Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Principal is a N*****!

In the classic Mel Brooks comedy Blazing Saddles, a black man is appointed to be sheriff of a Western town. The new sheriff initially doesn't know that the state's corrupt attorney general and governor only appointed him in the hopes of making the townspeople lynch him, drive him off, or simply leave, thus allowing the corrupt public officials to buy up their land cheap and make a financial killing when the new railroad is built. 

The racist townspeople are shocked and unhappy to see that the new man in charge is a black man. Later a townswoman privately tells the sheriff that although she's impressed with the great job he's done please don't tell anyone she said that because after all she certainly doesn't want to be known as a n***** -lover.

I was reminded of that movie when I read about the controversy surrounding new Principal Zeke Ohan of Hancock Middle and High School in Michigan's UP (Upper Peninsula). Mr. Ohan is Black. The town and the UP are overwhelmingly white. Often times some whites don't think anyone is racist unless they're wearing Nazi flag underwear and screaming racial slurs at the top of their voice anytime they see a Black person. And even then there will be quite a few people who say that the person doing that is misunderstood or just having a bad day.

I think racism is more nuanced than that. I have met many whites who have no major problem with Black people, provided they are in a superior work position to the Black person. When a Black person, especially a Black man, makes more money than they do, is in a higher position than they are or has the ability and the drive to tell them what to do and make them do it, a different side of their personality emerges. I think that's what happened at Hancock. 

Hancock — Zeke Ohan wasted little time after becoming a high school principal in the Upper Peninsula in 2017. He carried out a plethora of changes that already are bearing fruit. Enrollment and test scores at Hancock middle and high schools are up. More graduates are going to college. Students and parents like the hard-charging administrator.

But his popularity doesn’t extend to teachers, who have been pressuring the school board to get rid of him. Two board members and the superintendent resigned during the height of the campaign in March. 

Ohan’s supporters say the teachers’ opposition is partly fueled by race. Ohan is black while all 19 instructors are white. One percent of the town’s population is black. The supporters aren’t aware of any specific racist actions or comments. 

Instead, they point toward the teachers’ early resistance to Ohan and their disparaging comments about the principal on social media and during board meetings. “I think they’re racist,” said Danielle Bennett, a student’s parent, echoing comments by six others. “This wouldn’t stand anywhere else in the country.” In April, the school board voted 6-0 to end Ohan’s contract when it expires next year. School board president Dale Kero described it as a procedural move that wasn’t a reflection on the principal.

Ohan, who makes $70,000 a year, oversees 384 students from grades 6 to 12. He had teachers of similar subjects regularly compare notes to see which teaching methods were most effective with which students, and then apply them to specific pupils, school district officials said.

The principal launched an extended learning center that allowed struggling students to receive additional help, the district said. The center recently added a math tutor. Ohan opened a parents’ lounge as part of something he calls Mother Mondays and Father Fridays. Parents are free to roam the halls, sit in on classes and question the teachers.

One of the parents who took advantage of the lounge was Josh Bennett, whose son is in the ninth grade. “He was all about the parents,” said Bennett, who, like several others, talked about Ohan in the past tense. “He got a lot of help for the kids who needed it.”

Ohan also opened a summer school, expanded autism training and offered more advanced placement classes, according to the district. He improved attendance of parent-teacher conferences by moving them from teachers’ classes to the school gym.

The school’s test scores in math, reading and social studies all rose during Ohan’s first year, according to M-STEP, the state standardized test. 

In social studies, 56% of eighth graders were proficient or better, compared with 43% the year before. The state average was 29%.

Parents liked what they saw.“A lot of good things are happening,” said Frank Hawthorne, whose son is in the sixth grade. “Everything I’ve seen of the man (Ohan) is positive.”

Some of Ohan’s changes didn’t sit well with teachers. Shortly after his arrival, he stopped teachers from leaving the building or using the school weight room during school hours, district officials said.

He began enforcing a rule that students had to remain in the cafeteria during lunch because they had been leaving trash all over the school, the district said.

Most upsetting to teachers, he began requiring them to submit lesson plans every week. The plans describe what the teachers hope to accomplish and how they will do so.

One of Ohan’s biggest critics may be board member Wendy Chynoweth, whose husband is a teacher. Before joining the board, Chynoweth had been critical of Ohan at several of its meetings.

During a board meeting in February 2018, both Chynoweth and her husband, Jesse, who teaches social studies in the middle school, had different complaints about Ohan, according to meeting minutes. 

Jesse objected to the new format for the parent-teacher meetings while Wendy objected to an obscenity she found on Ohan’s Facebook page, according to meeting minutes.

So what I'm reading is that Principal Ohan made some teachers stop goofing off, put more emphasis on education, and as their boss demanded that they let him know what their goals and project plans were. He is in charge. And as a result of his leadership test scores improved. So of course they want to fire him. That makes total sense, right? After all the Principal is a N*****!!!

This shows that when people say that they don't care about race, just results, they are often lying. This article doesn't detail any horrible personality flaw. No one in this article has alleged that Ohan is cursing people out or laying hands on people. No one is alleging any sexual or financial impropriety. No. All Ohan has done is help children become better students. And that is what being an education professional is supposed to be all about. If I take over a project or department and slackers complain about me then I am doing something right. I hope Ohan continues to be successful at Hancock or elsewhere. This is an example of racism in action. Even when a Black man meets and exceeds objective goals, some jealous hostile bigots will try to take him down. But that's life.
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