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Children Matter

By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor


I have proven that children labeled “untouchable” can  learn.  - Marva Collins




Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.

I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride, to make it easier.

Those were the words to the chart-topping R&B song “Greatest Love of All” that the late silver-tongued diva Whitney Houston so passionately belted out in 1984. Written by Michael Masser and Linda Creed as a biopic of Muhammad Ali, the tune was originally recorded in 1977 by famed guitarist George Benson.

Never before, however, have these lyrics seemed more relevant than they are today.

Three Democratic Party candidates are running for only two seats on Toledo Public Schools school board at a time when too many low-income youth are leaving school without the education and training required by today’s labor market economy.

Who is looking out for our children’s future to ensure that they are prepared for college, work and life? Who is providing our youth with meaningful alternatives to high levels of unemployment, incarceration or poverty so they might succeed beyond high school?

I spoke with Perry Lefevre, who is a candidate for re-election to the Toledo Public Schools Board of Education. The Board is charged with providing leadership, guidance and oversight to Toledo Public Schools to ensure that its 22,000 students enter and successfully navigate the public school system and exit with the opportunity to have a successful future.

This is the final segment of our two-part conversation.

Perryman: Having talked about the challenges of educating children in an urban setting with high poverty rates, let’s talk about the successes you’ve experienced since being elected to the Board.

Lefevre:  I think if somebody was to ask me what we’ve achieved in my four years, I would definitely say expanded opportunities and I believe those expanded opportunities have led to our dramatic increase to our graduation rate.  If you look at Career Tech programs, the Advancement Via Individual Determination program (AVID), College Credit Plus (CCP) courses or Advanced Placement (AP), which we’ve expanded opportunities across the board. I believe those programs are what’s leading our increased graduation rate. 

If kids get into a Career Tech program, they are 94 percent graduated.  That’s where we’re getting our graduation increases at, so we’ve got to attract more kids to those programs and that’s one of my goals. I would love to make it a district policy that every kid is in one of these programs because they are going to learn something that I absolutely believe we need to be teaching more, and that’s rigor.  We need to do a better job of teaching rigor to high school students and I know those programs do it. 

Perryman: How do you define rigor?

Lefevre:  It means that I have the tools, I have the ability to overcome challenges instead of throwing up my hands and giving up.  Rigor, to me, means that I have worked hard on something and achieved and worked very hard and actually turned my achievement into a success, and it makes me want to go work harder. 

Now, for me, I didn’t have to work that hard in high school and I achieved after learning the hard way, and I know a lot of kids who are also like that.  Unfortunately, they get to college and they’re just not prepared and that’s why I promote these programs, because those classes have rigor.  The students are challenged.  They have to work harder in those classes. 

Perryman: Please elaborate on some of these special programs.

Lefevre:  College Credit Plus (CCP) has classes that students take in high school that qualify both as high school credit and college credit.  If you happened to see Whitney Hughes, she is the valedictorian at Jones, and Whitney had 53 college credit hours of CCP credit, which meant she essentially took 53 hours of college credit as a high school student, and she got recruited and is going to New York University this fall.  She is definitely one of our success stories out of Jones Leadership Academy and she is partially done with college already because she took these CCP classes.  And I want to see more students doing CCP, AP and Career Tech because the rigor is there.  AVID does the same thing. 

Perryman: Please tell me more about AVID

Lefevre:  AVID is a kind of a specialized training program that basically works to close the achievement gap. The program takes lower performing students and puts them in an elective in which they have the opportunity to learn skills that make them more college ready.  AVID will allow any student, but especially African-American students, to learn skills to achieve. Students acquire note-taking skills, group discussion skills and presentation skills and they get to work in smaller teams.  There is a cultural relevance aspect to working in smaller groups.

TPS is going to have district-wide training on that this summer.  I myself am traveling to an AVID conference to get that training myself because I’m a big supporter of AVID and I believe AVID as a program really tries to overcome some of the achievement differences. 

Perryman: You’ve got some good things going.  We probably don’t hear enough about them.

Lefevre:  I understand that.  And unfortunately, sometimes I think it’s an urban school district thing, that folks don’t look at the positive, they only look at the negative when it comes to urban school districts.  And I know Dr. Durant does the same thing when he tries to promote the positives because there is so much going on, and that’s why he’s so frustrated with the grade card because what that F essentially does is ignore all of our success and basically tells our students you’re not successful. It says that even though you’ve achieved all this, you’re not successful because the state has set this bar that quite frankly is difficult for large urbans to achieve.

Perryman: Is it possible that the people affected positively are just too few in number?

Lefevre:  No, I don’t believe that either.  Again, if you look at the numbers, we are still dealing with this idea of 24 to 25 percent of our students living in poverty and are homeless at some point in time during the school year.  There’s not another city in the state that’s dealing with that.  We also have 25 percent of our student population that are on some form of special ed, that’s the largest number in Northwest Ohio.

Perryman: 25 percent are homeless and 25 percent on some type of special ed?

Lefevre:  Yes.  And at 25 percent homeless, again, that’s not a state which they’re in perpetually, it is a night-to-night, week-to-week situation where we call it couch surfing.  They don’t know where they’re going to be, necessarily, next week.  We have students that change schools once, twice, three times a school year, and why?  Because they’ve been removed or thrown out or whatever from their home where they were staying and now, they have all the challenges of a new school, a new setting. 

We try to adjust this and I’ll work with anybody on this, but the one company that I’m actually courting, is Anthem Insurance.  Last year they donated 25 hydroponics kits to our fifth grade classes in about half of our elementaries and we’re teaching the kids hydroponics.  They’re growing their own food and in fact, at Marshall before the end of the school year, we brought in a chef from one of the downtown restaurants, and he taught the kids how to prepare the food they had grown. 

So, these hydroponic programs are great and Anthem paid for that.  It’s called the Big Green Bronx Machine.  Well, Anthem was so pleased with the success of that, they’ve come back to us this year and they just wanted to offer $100,000 to try to alleviate some of the pressures on our homeless population, and they wanted to give that money to essentially pay back bills, pay the penalties, pay their back rent, those kind of things, try to catch folks up, which I understand completely.  Heather Baker, who also was phenomenal on this, suggested that we divert some of that money to our summer leadership program for those homeless kids.  So now those kids are getting leadership training paid for by Anthem.  Anthem’s money is now being used to…basically, you can feed a man a fish or you can teach him how to fish.  I like to think these leadership academies are teaching kids how to be leaders, they’re teaching them how to fish. 

Perryman: Are there other notable programs or projects to help our children to become more likely to succeed?

Lefevre:  Oh yeah, oh yeah.  We haven’t even talked about the new department we created, the EDI Department, the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Department that we’re working on. I’ve been very much involved in that as well, and I will tell you that has been some of the most productive discussions I’ve been in.  I’ve been to all the committee meetings I could make.

Treva Jeffries is running that department along with Hope Bland. They have just been phenomenal, and we’re still in the creation stage.  We’re still trying to figure out exactly what its role is going to be, but we’re cutting edge.  There’s not another school district in the state that doing anything like that. 

Perryman: Thank you very much.

Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, D.Min, at drdlperryman@centerofhopebaptist.org



Copyright © 2019 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 07/19/19 01:20:15 -0400.



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