portland, Oregon, commemorated the 500th anniversary of Columbus's arrival in the Americas by launching a school-wide "discovery." They invaded other class-rooms, stole teachers' purses, and claimed them as theirs. Adapting a lesson described in the first edition of "Rethinking Columbus (p. 17 in this edition), students emptied a purse in front of a teacher and her class, then remarked on its contents: "This sure is good gum, think I'll have a piece...or two; you all know this is my purse, 'cause this is just my shade of lipstick." Kids in the assaulted classrooms figured out what was going on only when the invaders compared their "discovery" to Columbus's "discovery."
The high-school students, with advance permission from other teachers, led discussions and described Columbus's policies toward the Taino Indians on Hispaniola. They concluded by offering black armbands to students as a way to demonstrate solidarity with Native Americans' 500 years of resistance.
Prompted by widespread Native American activism leading up to the Quincentenary, educators throughout the Americas re-evaluated the social and ecological consequences of the Europeans' arrival in 1492. Teacher unions, community groups, social justice organizations, universities, and school districts initiated workshops and teach-ins.
New curricula, videos and children's books appeared. In 1991, Rethinking Schools published the first edition of Rethinking Columbus, which subsequently went through seven printings and sold 225, 000 copies.
But, we have a long way to go...
The "Columbus-as-Discoverer" myth teaches children whose voices to listen for as they go out into the world - and whose to ignore. Pick up a typical children's book on Columbus: See Chris: see Chris talk; see Chris grow up, have ideas, have feelings; see Chris plant the flag...In these volumes, native peoples of the Caribbean, the "discovered," are portrayed without thoughts or feelings. And thus children begin a scholastic voyage that encourages them to disregard the perspectives, the lives, of people of color.
Both the words and images of the Columbus myth implicitly tell children that it is acceptable for one group of heavily-armed, White people from a "civilized" country to claim and control the lands of distant non-white others." Rethinking Columbus, Bigelow and Peterson." (Excerpt from Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years)
I waited 20 days to hear back from either Principal Breish and/or Dr. Paez. Monday, Dec. 22, 2014 I visited the central office to request a response to my Dec. 1st email to Dr. Paez requesting to be placed on the school committee's next meeting agenda regarding my curriculum concerns and to obtain a physical copy of the School Committee's 2013-14 SY Performance Evaluation for Dr. Paez.
I was the only person and parent in the (Superintendent's) office. All five chairs lined up against the wall by the secretary's desk-area were empty. Jeanie, Paez's secretary asked me to wait outside the Superintendent's 'waiting area'. When I asked why I couldn't just have a seat in one of the empty chairs Jeanie said "I'm just too busy and other people need to speak with me privately." I looked back and around but, no one was standing there. Behind Jeanie's frozen smile, it was obvious to me, I was not welcomed in the Superintendent's office and that she was just trying to get rid of my physical presence.
I walked out to the general waiting area and waited. Jeanie came out and sat in a chair across from me.
Jeanie: "Dr. Paez said the proper protocol if you have a concern is to first alert the principal and if you don't get a response then you involve him."
I had done that and I knew Paez was just brushing me off. Paez completely ignored my request to be added to the agenda at the next school committee meeting in December. Paez never forwarded my request to the school committee; a blatant violation of section II of his employment contract. As a result of Paez' negligence, I missed the December school committee meeting and was unable to express my concerns.
Me: "What about my request to have a print out of Dr. Paez's performance evaluation by the school committee?"
Jeanie: "Yes, Dr. Paez said we don't print that out for everyone but, you can access it on the school website."
Upon leaving, I immediately called the Vice Chair of the School Committee, Devin Sheehan. I informed Sheehan Dr. Paez ignored my email from Dec. 1st requesting to be added to the next school committee's agenda and that he refused to provide me with a copy of his performance evaluation - a violation of the public records law.
Sheehan offered to have a copy of Dr. Paez performance evaluation mailed to me. I needed it sooner. Sheehan offered to have a copy for me at the Mayor's office for pick up. Later that afternoon, I drove to the Mayor's office and when I arrived Nilka Ortiz, the Mayor's aide was unaware of my pick up. Once again, I left without Paez's evaluation. I called Sheehan back and left a message about not receiving the evaluation. Sheehan had Billie, one of the Mayor's aides deliver a copy to my home. Clearly, Paez' denial was a violation of the Public Records Law otherwise Sheehan would not have had it delivered to my home.
Parents and youth advocates: I urge you to thoroughly review the Superintendent's Accelerated Improvement Plan (AIP) which is on the Holyoke Public School website. The AIP is 42 pages of dense, industry-nuanced language which is designed to keep students, parents, teachers and their advocates/partners completely confused and overwhelmed.
SC member Mildred Lefebvre, had this to say about the lack of clarity on her ability to evaluate Paez's performance on goal one: Instructional Leadership "Overall, it was very difficult to evaluate progress. The information provided was limited [in the sense this is what you have to do and this is how we are going to do it.] But there is no evidence showing how we have made any progress (as minimal as it can be). Once I opened the packet (binder) it was overwhelming. Based on how things have been running since July 2013 to present is concerning. Also the entire evaluation only included grades K-8; we are a K-12 district. We have other big issues other than Early Literacy and those appear to be going by the wayside. "
I have been studying Paez's 2013 - 2014 performance evaluation and his Accelerated Improvement Plan; both are designed and written in a language which excludes the very community it addresses; it is not bilingual and it is not plain English.
Page one of the Holyoke school committee's review of Superintendent's performance review states:
"We agreed upon four goals/standards to guide our review process. The first being Instructional Leadership. The main objective is to improve instructional quality by building leadership capacity throughout the district to continuously improve teaching and learning."
Before I point out the first inadequacy in the Department of Early and Secondary Education evaluation components I would like to pose the question: Which [We] agreed upon four goals/standards to guide the school committee's review process?
The school committee's Instructional Leadership standard failed to include a benchmark for culturally respectful, accurate and inclusive curriculum which engages students in a meaningful way, reflects their world (history) and acknowledges their relevance in society.
Holyoke Public School District is a level four which means it is completely failing. Page one of Paez's District Improvement Plan/Accelerated Improvement Plan (DIP/AIP) state-friendly-propaganda response is to over assess, test and drill our children, youth and teachers. There is absolutely nothing creative, fresh or new about his method of operation which is premised in previous years polic(y)ing of our children, teachers and administrators to exhaustion.
Page two of Paez's 2013-2014 AIP:
"To address the issues and opportunities highlighted by the ESE District Review, HPS articulated and implemented a district-wide Accelerated Improvement Plan (AIP) starting in the 2011-2012 school year.
Strategic Objective #1: Building instructional leadership capacity: The district utilized systems and structures built in the previous year to build the leaders’ capacity to be more effective instructional leaders. The District Instructional Leadership Team (DILT) met on a monthly basis with a “standing agenda” to focus on two key areas: (1) embedding data cycles, and (2) impacting classroom instruction through frequent walkthroughs and actionable
feedback. A system of classroom walkthroughs was utilized to ensure leaders frequently observed teacher practice and provided actionable feedback to teachers. School and District Improvement Plans (SIPs and DIPs) were monitored through monthly meetings between principals and the Assistant Superintendent to ensure progress."