Wednesday, June 26, 2013


CBS TV's Nancy Giles gives keynote speech

I was finally permitted to go back to Jamaica High School where I attended a wonderful graduation ceremony this morning.  It felt good not to have to grade Regents exams electronically so I was in a positive frame of mind at graduation. CBS's Nancy Giles - a Jamaica High School graduate - was the keynote speaker.  She walked us through time as she talked of Jamaica as it was and how disappointed she is to see it as five separate schools now.

A packed house at Jamaica's graduation

There was more to be happy about as three students that I taught this year gave outstanding speeches to the graduating class which was larger than originally expected which meant that our huge auditorium was mostly filled.

Julius Hiralal gives valedictory speech.

After the ceremony, I was asked to go with the students up to the roof (one of the highest points in Queens) to watch the graduates ring the school bell, an unbelievable annual tradition at Jamaica. Observing those pupils ring that old bell left the teachers and custodian who were lucky enough to be there with a great feeling. I don't know if Dennis Walcott, Michael Bloomberg, Joel Klein or any of the other people trying to ruin public education could ever understand the joy we feel at seeing students succeed. Education is not about data points on spread sheets; it's about real human beings.

After finishing with the festivities, there was a great deal of work to catch up on that I could not do in the last two weeks because of the exam grading, including having to help the teachers with union concerns.  It is very unsettling to be in a school that is phasing out (Jamaica has one more year to go unless a court saves us.) as staff downsizing is always in the air. This uneasy feeling grew worse when I saw some more of my students.

They told me that Regents grades are still missing. I taught Regents level US History and some of the students approached me to ask why their Regents grade for US History wasn't on their report cards. My explanation about the problems with electronic scoring was not very persuasive.

Imagine how you would feel if you worked hard for an entire year and took an exam and then when you expected to see the results on the report card, but instead you saw a blank spot where the Regents grade should be.

Students were allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony even though some kids still did not know if they had passed Regents exams to qualify for graduation.

I won't hold my breath waiting for people to be held accountable for the grading delays unless they can figure out a way to blame it on the teachers.

Another school year is behind us and it is one that I won't soon forget. With the new evaluation coming next year, I know I will need a good rest this summer.

Have a great summer everyone!


Anonymous said...

The graduation was so wonderful and special and inspiring - and so sad at the same time.

I noticed that... said...

Thank you James for keeping the teachers informed with your blogging.

Enjoy your summer, too!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations kids. It isn't your fault you are in this crazy system.

Jamaican High? said...

Boy you sure pissed off a lot of Glen Oaks residents. Jamaica, the "highest" point? Give me a break.

Kymberley Walcott said...

It was truly an honor being a student at Jamaica High School. The BOE has a false perception what the school is. I couldn't have chose a better school!

James Eterno said...

Jamaican High- I defer to your knowledge on altitude. The roof of Jamaica being a high point in Queens was something that was just accepted and thrown around for years. From the roof, you can clearly see Manhattan and a whole lot more. I changed the post.

Congratulations to Kym and all the other graduates. What a great class we had that graduated on Wednesday.

Anonymous said...

jamaica high is great and this school should be kept in good standing.

Anonymous said...

i am proud of jamaica high because of the simple fact that the students there are proud of it like the graduants and many more.the valedictory student was quite amazing in his speech and came straight to the point for those honorable guests just keep the good work up and follow his lead and soon bloomburg will have no say in closing or modifying your school like its a pack of cards.