Miami Northwestern Students Get Shaft From Education Bureaucrats

Eric Smith.jpg
Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith says no to Miami Northwestern.
An assistant principal's mistake led Miami Northwestern High to get graded a D instead of a C last year. But the state's education commissioner won't grant Miami-Dade Public Schools' request to give Northwestern the higher grade. As a result, the students at the storied African-American school are being punished for the errors of the adults supervising their performance, says Northwestern alumni association President Larry Williams.

"Because of the administration's failure, the kids lost out," Williams says. "It seems the state wants to keep Northwestern down."

The screw-up at the school occurred this past October 22, the final deadline Miami Northwestern administrators had to submit student grade data to the state. Williams and five members of the alumni association board said an assistant principal forgot to transmit grades for 80 students who took courses at Miami-Dade College as part of a program that allows students to use the credits toward both their high school diplomas and college degrees.

Principal Charles Hankerson is also to blame, William adds. "As the principal, he is ultimately responsible," the alumni president says. "The buck stops with him." Hankerson, who is not returning to Northwestern next year, did not respond to two requests for comment left with a secretary.

Known as a tough disciplinarian, Hankerson was named principal of Northwestern by former Schools Superintendent Rudy Crew to turnaround the under-performing school in the wake of a scandal involving a star football player having sex with an underage female student. This past November, Hankerson clashed with alumni when he briefly fired football head coach Billy Rolle. Hankerson reinstated Rolle three days later.

Through a schools spokesman, Assistant Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says a Northwestern administrator was reprimanded, but declined to name the individual. "The fact that the school submitted the data incorrectly is inexcusable, and disciplinary action has been taken," Vitti says. "School administration has taken ownership of the mistake and feels horrible."

However, Vitti says the onus falls on the Department of Education for denying the district's appeal. "An appeal process is designed to consider mitigating factors," Vitti says. "This situation clearly falls under that category. Points earned by students should be celebrated, not ignored, even when adults make mistakes."

In this regard, alumni members agree. This past March 7, Williams wrote to Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith, pleading with him to reconsider Northwestern's appeal. "The community is outraged not only with the flawed grading system," Williams wrote. "But also with the perception of an education department that has seemed to dismiss the diligence and fortitude of our children."

Williams asked Smith to come down to Miami Northwestern to explain why the students should be denied their C grade. The education commissioner declined this past March 18 via letter. "Regretablly, I am unable to meet the Miami Northwestern Alumni Association in the near future because of previous engagements and the current legislative session," Smith wrote.

He added that he would not change Northwestern's grade because then the education department "must be prepared to reopen the process for other schools" and would "create conditions that might compromise the integrity of the data."

For Marquez Diaz, Smith's decision sucks. The 18-year-old Clark Atlanta University freshman was Northwestern's senior class president and took one of the college courses last year. "I don't feel it is fair," he says. "We pushed ourselves extra hard because they told us our scores would count. It disappoints me to know they won't."

Eric Smith

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10 comments
WRJ@1973
WRJ@1973

Bottom line, What do the Florida Department of Education really care about! If Florida Department of Education feel this strong about the state grading system, they would have some type of training in place for administrators submitting student grade data to the state. Based on the circumstances surrounding the miscalculations of MNW test scores, a school's true grade would be the most important thing to consider. But I guess if they didn't care about you in the first place, what did you think they was going to do.

Cigar1972
Cigar1972

AFTER SPEAKING TO MANY OF ALUMNI OF NW, THIS DENIAL TO SPEAK TO NW, BY THE EDUCATION COMMISSIONER, SEEM TO BE ANOTHER ATTEMPT TO CHANGE/CLOSE NW AS WE KNOW IT TODAY. IT TIME AGAIN TO VOICE OUR THOUGHTS. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. THESE STUDENTS HAVE DONE THEIR PART TO INCREASE THE SCORES, NOW IT'S TIME FOR THE commissioner TO DO HIS. MR. commissioner GET OFF YOUR DUFF, AND DO YOURS, IT'S ONLY RIGHT. LET THESE STUDENTS KNOW THERE IS A REWARD IN HARD WORK, PLEASE DON'T SEND THE WRONG MESSAGE.

Matthew Earl
Matthew Earl

Do I smell a protest in the capital? Take it to the streets and let these crackas' know you're upset about the errors.

Cigar1972
Cigar1972

WHY DO THE STUDENTS AT MW ALWAYS HAVE THE STRIKES AGAINST THEM, AT NO FAULT OF THEMSELVES. WE'VE ALWAYS CARRIED THE CROSS, WE'VE ALWAYS HAD THE VALLEY OF DISCOURAGEMENT, AGAIN, NO FAULTS OF THEMSELVES. LET IT BE KNOWN, THE STUDENTS AT NW, HAS GROWN TO UNDERSTAND THE TERM LIFES STEPPING STONES, I'VE UNDERSTOOD AS A BULL FROM 1972 AND ALSO THESE BULLS OF 2011 UNDERSTANDS.AS FOR AN EDUCATOR, NOT TO HAVE TIME TO TAKE ONE DAY OFF THE GOLF COURSE, TO ATTEND TO THESE PETITIONS BY THE STUDENTS, THIS ADMINISTRATION, AND THIS ALUMNI, MAKE ME WONDER, WHY DOES HE HAVE A PURPOSE. IT'S SINGLE MINDED TO DENY A DISCUSS OF MUCH IMPORTANCE.

MNW Grad
MNW Grad

Will the A.P. be there next year, and what penalty did he suffer?

Mrsnatashawade
Mrsnatashawade

this is so sad, as a parent of Miss Northwestern 2009-2010, I know for a fact how hard those kids was working to try to change the outlook of Miami Northwestern. Someone needs to look to see if a change has ever been do before, and if so they would have to do the same for our kids.

smartmom
smartmom

So insteas of righting the wrong the DOE chooses to perpetuate an injustice to an already downtrodded and discouraged group of students? What sense does that make? No time to meet? What are you scared of a group of educateducated black people?

Zhenglish29
Zhenglish29

Finally (48 hours) time limit to buy.

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smartmom
smartmom

Typed while driving. Sorry but you get the idea. This is ridiculous. Enough with the slave mentalities of the beauracracy. Get over it and give these kids what they worked hard to earn.

TextingKills
TextingKills

Why the bloody hell are you typing while driving? Get off your god damn phone before you kill one of these kids, you idiot.

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