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Support comes from better help online counseling, better help offers licensed counselors who specialize in issues including depression, stress and self-esteem, you can connect privately with a counselor through text chat, phone or video calls for a special offer visit. Better help dotcom parents. Nice white parents is brought to you by several productions, a New York Times company. I asked 293 opened in 1968, Rene Flowers was part of the first generation of students to walk in the door, and you're talking about the building on Wall Street.

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I went to school there. It was nice and it was brand new. You know, it was nice. Were you nervous about going? Because all your friends, your your friends from the neighborhood was there.

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The Gowanus neighborhood where Rene grew up and still lives the housing projects three blocks away from the school, Rene went to Iesu, 93, graduated, and she kept going back to the building to play handball, to vote, to attend graduations. Renee coaches the neighborhood drill team and they'd perform at the school for years. She'd regularly go watch the basketball tournament. Renee is in her 60s. She just retired from the post office. The school has been a fixture for most of her life.

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She knows every part of the building. Actually, if you're going on the Baltic street entrance, the school safely sitting there when you walk actually into the building, the auditorium is right to your right. As we're talking, she closes her eyes.

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She can see it walk up a little more to her left and another left.

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The gym is right there exactly where everything is.

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Renee has a. She'll take the yearbooks out for go on us old Timers Day every August. Rene's black, she's never wondered why is 293 is located on Court Street, why they all had to walk to the edge of the white neighborhood to get to school. She never heard about the battle over where the building would be located or the white parents who wanted a fringe school. Renee just knew the school was theirs. Imani Gale Gillison told me the same thing to 93 was ours.

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Why folks were going to 229 or somewhere else. I don't know where they went, really, but they weren't even at 293, so we didn't even see them.

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Imani was very eager to talk about two ninety three, which I found charming because she didn't even go there. She says she was one of the only go on as kids whose parents sent her to Catholic school and she's never forgotten it.

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She was so jealous of her brothers, all her friends at Ista 93 they called it is or Nathan Hale Junior High School. The kids would all walk home together in a big group.

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Anybody remembers seeing them in their green. Nathan Hale sweater's hearing them saying that Nathan Hale school song, there was a pride in their school.

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You know, they would like sometimes be singing it on the way home and stuff.

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Really? Yeah. 10 year old boys. Yeah, like really.

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Like, you know, very like that was their anthem, you know, in the Continental Army was a soldier of renown. Nathan Hale, his name was known to. He was captured by the British in a long, long England town, so he died for his own country, so he died for his own country to keep his from serial productions.

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I'm Chana Joffe. Walt, this is nice white parents. We're telling the story of one public school building to see if it's possible to create a school that is equal and integrated this episode. What if we drop the integrated part? I was talking to an academic recently, a sociologist and writer who studies education, a black woman named Evildoing, I was telling her what I was working on and at some point in the conversation, she asked me, why are you so obsessed with integration?

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It through me, I guess I'm obsessed with integration because it feels like an obvious goal, it's the best way to equalize schools empirically in terms of test scores and outcomes. But also, segregation is antithetical to the American promise, life, liberty is anathema to all of that. It's cast.

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But after seeing what happened at S.A.S. Theater, the new white families came in and after learning about how the school was founded on a false ideal of integration, how unreliable white families were, how they paid no attention to the actual voices and needs of families of color, I don't know why expend energy chasing white people who don't actually want to participate or don't even show up.

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Maybe it's better to set aside integration entirely and focus instead on the kids who do show up four decades after it opened.

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I asked you 93 was largely a segregated school. There weren't any white parents pushing their wisby ideas of integration. The school was pretty much left alone.

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I'd seen what happens when nice white parents came inside the building. Was it better when they stayed out?

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To start, I should say, that I asked United through is not an experiment in black self governance. There were schools like that opening all over the country schools founded on the premise that you didn't need white families to get a good education. Integration was not the answer. These schools focused on black power. They developed Afrocentric curricula and insisted on people of color in leadership positions.

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I asked you 93 was not that it was a pretty average 1970s public school. The principal was white. The teachers were almost all white. The local community school board also white.

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The kids were black and brown. There were always some way kids at 293, but they were small minority. I wanted to know was is 293 a good school back then, there wasn't much in the official record, some math and reading scores that weren't great. But aside from that, there was curiously little written about the school.

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Most schools show up here and there in the archive or in news reports, not to ninety three, which could mean everything was going just fine, or it could mean the school was falling apart. I found names of some is 293 alumni and Rene's yearbooks. Was it a good school?

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I don't really think I was one of the first ones to leave town.

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You were one of the first girls to wear pants? Yeah, there underneath a skirt.

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The pants have nothing to do with how the school was. It's just what she remembers of this time in her life.

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She wanted to wear pants. I had a lot of conversations like this.

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People had fond memories of I was 293 people had sad memories, but mostly they had very specific memories. Jomaa branch.

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And she is like the desk of Old Superstar. Back then I just thought he was the cutest they ever.

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I heard about the song that was on repeat the summer before seventh grade, the lighting in the basement, Mr. Barrenger, the scary Dean whom everyone called Big Head Barrenger when I asked two ninety three graduate, told me what she remembered was a teacher who used her long nails to eat pumpkin seeds in class.

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I met Sheila Saunders at a barbecue by the Gowanus Houses.

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She went to two ninety three. So did all of her siblings.

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Friends, nearly everyone else at this barbecue was it was two ninety three you could go to ninety three with. I would say it was good because I had nothing to compare it to. That was the local school that we had to go to. So what do we use to treat it was is two ninety three a good school during this period of time.

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The more I asked it, I recognize what a modern day question that is. This is the way we talk about public schools now, good schools and bad schools. And I saw 93.

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There was no school choice. Every neighborhood was zoned to its designated middle school. Apart from the white families, most everyone from the community was there. Middle class, working class, poor kids, black kids, Hispanic, dorky, goofy, arty kids.

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Everyone went. I used to. Ninety three wasn't good or bad. It was just school.

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And then something happened at I to 93 when I was looking through the board of it archives. The year nineteen eighty four stood out. It's the year I used to three starts showing up in the records. That year, a few parents from the school began asking the District Superintendent for an investigation into the local community school board. One person writing on behalf of the two ninety three parent association suggests an investigation is critical because the board is planning in secret to harm the school.

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The board, this person says, is, quote, controlled by people who are out for the real estate interest and have little regard for minorities. Another parent writes they're unhappy with the local school board because it has, quote, ceased to act in the best interest of our children. I couldn't really understand from the archive exactly what these parents are talking about. The first person I thought to ask was Delores Hatton Smith. So many 293 alumni mentioned Miss Smith.

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Miss Smith worked at two ninety three longer than anyone else I talked to.

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Forty two years, everybody's name, by the way. Everybody say they said this. Smith was my teacher in the kids in the project say Miss Smith was everybody's teacher. I know them by name. I got to have their addresses.

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She grew up in the neighborhood. Her mom worked at the school. Our sister, her brother.

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I called their parents right from the class to our community. We would like one big family.

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Miss Smith told me everything was fine. And then in the eighties, they started messing with us, started messing with who they sent to our school.

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I don't I don't I can't say why. It's just that you noticed it. It was blatant. You could see it for yourself.

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Nobody had to tell you that.

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How could you see it? What what made it possible?

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The children they were putting in there were lower functioning children. They wanted the top the creme de la creme. You know, there wasn't those children anymore.

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There's a local news article from 1987 where the principal of 293 says the same thing.

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He accuses the district of, quote, skimming off the high achieving students from his school, specifically pushing white students. Miss Smith says they just started disappearing and they.

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They was offered, you know, behind the curtain other options that you could go to, the places that maybe some of the other children weren't afforded the chance to go, there would be options for white kids that seemed like they were happening, kind of like and I know they offered some of the children positions that they could take as opposed to coming to our building.

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I know the Asian kids were offered other things.

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They sort of encouraged them to go other places as opposed to coming out schools. And they're there behind closed doors and they never come out and just say it was.

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OK, so there was something happening behind closed doors and the local community school board was part of it, it took these claims to Norm Fruchter.

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He was on the local school board around this time, although I figured it was unlikely he'd say, why, yes, we did have a secret plot to steal 293 high achievers and white kids.

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And yet that is basically what he said.

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There was a lot of trepidation, particularly at the middle school level, as to whether white parents would stay.

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Norm says white parents had left his district in the 1970s. They'd left the public schools entirely or moved out of the city. Black families were also leaving in large numbers, but the school board was completely preoccupied by the white flight. Norm says board members saw a decline in white students as a serious threat. They equated the.

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With school quality, if you lost white students, your achievement levels would go down. Your schools would be less attractive places for teachers to come into because when they thought teachers, they thought white teachers and a whole bunch of spillover effects would happen with the graduation rates would look like their solution.

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A gifted program. The district started the program explicitly to maintain a white population.

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That was the explicit goal that was explicit because the unspoken assumption of the administration, our district in every district was that if you had a gifted program, it would attract white parents to get into gifted programs.

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You had to take a test. Gifted kids would be taught in separate classrooms. They opened gifted programs in select elementary schools and a new gifted program opened in a different middle school, a school called MS 51. This is part of what the people at EU 93 were seeing. Their strongest students were being siphoned off. White parents, even when they were not inside to 93, were beginning to change the school because what you were creating was a predominantly white truck within the schools.

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And they would their kids would get in line no matter what kind of testing you used. Parents who were committed to getting their kids in the gifted program could do it. White parents? Yeah, um, what about non white parents who are committed to getting their kids into the gift of what you had to also deal with?

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There's a fair amount of bias in the testing administration.

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Norm says there were kids of color who were clearly qualified but were not in the gifted program. And he says this was because the questions were biased and the people administering the tests were sometimes biased. He also says parents were hiring their own psychologists to test their children and paying for test prep. But also, there was another reason black and Latino kids were not in the gifted program.

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Other third, yes, I was an honor student.

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Nadine Jackson might have been one of those kids who would have qualified as gifted. She was a student at ASU 93, a black kid from the Gowanus projects.

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I was never absent math on a roll all the time. I was on the dean's list. I mean, I was that nerdy child. I've always wanted to be a professional. I've always wanted to be someone of importance.

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You've always wanted to be someone of importance. Always. Always.

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I wanted to be an actress or a teacher.

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Nadine was not kept out of the gifted program because of bias or lack of test prep. She simply had never heard of the program. She went to the school everyone else went to. She started seventh grade at EU 93 in 1993, and Nadine was eager to jump in, ready to be delivered to importance with hard work, which she put in. Nadine studied computer technology. She played first clarinet in the band. She played Whitney Houston. I have nothing on clarinet over and over.

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And her first year, the IS 293 band, went to perform at another middle school nearby, MS 51. The school with the gifted program. When Nadine arrived there, she walked right into an experience a. Amazed at just the way they operate was completely different. They had a huge orchestra there.

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We had a small one here and we were just amazed how they would just outshine us. I mean, they have better resources, they have better equipment, they have better instruments. Everything was top notch. And as it was more like second class came down, MS 51 and I asked 293, 93 were in the same school district.

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They were governed by the same local community school board, and they were a mile and a half away from each other. When I asked Nadine the same question, I'd asked previous graduates of Vias 293, what was the school like? She described the feeling of being trapped. She told me it was normal at 293 to have 42 kids in a class. She said teachers came and went frequently in the middle of the school year. She had six or seven social studies teachers and one year.

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I was skeptical about the numbers, but I looked into it and all of this seems entirely plausible for those years there was a recession. School budgets were decimated. In 1990, one New York City proposed two hundred and fifty million.

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School programs are being cut mid-year, class sizes ballooned, teachers were moved around a lot. White kids out of their zone, schools hiring separate teachers, administering special tests, running an entirely separate educational track at most 51, the gifted middle school, there were not 40 plus kids in a class.

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There were 30.

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The school was written up in a book from the 1990s called New York City's Best Public Middle Schools. It describes the school's leaders as masters at developing faculty, talent and enthusiasm, the MS 51 principal is quoted saying. When we started the gifted program, we got parents who were more involved, more inquisitive.

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He then goes on to say The gifted program shifted his whole educational approach. It made him recognize that children and early adolescents need close contact with nurturing adults. And he began to hire teachers who he saw as, quote, warm and comforting. I asked, you're 93 and MS. 51 were both public middle schools. But that day she visited MS 51. Nadine felt like this school. This is the school that's preparing kids to be someone of importance.

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The education system is better there. The way that the way the the way they talk is different. They were so smart. The children there, they were taking their regents at a very early stage.

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Regents are state tests kids normally take in high school.

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Then it's like, oh, my goodness.

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Later, students carried themselves was different, as if they knew something that we didn't know, like we didn't like. They had a secret that we didn't know of. And when were we going to find out?

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After Nadine's MS 51. She says it made her see her own school differently. I asked 293 to her. Looked like a school for chumps.

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This is where we all went. That's what we knew. That's what our parents knew.

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It really makes you wonder, do we even have a chance to try to figure out who you are? How do I fit into society? Where do I put myself? That was hard. It made me feel dumb in a sense. I didn't know anything. And then I. And only three parents fought back, but Norm Fruchter, the school board member, told me once the gifted programs were in place, they were there to stay. The board was serving a constituency of white parents who believed their kids deserved a program to serve their unique needs.

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And he says those parents wielded tremendous power.

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There were huge pitched fights in the school board meetings. Whenever we put a resolution on the agenda to change the gifted program, they could mobilize 500 people for a meeting so you could fill an elementary school auditorium with gifted program parents, or as well as we used to say, the district gifted parents, as if somehow that effectiveness got passed up toward them.

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Yeah, and they called themselves that as well. And one of the many things they argued was that it was important to maintain the white population and the gifted program in order to have some semblance of integration in the schools and that there were benefits that would flow from the gifted program to the rest of the school.

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Who argued that the parents. The gifted parents. Yeah, yeah.

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They argued that the gifted program designed to serve white families was actually an integration program, when in fact it was a separate track in the school that kept black and brown kids from resources, from special programs, which is what segregation was designed to do to separate.

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This was its latest adaptation and it wasn't the last. That's after the break. Support comes from better help online counseling, better help offers licensed counselors who specialize in issues including depression and anxiety, as well as relationships, trauma, anger and more, you can connect privately with a counselor through text chat, phone or video calls, and you'll get help on your own time, at your own pace and at an affordable rate for a special offer. Visit better help dotcom parents.

[00:22:37]

That's better help dotcom parents. Kevin Roo's, technology reporter, New York Times and emails, we are here today to tell people about rabbit hole. What is rabbit hole?

[00:22:50]

Rabbit Hole is an audio series about the Internet, not the bits and bytes and the technical details, but like, what is it doing?

[00:22:58]

We all know someone who sometimes when you see them going places or cooking things, we wonder like, did they just do that for the likes?

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Or like I have this experience a lot where, like, I go to YouTube to look at one video and then I kind of wake up in a dissociative fugue state four hours later and I'm like, what happened?

[00:23:20]

Just happened. Yeah, I think we all understand the Internet is doing something to us, but it's not exactly clear what and how. That's the question we try to answer. That's Rabbit Hole.

[00:23:32]

And if you would like to hear it on whatever app you're listening to this podcast right now, search rabbit hole.

[00:23:41]

Nineteen ninety four, about halfway through is to 90 degrees 60 year history, and here's where things stood to ninety did not have any white parents messing with things inside of the building. But white families in the district were drawing resources away from ice to 93 by creating specialty gifted programs in other schools. I asked 293 with separate and increasingly unequal. And that is when Judy Aaronson enters the scene, a woman who is not connected to is 293 but was about to be history is about to repeat itself.

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My daughter was in third or fourth grade and I felt that there was not a viable middle school for her.

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At the same time, Nadene, the nerdy honor roll student, was starting junior high school to 93. So Judy had a daughter who was finishing elementary school kids. Judy's daughter was zoned for MS 51.

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The school at the gifted program going. But Judy wasn't excited about that school.

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It was a big school, very traditional, not a very exciting curriculum. Fairly segregated because it had a segregated, gifted program that was mostly white and then the kids of color were in the mainstream at that time and we wanted something a little different. We wanted another option for our kids.

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Judy had been a special ed teacher in a public school. Then she left the classroom and started working at the teacher's union, the AFT leader. She became a school principal and a superintendent. So she'd spent a lot of time thinking about schools, what makes a school successful? And she'd begun to imagine what it would look like to build something better.

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I had this idea I was born in Hungary and then I lived in Vienna and I grew up in Montreal and I lived in Brooklyn for the last forty six years. And I've we've traveled a lot. My husband and I and I'm a firm believer that you learn so much about the world through other people to, you know, talking to them through a variety of cultures. So the idea behind the school was that kids would have exchanges.

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Judy got a group of parents together from a planning committee.

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They wanted something that a school that was diverse, that was child centered, that had a progressive, innovative curriculum, small student centered, you know, all the buzzwords, excellent teachers, not a large school where kids will learn a second language, not the way they learn it now, but a lot better where they would learn about different cultures, all those ideas.

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How much was diversity a part of it? I think it was very, very much a part of it. And I'm thinking of our planning committee, I don't think, but very diverse. Now, looking back on it, why did you guys want the school to be diverse?

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Like, why was that central to what you were doing?

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Well, we all stayed in the city for a reason. And we didn't want I mean, one of the reasons that we didn't like 51 is that segregation of the gifted kids being all white and the rest of the school being children of color. So we want a diverse and I wanted my kids to to really be accepting of everyone.

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The planning committee put together a 13 page proposal for a new school called the Brooklyn School for Global Citizenship, the local community school board approved it, although somewhere in the process they dropped the citizenship part, too controversial, and it became the Brooklyn School for Global Studies. OK, so why am I telling you about the School for Global Studies? Because this brand new school needed a building. The Community School Board surveyed its options and chose a spot. The School for Global Studies would be located in the basement of is 293.

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One day it was like you're going to get another school in your building. We were like, how is that possible? Where how? We only have three floors and is barely enough room for us.

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Nadine was in eighth grade when this happened September 1994 because she was not into this idea.

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You want to put a new school in and you have 43 kids in a classroom. Why? How would she make these classes a little bit smaller and give more teachers in before you put in a new school? I mean, I'm a big of a big advocate of let's fix the problem first before you want to add on to things.

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An article in The New York Times proclaimed A Miracle of a school opened its doors this fall in Brooklyn thanks to determined parents who created with the new principal called, quote, the Taj Mahal of education. Global cities had class sizes as small as 18 kids. The curriculum included trips to museums. The students went outdoors to learn measured chateaus for math. They dug in soil for science experiments. The students at two ninety three saw all of that as they went about their days at the not Taj Mahal of education.

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And they were pissed.

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You're in our lunchroom, your a.m. here in our schoolyard.

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And it was like, what did these people come from? Where did this come from? How is this even possible? This is our school. This is our neighborhood. How dare you?

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Whenever Nadeen or the other 293 kids walked by the global studies classes, they'd make sure to bang on the classroom doors and the 293 teachers and staff, school security officers, the custodian, the principal. They didn't welcome the New School for Global Studies either. I heard stories from this time about the staff, from global studies asking to put up student work in the hallways and being told by the long time 293 custodian, you can't. That's a fire hazard.

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Global cities wanted to use the auditorium for a performance. Sorry, it's occupied. And I heard this story from the global city's principal, a guy named Larry Abrams, who had been hired to lead what to him sounded like such an exciting new school. And then he showed up to work the first day.

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They're not the first day. The first week the two school cops came down.

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Put me in handcuffs. I said what, but they were joking they were going to arrest me because I was taking over space in the building and now I think about it.

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It's pretty funny.

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But we we we the school security came down and and we're like, you're the apartment.

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You're under arrest. This is like the first week of the school.

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Yeah, I forgot the first the second week. I mean, but obviously we weren't welcome in the place and it was going to be a battle.

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Remember how I said history repeats itself, oh, you're kidding, go to global studies. No, no, because it took forever.

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Judy Aronson did not end up sending her daughter to Global because by the time it opened, her daughter was already in middle school when her younger son was old enough for middle school. A couple of years later, she didn't send him either.

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So I sent him to a new small school in Sheepshead Bay. Oh, wow. And we sent him to a small school that was not the small school that you made? No, not the small school that I might know. So your kids didn't even get to go to the school that, you know, did know and it had a lot of rough don't ask.

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I am going to ask you about that. Oh, my God. The school ran into a lot of problems. There were too many challenges. The kids were difficult. The teachers were had issues. It did. None of us sent our kids there.

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This is not entirely true. I did speak with one parent from the planning committee who sent her son to global studies, although she said when they showed up in September, it looked to her like he was the only white boy in the school. She said he had a good experience there.

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Judy decided what was best for her kids was something else.

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In an effort to appease white parents, the school district had once again made a choice that sidelined 293 white parents had said jump. So the district jumped and now they were left trying to fill the School for Global Studies, a school that had no obvious constituency.

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Most of the parents who created it didn't send their kids, and the neighborhood kids already had a school is to 93.

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This meant to fill global cities. The district had to find kids who weren't happy at their schools or kids whose schools are unhappy with them, or they had to bank on families randomly applying to a school they'd never heard of.

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You know, it's one thing if a student says, I want to go to this school because this is what I'm passionate about. Mm hmm. OK, but that did not happen. So it became a place where they placed kids that were difficult. They were challenging. Very, very challenging. They were acting out when they showed. Yes, well, there they were in a school that wasn't designed for them.

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That's true. 100 percent true. That had this whole vision that had nothing to do with the kids who were there. Yeah.

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Yeah. Yep. Did you feel bad about that? Yes, I mean, yes, yes, I did that. You know, we had these great ideas and and not everything came to fruition. Yes. We opened up a school. But wasn't exactly everything we thought it would be. Within six or seven years, most of the original global studies staff had left, including the principal, within a decade. Nobody knew where the school was called global cities.

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In the first place, Global Cities became a regular segregated public school, which shared a building with another segregated public school. In my experience, schools are immune to long term memory. They get new principals, new names, a new generation of parents, and they're populated by children who have no reason to care about what came before. Clean slate every September. This, I believe, is also what makes it possible for us to keep repeating the same story.

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We constantly reset the clock and move forward when we look to diagnose the problems of our public schools. We look at what is in front of us right now. We look forward. Nobody looks backwards to history. And so the question is not how do we stop white families from hoarding all the resources? Instead, the question is what's going on with the black kids?

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This became the question driving the next era, at least to 93, the latest era of school reform, the mid 1990s, right up to today, a time when business people and American presidents and tech company billionaires committed themselves to solving the problem of failing public schools. Basically, it's everything you've heard about schools in the last two decades charter schools, No Child Left Behind and Accountability, the achievement gap, Race to the Top. These were data driven initiatives.

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They assess the educational landscape and identified schools that were failing, teachers who are not getting results, children who are not performing at ICE to three.

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This meant a flurry of new programs that came and went, sometimes in rapid succession. First, I asked 293, got a grant from RJR Nabisco to break itself up into small academies, smaller schools within the building that would focus on different specialties. A long time, 293 teacher Carmen Sanchez told me.

[00:36:18]

After that, everything just started changing. The staff turnover was dizzying.

[00:36:24]

All of a sudden, these people appear and they're going to be the directors, not principal directors of this math academy and academy in music, Macenta says.

[00:36:35]

One of them came in to run the place, and she opened her staff meeting by promising to fire everyone.

[00:36:41]

She lasted maybe nine months. She was gone. People just when I mean, it was amazing. There was just is this revolving door of of of principals or directors. And they just left.

[00:36:55]

They keep changing over what kind of school you're in a science program at school or you're in that this would all we you know, Miss Smith, Dolores had Smith was in her third decade working at the school when they started changing names. There were the Mathematics Academy, the Academy for Performing and Fine Arts, the School for Integrated Learning through the arts teachers left, new staff came in, new initiatives. They needed to be smaller, more specialized. They needed more science.

[00:37:25]

They needed a trade. They needed to be a six through 12 school, middle and high school. Miss Smith says this was confusing for the parents, especially the parents in her community, the Gowanus community, parents who went to to 93 and knew it as to 93.

[00:37:44]

Now, they were asking Miss Smith what happened to 93, the School for Integrated Learning Through the Arts. What's that mean?

[00:37:52]

Well, I'm not sending my child there. I don't want my child to go to a performing arts school. I want my job to go get academics. Well, we gave both, but they made it like we was a tap tap the school that is, that I don't want my kids to know, tap, dance and sing. I want my kids go where they can get an education. Well, they thought it wasn't easy in education because we are performing arts and our school.

[00:38:16]

So that was just a feature, one of the many features that we had when the parents didn't get it.

[00:38:22]

By this time, public school admissions allowed more choice about where parents sent their kids. So some of these local parents started choosing other schools to 93 was losing students, which meant they were losing money. A new principal came in and an assistant principal named Jeff Turko by that point to ninety three had been renamed the School for International Studies. But not even assistant principal at Utako knew why. Prospective parents would ask him, why should I send my kids here?

[00:38:53]

What does international mean?

[00:38:54]

So I remember just like having this horrible response would be like, oh yeah, our students come from all over the world. And that's that's really what it's about. It's about our diversity, which was kind of bull.

[00:39:07]

But, you know, like that's what I would sell because we saw like we we really spoke a lot about it in a curriculum and like and we didn't eventually I mean, did you have students from all over the world?

[00:39:17]

Right. I mean, you had students from maybe the Caribbean and from Yemen.

[00:39:20]

Yeah. Towards the end, I think we had more from Caribbean. So, you know, or if we had that one student, you know, like, yeah, they they're from all over the world.

[00:39:31]

You just make stuff out because, like, you're just trying to sell it.

[00:39:34]

By 2003, S.A.S. had low enrollment and terrible test scores. The state put it on a failing schools list, the dreaded socialist schools under registration review.

[00:39:46]

Being in a failing schools list made it harder to sell the school to prospective families, but it did mean S.A.S. got a chunk of money to turn things around. They bought new reading programs and academic intervention program. They doubled periods for reading and math.

[00:40:03]

During this time, the leadership was stable, less teacher turnover. The school was less chaotic. The test scores stabilized.

[00:40:12]

Jeff to Teruko says they were feeling good about where things were headed. Still, they had to compete for students. So we hired a marketing firm to help draw families in.

[00:40:23]

I remember meeting the guy a couple of times. He had some good ideas. I don't really remember what came out of that at dinner.

[00:40:29]

We hung up the signs outside the door, you know, just like try to have a different look. But those banners, I think that came out of it.

[00:40:38]

He says the marketing idea didn't attract any local families into the school. Instead, it attracted the attention of the New York Post, which found out the school was trying to market itself as it had been told to, and wrote a snarky article about it. The headline read Lousy Brooklyn Public School wants to hire a press agent to enhance appeal.

[00:41:00]

It goes on to say, quote, If they build a buzz, the kids will come. That's the thinking. And a mediocre Brooklyn public school with grandiose aspirations. The article ends with a list of suggested marketing slogans for the school. It's mean spirited and racist, having trouble with English.

[00:41:19]

So as we the School for International Studies, the best six years of your life, Jaguar Pride, where you can go from state champs to state pen, the Jaguars, we score baskets. We just can't count them. Jeff says everyone at the school read it, he distinctly remembers the feeling. It's horrible because you if you're publicly going to put us on a list, what do you think you're doing to that school? So now if we have to hire somebody to kind of like get us off of that, the perception of the schools are failing school.

[00:41:57]

And then to get this newspaper article, it's just it just deflates everything. You're just really sucks so that there's no other way to say it. You get that, like, pit feeling in your stomach and you just like what's going on or what's going to happen next. I think, like, everybody is always nervous about, like what happens next, you know, and then afterwards you just get super furious.

[00:42:23]

Here is what happened next. Hi. OK. You waited patiently. Oh my God, yes. Six years later, I'm standing in a sweaty school gym at a middle school fair for parents. It's 2017, two years after that gala thrown by the French embassy for S.A.S.. A couple dozen schools are here with information tables. The table for the School for International Studies is mobbed. There's a line of parents waiting to get a chance to talk with someone from the school.

[00:42:53]

A mother named Anissa is near the very back of school.

[00:42:57]

What have you heard about the international?

[00:42:59]

I heard it's a hot ticket and everybody wants to get in there after 40 years of being neglected, messed with by the school board, after losing students and losing money, losing the building, being blamed and publicly mocked, S.A.S. was suddenly the hot ticket, as if history had been wiped away. Parents asked the S.A.S. admissions director, can their kids get priority if they have good grades, extracurriculars? Does attendance count? They want to know if it helps their chances if they show up for a tour.

[00:43:33]

Yes, I open access, of course, tomorrow at three o'clock. They want to know, will you have enough space for all these people? Oh, I don't think I'm going to have enough space for next year. Only accepting one hundred and forty sixth graders.

[00:43:46]

Three years earlier, S.A.S. had thirty sixth graders. What changed? The admissions director is the same. Most of the staff is the same. The building is the same. The test scores are still pretty low. There's an IB program now and French. But the biggest change between the era of being ignored and punished and the era of being celebrated and oversubscribed is that white kids arrived. That's what's different.

[00:44:15]

Nine times as many white students I asked 293 was a mostly segregated school for decades, and still it was subject to the whims of white parents. Nice white parents shape public schools even in our absence, because public schools are maniacally loyal to white families. Even when that loyalty is rarely returned back to the public schools. Just the very idea of us, the threat of our displeasure warps the whole system. So separate is still not equal because the power sits with white parents no matter where we are in the system.

[00:44:55]

I think the only way you equalize schools is by recognizing this fact and trying wherever possible to suppress the power of white parents. Since no one's forcing us to give up power, we white parents are going to have to do it voluntarily, which, yeah, how's that going to happen?

[00:45:16]

That's next time on Nice White Parents.

[00:45:28]

Next appearance is produced by Julie Snyder and me with editing on this episode from Sarah Koenig and IRA Glass. Neil drumming as our managing editor Evildoing and Rachel Lissi are editorial consultants, fact checking and research by Ben Feiglin with additional research from Louis Sullivan. Archival research is by Rebecca Cain't Music Supervision and Mixing by St. Nelson with production help from a visit to Cornfeld. Our Director of operations for Southland. Julie Whitaker is our digital manager, finance management by Kasey Whouley and Production Management by Frances Swanson.

[00:46:02]

Original music for Naseby parents is by the Bad Plus with additional music written and performed by Matt McGinley. The music you're hearing right now is the Nathan Hale trilogy performed by the Nathan Hale Middle School 293 Concert Band. I benefited from the memories and expertise of so many people for this episode. Special thanks to Charles Jones, Liana Stiefel, Allison Rhoda Buju Agarwal, Clara Hemphill, Steven Schnaps, Michael Hrabal, Jeffrey Henig, Megan Pumpkin's Strange, Jeffrey Snyder, Don Makone, Mara Walts, Colleen Mingo, Neil Friedman, Jeff Tripp, Carl Rusnak, Lenny Garcia, Simbi Black, Arthur Bergen, Eddie Heather Lewis.

[00:46:43]

Terry before Kevin Davidson and Afroman. Nice way Parents is produced by Serial Productions, a New York Times company.