FOR THE PEOPLE
Charles A. Archer is the CEO & Founder of the THRIVE Network which provides programs and services to over 14,000 individuals and 2,700 families in the 5 boroughs on New York and cities in New Jersey. The programs include community outreach, child education and cognitive learning for developmental disabilities. THRIVE also provides full time residential programs, behavioral health services and support for senior citizens and the homeless. One of the topics that will be discussed during Black History month is the “Crisis in Black Education.” Industry Rules spoke with Mr. Archer to get his views on the subject and the biggest issues that face the New York City Board of Education.
AR: What are the biggest issue facing minority students in New York?
CA: The desire, the drive and the passion to be motivated to educate themselves. What I would love to see in my nephew’s and other children is an undeniable passion to want to be better. The undeniable passion that they believe that if they educate themselves the opportunity will present itself and that their life will be better.
AR: Has the Board of Education done enough to support minority students?
CA: One, they can do more. Two, they can hold teachers accountable. There aren’t reasons why we know that children are not learning or books are not there or opportunities are not presenting themselves or that grades are not being considered appropriately. I believe that teachers can be held to a different standard of accountability. I would love to see within the Board of Education system a little more parental involvement especially around children with disabilities and learning disabilities.
AR: 85% of students are minority yet only %40 of teachers is minority. Does it have an impact on how children are learning?
CA: I don’t want to believe that it has an impact. I don’t want to believe another race cannot educate African American kids. I do believe people who look like them inspire children. Teachers can inspire children whether it’s 40% or 60% and there are other role models within the communities. I just want children to be educated. If it means a Latino or someone from a Asian background, if they’re doing a good job, let them do a good job.
AR: Overcrowded classrooms continue to be a problem. What can be done to resolve that issue?
CA: In New York City and New York State there is always a push for new hot structures, always a push around tourism, but I don’t ever see enough around education, around health or other social programming for New Yorkers. Our governor just put a significant amount of money into refurbishing or revamping or restructuring the airports of New York City. I totally agree there is a need for it. There should have been an equally amount of money for our education system that is desperately needing it.
You cannot shrink a classroom unless there’s funding in the classroom to do that. If there is funding, I believe these things could be appropriately addressed.
AR: There is a big population of Special Education students in the New York City school system. Are they getting adequate attention?
CA: By your question alone, it means we know they are not. We know these things, but what can we do to influence those in order to get something done. A child with a learning disability should have significant amount of time to finish a test. They should, if needed, be able to take a test orally. Those things are not occurring. It’s difficult when parents who are not accustomed to dealing with the system are faced with a system that doesn’t necessary value that they are or the importance of who they’re children are. Parents go into a meeting and are pretty much given a plan of action without any debate or deliberation.
AR: Is NY State using funding for charter schools that can be used to improve public schools?
CA: When a child is in a neighborhood and there was a voucher program where families were able to take a education voucher and go to a charter school and get their child educated, if this level of funding could go to a public school and now goes to another school, then, yes. It is a diversion of resources. The state is in a position to support education better. When there are millions of dollars that goes into airports that aren’t needed and I don’t want to dispute the need for infrastructure changes, but it doesn’t seem to be as important as educating underprivileged children.
AR: The political football is constantly being passed back and forth between the Mayor and Governor. Why can’t they get on the same page to improve the issues that impact the largest school system in the country?
CA: It is something that our assemblyman and senators need to push. Our city council and local leaders need to push. The school boards need to push. They are the ones in the position to tell these influencers that this is what should be done. I wish I had that answer. I don’t see the reason why the importance of educating children isn’t more important than what is at stake. It’s much more than lip service. Everyone says education is important. At the same time, there has to be some sort of action. There doesn’t seem to be unity around this issue. Not from teachers, not from parents, but from elected officials who are in the position to make that happen.
AR: Finally, what do you want to see happen in the next couple years that can lead to the increase of minority students that graduate?
CA: I would like to see a connection between student advocacy, parental advocacy, teacher advocacy and elected official advocacy around education. I would love to see children with disabilities get the attention that they need in the school system. I would love to see black and brown children not receive a classification of learning disable because they’re energetic. There has to be a understanding that education has changed. I envision that there is a chancellor that gets it. That there’s a teacher’s union that says if you’re a bad teacher and your not living up to the standard we put out there, we can’t support you. We should be supporting children first and then teachers second.
Image with Tim Tebow: (Photo by Bobby Bank/Getty Images)