A new name for D.C.’s Wilson High? How about honoring one very brave educator. - EntornoInteligente

Entornointeligente.com / By Jay Mathews Jay Mathews Education writer and columnist Email Bio Columnist March 30 at 10:00 AM I take no stand in the debate over removing President Woodrow Wilson’s name from an excellent public high school in Northwest Washington. Wilson was a segregationist who stymied racial progress for decades. But putting another name on that school is not my call. I simply want to propose an appropriate substitute if the mayor and D.C. Council decide to make a change. The honor should go to one of the bravest, toughest and most inspiring individuals to run D.C. Public Schools: Vincent E. Reed. Reed was the first black principal of Wilson at a time when it served mostly white students. He fought his whole life against the poisonous yet widespread notion that impoverished students, particularly black children whose parents had not gone to college, could not handle challenging lessons. That wrongheaded assumption was severely weakened in the Washington area by Reed’s fervent attacks on it. He recruited an army of talented educators to help fight that battle. “He was a mentor to generations of D.C. teachers, principals and anyone with whom he came in contact. He was a role model par excellence,” said Frazier O’Leary, a recently retired Advanced Placement English teacher at Cardozo High School. O’Leary is a national figure in the movement to give urban high school students more demanding classes. Another educator influenced by Reed is Mike Durso, a successful principal in Maryland, Virginia and the District. He was one of Reed’s “many disciples,” Durso said. “We felt if he could not walk on water, it would be awfully close. He had such personal style and charisma. It was very difficult not to like and follow him.” Reed’s most publicized accomplishment was the creation of the Benjamin Banneker Academic High School. When the D.C. school board blocked his idea for a school to attract the city’s most academically ambitious teenagers, he quit in protest, producing a startling result. Superintendents are usually advised to keep their school boards as happy as possible so they won’t get fired. But Reed, who almost quit school at age 14 to become a boxer, was not the sort of person to back down. The 14th of 17 children raised in St. Louis, he became a Golden Gloves boxing champion, an all-American football tackle and an army officer in Korea. Reed’s friend Donald E. Graham, former publisher of The Washington Post, thought the school board would never appoint Reed superintendent, despite his legion of disciples. He was too tough. But after a series of embarrassing school system mishaps, Reed got the job, holding it from 1975 to 1980. He made sure teachers were paid and books were delivered on time. He raised expectations for hiring. Commemorating Reed’s death in 2017, Graham said, “Vince told me that one of his predecessors had hired teachers without giving them a test of any kind, more or less on a first-come, first-served basis.” Reed emphasized reading, writing and math. He said test scores were important, a topic many school superintendents tried to avoid. For three years, the scores rose. Some school board members didn’t like the praise their superintendent was receiving. They repeatedly turned down his plan for Banneker to be a selective public high school like Stuyvesant in New York or Latin in Boston. They said his idea was elitist and would cater to whites. When Reed resigned in protest, the outcry was so great that the board gave in. Banneker was born. Reed became an assistant U.S. education secretary. Then, for 15 years, he was The Post’s vice president for communications, looking for ways to accelerate learning across the region. Banneker today has mostly low-income students. Its ethic makeup is 74 percent black, 20 percent Hispanic, 3 percent Asian and 1 percent white. Strong teachers and motivated students have fulfilled Reed’s hopes. Banneker is in the top 2 percent of all U.S. high schools measured by participation in college-level Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses and tests. Reed’s disciples inspire younger educators as he once did. Durso and O’Leary have even gotten themselves elected to school boards. People like that will celebrate naming a high school after the great man they knew. It would also be an important endorsement of giving all children the time, encouragement and challenge they need to learn. Read more: Local newsletters: Local headlines (8 a.m.) | Afternoon Buzz (4 p.m.) Like PostLocal on Facebook | Follow @postlocal on Twitter | Latest local news LINK ORIGINAL: Washington Post

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