| Last December, The Capital City Hues featured a story about the Volunteer Mentor African American Man (VMAAM) class at West High School. The class had been created by Tenia Jenkins, who had run a similar class at Shabazz High School before she retired in June 2006. Jenkins and her student teacher Matthew Braun would present information about topics applicable to the young men's lives and then volunteer mentors who were present at the class would talk with the students and help them process the information. It was a program that targeted African American male students at West.
At the time, Jenkins said "We know of the suspension rates, the expulsion rates, and the lack of graduation," Jenkins said. "Mr. Holmes is really trying to reverse that trend and cause these young men to be uplifted and cause them to be really positive contributing members of the community by putting together this whole academic achievement project for them here at West High School." In essence, the class was attempting to assist young African American men to make the transition from the street to the classroom and understand that they would have to develop two sets of behavior: the behavior of the streets and the behavior expected in the classroom./Sometime last spring, VMAAM came under the scrutiny of Superintendent Art Rainwater for the possible violation of Section 118.13 of the Wisconsin statutes that states "no person may be denied admission to any public school, may be denied the benefits of, be denied participation in or be discriminated against in any curricular, extracurricular, public service, recreational, or other program or activity because of a person's sex, race, religion, national origin" or other protected classes." In essence, Rainwater wanted to know if VMAAM promoted reverse discrimination as it related to the enrollment of students in the class.
The law firm Julian & Associates was retained by MMSD to investigate whether or not there was a violation of Section 118.13 by VMAAM. West High School Principal Ed Holmes and Jenkins were interviewed by lawyers from Julian & Associates. Jenkins stated that she was interviewed by MMSD's lawyers for five hours at the offices of Madison Teachers, Inc. It appears that the students who took the class and others associated with the class and the school were also interviewed.
VMAAM was not offered at West High School for the fall 2007 semester. Rainwater received the final report from Julian & Associates on September 27, the same day Rainwater and MMSD Board Chair Arlene Silvera met with Jenkins, several of the mentors and supporters at S.S. Morris AME Church to explain why the district took the actions it had taken.
In portions of the report obtained by The Capital City Hues, Julian & Associates stated "The use of race as a factor in recruiting, recommending and selecting students for the VMAAM class violated the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution and the parallel provisions of the Wisconsin Constitution." The use of race in the process of recruiting, recommending, and selecting students for participation in the VMFAAM class or similar classes cannot continue."
When The Capital City Hues asked for the complete report, it was told that some of the report dealt with personnel-related items and could not be released. As of press time, The Capital City Hues is waiting for a more complete redacted report.
Next issue: The meeting at S.S. Morris Church and the Constitutional issues.
|African American Centered Pedagogy Curriculum Project
A question of race
By Jonathan Gramling
Part 1 of 2
|(Left) Tenia Jenkins and (R) MMSD Superintendent Art Rainwater at the SS Morris Church.|