My wife and I enjoyed a fabulous time at my 25yr BTHS Class of '85 Reunion. It was great seeing old friends and rekindling past acquaintances. As mentioned previously, I worked with a group of mostly diligent class representatives. Though we probably got on each others nerves (yes I was particularly gruff as the event drew near), our classmates really seemed to appreciate the effort. The reunion was successful. From a technical resource standpoint, I would probably not use PayPal in the capacity that we chose. Definitely my fault, I'll take the spear ;-)
PayPal cannot easily manage event horizon or time interval cost increases. The merchant scripts really should not be shared. In retrospect, sites like EventBrite would be better suited for this purpose. You live and learn - C'est la Vie :-) Hopefully, this tidbit will help the '86ers..
Though, I do not know the final headcount, I believe we had approximately 135 people in attendance. Not a bad showing during an economic downturn.
Technites traveled from as far away as British Columbia and Alaska. That is what I call dedication :-)
Although, I was not able to attend most of the school sponsored events, I was able to greet folks in the lunch room. The lunchroom was a spot where we used to bang out beats on the tables and cut classes on occasion. I still remember the popping and break dance competitions in the center section of the lunchroom.
Actually, I also wanted to speak with the BTHS principal, Randy Asher. Some of you may recall that I wrote an open letter to Randy some years back. The letter was a response to NY Times editorial that highlighted the decline of African-American students in NYC Specialized high schools. As I walked around the lunchroom, I wondered aloud if the Class '85 was indeed the last frontier for so-called minorities (African-American & Latino) at BTHS. Only time will tell, but I would rather be pro-active and offer some clues.
As I rode the Metro-North back to CT, I happened to be seated next to a woman whose son was a sophomore at Tech. In our candid conversation she suggested that entrance exam preparation was likely the cause of reduced numbers of African-Americans enrollment at BTHS. She told me that her son began prepping for the exam in the 7th grade, and that she made it a priority above all else.
While I agree with the premise that exam preparation is paramount to success and ultimately entrance to a specialized high school. I asserted that the problem is much deeper than she described. I have been thinking about this problem for at least 3yrs. Admittedly, the situation is as dire as it is perplexing. Below are some thought starters which I believe will help us gravitate to a possible solution to this dilemma.
Recognizing the Stakeholders
- Local Communities
- Junior High Schools
I'm quite sure that Asher and his executive staff have already considered the appropriate stakeholders. Nonetheless, I would assert that these relationships have eroded over time.
For instance, I understand that B'klyn Polytechnic created a Junior NSBE chapter at BTHS. For those of you not familiar with the NSBE, it is one of the largest student run professional organizations dedicated to the following mission
"to increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community."
Not sure if the NSBE Junior chapter or the alliance with B'klyn Polytechnic still exists today.
Obviously, parents and the local communities are perhaps the most influential stakeholders. Anyone who grew up in Fort Greene or any other section of B'klyn, understands very well that gentrification has drastically changed the landscape of the neighborhoods. Whether this change is good or bad is beyond the scope of this entry. I'll leave this point of pontification as an exercise for the reader. Suffice to say, the Dekalb Ave and the surrounding area near BTHS is far different than I remember.
In a recent conversation with a fellow classmate, he surmised that the huge influx of higher income families that are searching for affordable (ie zero cost) education for their children, BTHS becomes an obvious choice. I would take the point a step further, circa '85 charter schools didn't exist. Or at least there was not a huge discussion about vouchers. Perhaps the rise of the "charter school" mentality in the inner-city has created a scarcity for quality public schools seats that is far greater now than in the 80's?
Clearly I do not have all the answers; however, it will indeed take a village to correct the problem. Obviously, the first step is publicly acknowledging the problem and then aggressively recruiting caring individuals to help rectify the situation. I'm not sure Asher has done either. Nonetheless, I have already spoken to concerned classmates and I am confident that we can help stem the tide. IMHO, rebuilding the relationships with the key stakeholders should improve matters.
Lastly, it is worth noting that every person of color who attends BTHS is destined to become a mechanical engineer, chemist or actuary scientist. Geeks are a rare breed indeed! BTHS provides students with the appropriate work ethic to succeed in any endeavor. We just need to do a better job with improving the critical mass for African-Americans. A drop-off from 33% to 11% is quite shocking.
Randy, let's have that conversation sooner than later..