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Neema Avashia learned that her middle school in Boston was going to close. She decided that she would stand and fight. She did. She is a true patriot. She made a difference. She defeated the powerful. She is a hero of the Resistance. She joins the honor roll of this blog.
My gloves came off the day representatives of my school district told us they would be closing our school. Our students would be sent to a turnaround high school that had never taught middle school students. Recently arrived immigrant students in language-specific programs, which the high school did not offer, would be dispersed across the city. As for our staff, the representative from Human Capital glibly told us, “We have no plan for you.”
What does it mean when the school system that you’ve poured your heart into doesn’t have the decency to consider a thoughtful transition plan before making the decision to close your school?
It means they never saw you as human in the first place.
It means that your job, then, is to make it impossible for them to look away from your humanity.
I went home from work that afternoon and opened a Twitter account. Opponents of other district proposals had successfully used Twitter to shame city leadership into changing course.
“I am a @McCormackMiddle teacher,” my first tweet read. “Today the district announced they will be closing my school, and I am left full of questions.”
Once I began, there was no stopping. I knew that if the McCormack closed, I would not be a teacher anymore. That the work it took to build these relationships, and this community, was not something I could take up a second time under the scepter of further closures.
On Twitter, I relentlessly poked holes in the plan: BuildBPS was founded on the premise of renovating pre-WWII buildings, yet our building was constructed in 1968. Multiple schools have failing heat systems and leaking roofs, but our building had received a new boiler, windows and roof within the last ten years. BuildBPS purported to prioritize the most vulnerable students, yet disrupted the education of our English Language Learners.
My recklessness knew no bounds. I went before the Boston School Committee and announced, “I’m here to give you a history lesson,” then reminded them that our students had merged with a turnaround previously — the elementary school next door — and that doing so had placed the elementary school under even higher scrutiny from the state.
Read her story. Hers is the kind of dedication that the corporate reformers and Disrupters can’t buy. She is a champion of children, not a billionaire’s lackey. She carries within her the spark of revolution that inspired patriots in the 18th century. She is a patriot for our times, uncowed by money and power.