August 16 2002

Where’s the Love? A Question for Alan Bersin

Dear Alan:

As you know the Catfish Club has invited me to moderate the “Status of San Diego City Schools” conversation planned for August 30th.

I hear that a few people around the Ed Center are worried about my “biases.” Hey, I don’t know which of my “biases” they’re concerned about but I’m extending an invitation to you or one of them to take part in the topic of the day.

And what you all need to know is it’s all about children with me. Always has been and always will be. Children as human beings. So, the only “bias” I will bring with me is the one that causes me to gasp for air and fight back the tears welling in my eyes almost everytime I look at the chilly inhumane school system that has been created for our children.

Considering that my “bias” is pretty much that love should be at the center of any learning environment, all I’m going to essentially ask everyone who joins the gathering is “Where is the Love?” Where in the system are people treated with respect? Where in the system do people collaborate, and participate according to their skills, interests, and passions? Excuse my “bias” but there is no such loving spirit of participation in San Diego City Schools, Alan. Nothing close.

I will begin the afternoon by reading a poem I read to the children at Cabrillo when I first met with them as their school principal a few short years ago. It was a fun rhythmic poem written in a spirit of love to let the children know who I am so they could find a way to relate to me. After I let them know that I was an athlete, a traveller, an actor, and when they found out that “I like to read and sing and write, that I like to kiss and hug, that I hate to fight” we were bonded. In five minutes. And they bonded me with their moms and dads before the day was done.

You never bonded with us, Alan, us being employees and parents and students and community members who have no meaningful access whatsoever to you. Where is the love in that? It’s about human connections. Human bonding. Oh, my “biases.”

At the forum we will consider that the better the human relations the healthier the learning environment will become and the better it will work for everybody.

And, who, I will ask, should be the key rolemodel for setting a loving tone in a learning community? None other than you, Alan. But, I can’t conceive of you coming through because I’ve never seen you sincerely treat anyone, outside your loop, with respect.

I did, however, see you one night as you stood on the stage at Roosevelt Jr. High, my neighborhood school, with your arms folded and your back turned to neighbors of mine who asked you a tough question or two.

I did see you when you, smiling, told us principals, regarding shared decision making, “In a few months you’ll all be asking, ‘Shared what?’”

I did see how you devastated the lives of principals and vice-principals by “demoting” them without having ever shared with us anything approaching (and I didn’t miss a second of any of your meetings) criteria by which we were to be judged.

I did see the broken spirits of so many people in Sherman Heights when you started pocketing money from their grants to feed your causes.

I have seen you treat the arts (which lets us know who human beings are and how they view the world) as a frill to be offered to children after they have learned to read. I’ve seen it work quite well more times than not the other way around.

Well, Alan, maybe you or a designee can let the audience know, at some point, where the love is in San Diego City Schools. Maybe someone can share how way off base I am, how the system really does value and respect concerned citizens for who they are and what they have to contribute, how the system really does understand that if children are not educated in a spirit of love the world stands a great chance of being as troubled far into the future as it is today.

Ernie McCray

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