We talk with Shirley Edwards about EBC High School for Public Service and the creation of an intentional educational community of students, teachers, parents, and East Brooklyn Congregations. Shirley Edwards was the founding principal. She came with a background as a teacher and a parent coordinator, and responded to parents’ desperation for a high school that would lead their children to success.
*Overview and transcript below.
04:57-07:07 Why and how EBC High School for Public Service was created; the role of East Brooklyn Congregations
07:08-10:38 EBC HS as an ethical community
10:39-22:09 Advisories, strategy teams, relationships with the community
22:10-25:09 Recruiting and retaining teachers; building staff-student relationships
25:10-27:51 Teacher retention
27:52-36:17 Parent engagement
36:18-40:52 Community engagement, role of the churches
Jon M: 00:04 Hi, I’m Jon Moscow.
Amy H-L: 00:21 And I’m Amy Halpern-Laff.
Jon M: 00:23 We’re the co-directors of Ethics In Education Network and this is our podcast, Ethical Schools.
Amy H-L: 00:29 And when we talk about ethical schools, we’re not just talking about a traditional school environment. We’re talking about any environment in which teaching and learning occurs. It could be out of school time activities or summer programs or any educational environment.
Jon M: 00:49 Absolutely. I think the teaching and learning is really the key. The environment comes from that. And I think what’s interesting is that last summer New York State, for example, issued some goals and guidelines for social emotional learning. And one of the things that they said in there was that one of the goals was for students to learn to make ethical decisions. And I think one of the things that has come from that, in terms of the work we’ve been doing, is trying to explore what does that mean in practice. What does it mean in a school or after-school environment?
Amy H-L: 01:27 Right. And I think our perspective would be that ethical decisions depend on how our decisions affect other people. So it comes down to relationships. We’re always talking about a we, and that’s very different from, say, traditional character education, which looks at ethics as comprised of fixed qualities or fixed character traits. We’re talking about something dynamic where the definition of ethical is something that has a positive impact on other humans and animals (other than human) and perhaps even the planet.
Jon M: 02:12 Yeah, and that’s, that’s very Deweyan. John Dewey’s whole point was that you figure out ethical behavior by observing the consequences of your actions, in his case he was saying on other people, but certainly you can, you can broaden that as well. And I think that it’s not an accident that New York State grounded the discussion of ethics in social emotional learning because, as you said, it’s all tied in with relationships, which are all about social, emotional relationships, social emotional interactions of people. And I think that we also end up looking at whether an ethical relationship is simply one between a couple of people or whether you’re also talking about ethical environments, you know, whether that is a school or an after-school program or a country or a world that, it’s all intertwined.
Amy H-L: 03:09 And whether those environments are conducive to positive relationships,
Jon M: 03:17 Right. Can you teach ethics if the school environment, let’s say, is unethical? And if you are in a situation where you have to try to do that, how do you do that? I mean, that’s certainly something that I know a lot of teachers who are trying very hard to do that and are feeling that the larger environment that they’re in is not supportive.
Amy H-L: 03:38 I think our guest for today was faced with some of those challenges.
Jon M: 03:42 Yeah. And I think she has a lot to say about it, about the challenges and about solutions. Shirley Edwards was the founding principal of EBC High School for Public Service in Bushwick. And EBC stands for East Brooklyn Congregations, which is an Industrial Areas Foundation, a community organization modeled on Saul Alinky’s work. And it teamed up with what was then the Board of Education in the early 1990s to create a high school. And Shirley was the founding principal and the principal from about 1994 to 2004. And before she became a principal, she was a teacher and she was the district parent coordinator in school District 13, also in Brooklyn. She was with the Board of Education and the Department of Education for 32 years. And since she retired, she’s remained active in education and in health advocacy. And in addition to her educational credentials and experience, her work has been strongly influenced by her experience as a practical nurse in Appalachia during the black lung epidemic. Welcome, Shirley.
Shirley E: 04:57 Hi, Jon. Hi, Amy. It’s so good to be here this morning. This is a great gift. I just want to start to say that before our school became into being, it started long before me and EBC High School, of which I became, the principal, was from the beginning a collaborative effort of three groups of East Brooklyn congregations, a group of churches based on community organizers, the communities of Bushwick and East New York in which EBC’s organization was active. So I want to make sure that’s clear. And what happened is that there were many different types of incidents that were happening and parents were not pleased with the fact that they felt that children were not getting the education that they needed. So there was one in East New York was for the East New York school and the other one was for Bushwick, but they were both housed in the same building in East New York. And before our school became [inaudible], the local schools had dismal records of educating students that they were supposed to serve. And by standard graduation rates, scores on Regents exams, you name it, the local high schools were doing a terrible job. And so when EBC started to operate in Bushwick and East New York, they did systematic interviews of the community members as what were the most critical unmet needs. Improving the school was at the top of the list, along with the affordable housing. So I hope, does that give you any idea about why it started?
Amy H-L: 06:29 Oh yeah, thank you. That really clarifies it.
Shirley E: 06:35 So they had begun and of course training the churches and, and interviewing people in the churches establishing their leaderships, building relationships. So you had asked, Jon, and I’m not quite sure were you ready to go to this, is that for when you start talking about ethical high school and [inaudible] figures out the distinctive needs of its own student population and works out the measures to address it. So I’m not sure.
Jon M: 07:08 I mean, it’s clear that you envisioned and the people who you were working with envisioned EBC High School as an ethical community. And I guess the question is what does that mean? What does it mean to talk about ethical high school? What does it look like?
Shirley E: 07:27 Well for them, I think what it looked like is really engaged in the community and really, really talking to parents. I met Bushwick parents and I was very impressed with the fact that they were a group of six parents who really stood their ground and particularly went into a relationship with EB High School to clearly decide as what they were having issues with, the elementary, middle schools in the area, like the high schools, were not functioning well enough to graduate kids with graduate grade level knowledge. And to address this, they made sure that the staff was organized where students were academically and institutional weak. So when you talk about ethical, I think, most of them is that they tried to make sure that they were in a position to, and they had a relationship with the union at that they had discussed and fought for very hard. Now you have to understand that in the process of them coming together with the school and the conversations that they were having all over East New York and Bushwick is that they were also promised that they were going to get a school. The school did not happen within seven years that I was there. They had marches, they confronted the mayor, they raised money, which meant that whatever money that they could raise to make sure that they had their pot of money that would, come together with the monies that were given by the Department of Education. So they had all types of relationships as well as that they were working with the Urban League as well as they were working with a number of other entities that were there to support them. Now they had the best relationship with the Mayor Koch and I think you remember him, but they wanted to make sure that they were in a position to not be hogtied by having to hire staff that they felt were not thinking in the beliefs held, the values that they wanted to be taught. And they also want to have competent teachers. And most of our students I think came from poor immigrant families, which were beset by multiple ongoing problems, which would cause both material and psychological problems for their children. And as much as people don’t think that parents understand that, they do understand when their children are not being educated. And of course that was one of the other issues. And from the beginning, EBC recognized that above the challenges that created attitudes that made it difficult for our students to concentrate on being in students. And so that was one of the things that they asked for specifically is that they wanted to deal with the things that they asked for. And when I was interviewed was what type of system could we put in place that would deal with the students’ emotional and their psychological needs, which sometimes were not being met, not just because of the language issue and also about the parents as well. So does the answer any of your questions?
Amy H-L: 10:39 Yeah, that really does. So I know that one of the innovations that you made at EBC was to kind of reconfigure the advisories. Could you tell us a little about that?
Shirley E: 10:52 Yeah. Well, my history with advisories came from having been a teacher at the street academies. When I was at the street academies, and I’m not sure whether you’re familiar with those, those were done by and organized by the Urban League and Dr. Tom Turner. One of the ways in which we worked with children who were suspended and were sent to our school is that we had advisories, we call them family groups, but of course as we went forward, but what we, what I decided to do is to bring that forward and in looking at that, I saw that the only way that I could address the needs is by making it part of what it is we do. Our school was just not a core group of classes and offerings. Advisory had to be some part of it and you know that we were school for public service and so part of that had to be integrated. So what we taught, I decided along with the staff and talking to EBC leaders, I decided that we would have teams and in on these instructional teams, everybody that taught that student would have an advisory, but they would also teach all the subjects. They would at least engage with those students at least twice to three times a day. I also thought that, the thing that they also had to do, was decide what level of parent engagement they were going to do. When I hired staff, I really went back to talk to the schools that they came from. I talked to people that had met with them. I knew them and I really wanted to know some sense of integrity. Oftentimes you have to know this one thing that we didn’t talk about, but I would say this to you: the vision was for and the objectives were done by EBC’s strategy team, so that meant that it came to us, so we had to decide what part of that I could incorporate, in our school.
Jon M: 12:44 What is, sorry to interrupt, what is the EBC strategy team?
Shirley E: 12:48 The strategy teams mean that each area for which the EBC is supporting, whether it’s crime, housing, schools, whatever the issues are, there is a strategy team that meets and really goes in and does the study. Now you have to understand is that EBC, one of the things that I don’t think people understand is that they did a lot of research on their strategy teams. Each person on the strategy team had an expertise. So therefore, when you talk about the schools that we had, uh, you know, those just didn’t come out of the air. I mean, we had to negotiate. So the point is that we have people that negotiate. So one of the things that was a strategy team and they were in place and of course along with the strategy team there was a community organizer that worked with the schools.
Jon M: 13:34 What you’re saying is this was very community-originated and then very solidly embedded in the community. And that there was a constant interplay between the strategy teams and you as the principal and the staff and the students.
Shirley E: 13:49 And so what you have to understand is that I had to, and I was grateful for whatever my history was and where I came from, that I understood that I was not a part of EBC, but I was in a church where they operated. So I had to decide how could I best use those resources that they had, which was their willingness to fight for what it is they thought we needed if we didn’t have it, they’re willing to be consistent with making sure that we had the proper facilities and the buildings, their willingness to confront any issues that would relate to an [inaudible]. And one of them was the union and having the fact that we were able to, in our schools, as we did the instructional teams, we, and we also had to factor in how we were going to do service learning and how we were going to get the kids to understand, particularly children who have often been given by the system, supports like welfare or even other things. So we had to on how could we help them, how could we do this so that they become the givers and they become understanding why they have to play a role in giving back and understand when there were problems in the community, what they had to do in order to survive.
Jon M: 15:06 And one of the ways you did that was through the advisories?
Shirley E: 15:09 We did it through the advisories. We did it through the community service because we had our classes, along with in our curriculum, we had community service for our ninth graders because they were coming into something very new. And so we started them with service learning, which means that they understand all the kinds of things about service and the kinds of things you do to give service, which is my reading to a kindergarten class for an hour. It might be picking up garbage, it might be serving at the soup kitchen. And then as we advanced, as they became more clear about what it was and we advanced to deciding on what other kinds of projects that we were going to do, which, and that was for our 9th and 10th graders. And the projects that we did with our 9th and 10th graders were projects that were in house, which means that they had to worry about, we concerned ourselves with the cafeteria, cleaning up, really, really very minor things that children would not normally think that they have to do, but often they contribute to because they oftentimes are the benefactors of the service. So that was one of the things. But as they advanced, the 11th and 12th graders, we began to, then they would go out on internships. So because we had this relationship with the union, we were able to cut our Wednesday day, half day. So that meant that 11th and 12th graders, along with the service learning instructor, would go out with them to do a service. And what we had to do is to build relationships with the communities that offer certain types of services. Sometimes we went to childcare facilities, sometimes we went to a medical service and sometimes we went to schools. We went different places, but they were all in the community. So the advisories, what we did is that the advisor was just not a class. So we met every day except Wednesday because Wednesday was community service day or service learning. And on those days that we met for advisory, as I said to you, Jon, I had the first year that I was there, I did a control group of having one of my teachers did advisory, separate the children, so that meant that the girls had a female teacher and the boys were with a male teacher. And we found that to be, we found that we had less distraction and we were able to kind of get a sense of having a curriculum that was more suited to what we wanted our young ladies to kind of understand and what we wanted our male students to understand as it relates to their education, not just relate to their maleness, but relate to themselves as being whole. So that became part of it. So after that, we decided to do, we separated the genders. And what we did is that the advisors played a major role because if there was an issue in the school, we would come together by instructional teams. So for an example, one day we had someone that took my battery out of the car and I was wondering about where was my battery. So we met with all the instructional teams, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grade at their lunch period. Because the advisory also played another role. 30 minutes we spent for advisory and 30 minutes we spent for lunch. So during the time that they were in lunch, if I had anything to say to them, I would come to the cafeteria. Well, I guess you to know that by the end of the day, my battery was back. So that was the most, that was funny. So it wasn’t anything. But what I did is that I went on the speaker and I thanked them for it. And they were really happy. They didn’t, they, you know, I think somebody did it but I wasn’t going to take the time to do it. But our advisory was the foundation of our school. It was the way to reach students. It was a way that sometimes our teachers would have telephone numbers that I didn’t have. Cause the blue card was very, very important for us because we needed to have at least three. And then we also need to identify because we also had a social worker, our social worker and our guidance. We had one guidance team when I first went there, one guidance person and she worked wonders. But the advisory was the hallmark of everything. So if there was any issue at all, it happened through the advisory.
Jon M: 19:22 And did the advisory stay, did the students stay with each other all the way through the four years? And I think you and the teachers, I think you had mentioned at one point to me that they, you switched teachers after after two years with the advisory?
Shirley E: 19:38 Well, what happened is our 9th and 10th grade advisors. Unless there was a problem, because socialization is a real issue in schools. Teachers sometimes get along with some students better than others. Some students, the chemistry is not good. So we would evaluate because on Wednesdays when the students did service and our students left for the day, the teachers would have lunch. And then we would go into a meeting. So every Wednesday it was dedicated to either department meeting, advisory meetings, any kind of meeting that we needed to have, community service meeting. And then we had a guidance meeting. So we had every Wednesday, so we would talk about the things that were issues and whatever. So the thing that you have to know is that whenever there was something going on in that building, whatever was going on, even as it relates to parents, we, that was our foundation for which we were able to systematically get people to come together.
Jon M: 20:36 So I had asked whether the advisors, whether the students stayed together.
Shirley E: 20:42 Yeah. I’m sorry I didn’t answer that. Thank you for bringing me back there. Uh, the advisories are 9th graders. I think what I was doing, I was telling you that there were times when we had advisory, some of the advisories we had to change some of the staff that were running the advisories. Facilitators, we called them facilitators. And what we would do is evaluate that at least every time that we gave report cards out. So the thing is is that the teachers that started with the 9th grade students stayed with the 9th grade students until they got into 10th grade. And this gave them an opportunity to get to know the students. If we needed to change a student, we never changed them to a male. We changed them to another female. And the student was a part of that process, which meant that we really wanted to find out what was going on and what was the problem. So once we did that, we didn’t just leave it that the student told us. Our dean would interview them. They’d kind of talk because it was important that we did not have students carrying any animosity. Because one of the things that we also realized in our school that the hallway and the lunch room is a whole other curriculum and we had to realize it that if kids don’t work out their problems, work out their issues, then they picked it up either in three places – in the hallway, in the lunch room, or after school.
Amy H-L: 22:10 Shirley, it sounds to me as though teaching and facilitating at EBC was an entirely different experience for teachers than teaching in any other schools they may have worked in. So how did you find teachers who were, who shared that vision or did they pick it up once they became, once they joined your faculty?
Shirley E: 22:37 No. Well, you see, this is what happened. I never had to, Amy, I never, during the time that I was in the school, I never had to recruit for students even though we did recruit.
Jon M: 22:49 For students or for staff?
Shirley E: 22:51 For students or staff. And when I say that, I’m saying to you by word of mouth, once people realize that we had a school that they, they heard a lot about the school because you have to understand is that most of the teachers that I had came in off the street and some of them came from the Catholic churches. They were working there. They wanted a different experience. They heard about the school by way of advertisement through the churches, so we didn’t have to worry about that. Some of the students came to us because some of the teachers who came from the Catholic churches for which many of our students came from, heard about the staff that was teaching there and they heard about this new thing. So we would all, and when we did the interview, I never, you had to be able to understand that this was something that you are going to do, but you were going to get support. So we never had anybody that came to us that didn’t want to do advisory, but we did have people who needed support and that was something. So they got support, but what you have to understand is this. The instructional teams, when they met on Wednesday, they discussed what they were doing. So for an example, for our 9th graders, we might be talking about service learning projects. They worked together as a team and they kind of talked to each other. So building relationships was really important to us because what we did is, we also did something else. We took the children away and the staff went with them. So at the beginning in October, our 9th and 10th graders would go to Club Getaway and spend two days with their teachers and do all kinds of what we call modifying behavior, all types of activities. And then the 11th and 12th graders would start on their college tour. So two days out of the year we would take them away and then bring them back. And we would see that the people that we taught, they were students, but sometimes when they were out and about and looking for leaves and deciding on how to make apple cider and how to do things with nature, they were totally different people and we saw a lot of their talents, so it also helped the teachers to embrace them differently and also the staff and the children worked together.
Amy H-L: 25:10 Tell me, did you have the same problems with teacher retention that other schools have had in the last couple of decades?
Shirley E: 25:18 For up until about maybe eight years, I didn’t have a problem because most of the teachers, as I said to you, once at school, you have to understand this is that most of the Catholic churches which had schools and I think you remember they had more schools at that particular time, church schools. They decided that their children, that they didn’t want to pay to send their children to high school. So most of the children came from the Catholic churches. Maybe we might’ve had maybe, maybe 25% of the other children coming from regular school districts. And so we also did a great program on articulation. So we went into the schools, we told them what we were going to do and so we had the support of all the guidance counselors in District 32. So you know, the thing that was so interesting that I realize now is that, I don’t know where some of the things that I thought I came from, but I know that my staff bought into them and they were happy to do them. It was new for them. They also, they cared about their students and they built great relationships with the parents and it was something amazing. Now what you have to understand is that over a period of time I could not continue to facilitate my facilitators for the advisory. So what I did is that I hired an advisory coach and that advisory coach would sit with each advisory team, instructional team, and we’d talk about the students and what they needed and whatever. But also, my social worker, who was [inaudible] was able to go and get from the colleges, Hunter College, Fordham, they were able to get other social workers to come and do their internship with us.
Jon M: 27:04 You mentioned that you said for about eight years it wasn’t an issue. What happened after the eight years?
Shirley E: 27:11 After the eight years, there were some changes that came about in terms of lists and different ways of structuring oversight from the superintendent’s office. And there were people who, you know, we had that literacy program, where it was instituted that children had to read and there were so many books they had to read and it was a 90-minute class, particularly for the 9th graders, that 90-minute period class. And some of the teachers just had some problems really being able to, that curriculum was not easy for some of them, so some of them have left. And then you also need to know when the teachers left, most of them were young teachers, they wanted to do something different.
Jon M: 27:52 So one question is, you’ve mentioned obviously the role of parents, at the beginning when we started talking, a lot of high schools obviously don’t have much parent involvement or parent engagement. Why should a high school involve or engage parents and how were you able to do that?
Shirley E: 28:10 That was interesting. Well, you know, I was the parent coordinator for District 13, which I had about 32 schools under me with the support of the family assistants. Oh, I learned a lot about parents. And I also took extensive, during the summer, I would go to California and do studies with people who were dealing with parenting as relates to the different cultures. So it gave me some, I’ve always had this, and then I was a parent. I didn’t understand parenting until I became one. And so thing that happened is, is that I realized that they were left out of the puzzle. They were called in, you know, like you bring your child to school, you register your child and you come to the PTA and you might come to the open school week. So what we kind of decided to do was to kind of make parents another integral part of our school. So there was the administrative staff, there were the aides there, they were the parents and the parents were the people who we were serving. We were serving those families and that’s what we understood. So we wanted to make sure that we provided a school that showed that we respected their children, we respected them. And so we started from the very beginning, because what we decided to do, we were able to get some monies and we had our bridge programs. So any child that was coming to our school started with us in April. So that meant they came on Saturday and we would interview the parent. We’d kind of get a sense of what’s going on in their family. And then that summer they would come back to us for the four week program. From that time, we decided also that parents had to be a part, so they had to pick up report cards. That was, and the only reason why they didn’t pick up report card is that they were out of the country because you also know that a lot of our families really go back to Puerto Rico. They go to their home country. So we also had to take that into consideration. So we just felt like that there was no reason. So we felt that every contact with the parent was a contact and we listed it. So you understand. So if a parent came up for a face to face letter, we, we took that opportunity to talk to the parent and let the parent know. And we always, what I would tell my guidance, take out their progress sheet so that the parents can see what’s happening. So the other, that was one thing. The other thing is that we also realize that every child did not have an active parent in their life. So after a while, over three years, we realized that there was some parents. And what we did is that we had 100%. I must tell you, I was amazed. We even made home visits. We made telephone calls. We did everything that we could, but most important thing was parents knew that in order to get their children into our school that they had to show up for, to get their report card. And it had to be either the first and particularly the mid, those two report cards. The end of the year, we mailed those report cards. So the point that I’m saying to you is that we tried every way. I also was a Title I school, so I had a parent coordinator who specifically dealt with those. And then also language was an issue. So we had to make sure that on every level we were engaging parents. And that’s one of the things that I find that people don’t do. And we did not call ourselves PTA. I decided that I was not going to try to beat teachers over the head to say they say that they were part of the PTA, because they weren’t, because they didn’t live close to the schools. But they were involved in a child’s education. So my thing was that there were times that the open school week was really open school week, which meant that if there was parents that they needed to meet with, they needed to set up an interview with them. We had all day school open, we had two days where I was able to get my superintendent to agree to have schools open two days. And that meant the parents could come and for the evenings, the parents came that evening. But we didn’t, we made it less difficult, Jon and Amy, for parents to not have to say that there was no reason for them not to know what was going on with their children.
Jon M: 32:27 And were there times that you met parents outside of school?
Shirley E: 32:29 Definitely, definitely. Because what happened is that the churches did do one thing for me, which I appreciated them. Whenever their children did well, they would announce it at church. And we did not just use our building, we used the churches. When we did graduation, we used the churches. So we had phenomenal turnout. When we didn’t have a building, they let us use the building. So I, what I did learn about myself is that I learned how to use resources well and I was able to get my staff to kind of agree to do the same thing. So when we were looking for space, we never said, okay, we have to go someplace to the City Hall to do something. We could do it right there in our community. So this way it made it possible. And when we started our violin program, we had them to come to us. And when we started out of tennis program, what I tried to do is to say to myself, if these were my children, what would I want to introduce to them? What would I want them? Why would it be important for them to want to do service? Why? Because all these things are very important to children. If they can only see their community as lacking and they can see themselves as possibility providing that lack, then I think children then began to say, then I have something to offer to the world. So the other thing I want to tell you is that up until my last year, the thing that was so important to me about advisory and about the parents, we had another group we called the Parent Academy, and those were the parents who didn’t work, but they came in to volunteer. So we created a list of things that parents could do and once they did it, they would get a certificate. So we had about maybe 15 parents who completed the Parent Academy and when we had graduation, they graduated. So that was fun. We just, we did so many fun things, embraced each other and to have fun and to laugh at it, and I participated in all of them. But the thing that I would say to you is that I also found out that over a period of time there were some children that we would take in where there was lacking parent involvement, and see, this is what I believe that I don’t think we explore. People. parent, and parent involvement starts way before they get in. It starts in the very beginning that people decide that they’re going to engage in [inaudible] families. It starts at home, it starts, you know, when you have this baby, because you involve yourself in the things in your home. You involve yourself in the community. So what we keep thinking is that, you know, we look for people who parent to come and to come to these meetings. But oftentimes I’m finding that the meetings are held, they might have a show, but they never engage the parent. And so what we did is that we did finally decide, there were some children whose parents were just not there. So what we would do is schedule an appointment with them to make sure that they understood and they could bring an aunt with them. But we had to make sure that everyone in the house knew that we were there to support this student. We wanted them to graduate, but we want to make sure that he hears what we have. And we always brought our book bags to our parent conferences because what happens sometimes, particularly for parents who were very strict, you know, sometimes they just wanted to know that their child got an A. But we really wanted the teacher to talk about what it was and what the child could say that the child had gotten. So, you know, these were some of the things that after a while the teachers found it to be something that they had never thought about, but they had never thought about it for their own lives as teachers and parents of, of their own children. So I don’t know.
Amy H-L: 36:18 That’s really incredible that you were able to engage parents who have all sorts of obstacles to getting involved in their kids’ lives. I mean language, culture, economics. That’s terrific. My question would be how were you able to engage with the larger community, both for the students and the school to support the community and as well for other institutions in the community to support the students?
Jon M: 36:51 And I guess a question I would ask just to follow up on that, cause you’ve talked some, a lot, about the role that the church has played. Are there things that you could suggest that schools that don’t have that base in the churches or similar kind of, you know, that don’t have that kind of unique founding situation that you had? What are things that schools could do to, to engage that larger community, or is that an essential element?
Shirley E: 37:22 You know, the thing about it is that you have to understand the role of church. You know, one of the things that I was fortunate to is that I was a member at St Paul’s Community Baptist Church under the leadership of Reverend Youngblood. And that church was about social justice and if you don’t [inaudible], and then I came out of Kentucky, where my church was in the area, the Bible belt, where we fought for civil rights. And I went to Kentucky State where, you know, Malcolm, it was a regular visit. Dr. King was part of my life. And then I went to a boarding school with Whitney Young. My life, you know, your life is, gives you the, how do I say it, the map and it gives you the experiences that you need to do the work of good. I can say that for me because that’s what I realize now. The thing that you have to understand is that I could say this to people, but we separate here. We don’t understand the role of what churches can do without it becoming, looking at it as a religious institution that governs our, what we teach and what we say. When I was with EBC and all the churches, even the Catholic churches, the only problem that we ever had was when we were looking for a building. And when the Catholic churches decided that EBC took a stance that they were not going to go against distributing condoms. By that point we would have had another building, but we could not, they would not offer our buildings. That was the only problem that we had. Other than that, they were very available. But when you talk about the relationship that you can have with churches, there are people that have them, but I’m not sure that you can have it with churches if you’re not clear about what it is or they’re not clear about what role they play. Reverend, the churches that I was engaged with had a specific role. They fought for, they fought with the union. They fought with the, I think Rudy Crew was there at the time. They fought for their building because we had lots of places that we could have gone. But when they didn’t see the right building, they didn’t want it. So they fought against that, they were about social justice and they understood Sister Cathy, who was my lead organizer, she understood what education was because she was an educator. So I’m not saying that they can’t, but you have to engage them. For an example, there used to be a rule, a law that allowed children who were Muslim could go after school on Friday to get their…
Jon M: 40:07 Religious education?
Shirley E: 40:08 Yes. But I don’t think that that exists. So I used everything that I could because if I had a child that was suspended, I could always call the church and ask if the parent could drop them off for a minute. And most of the time, and then I had volunteerism from the church, you know, but it was specific to a task that was going to be covered. So I would say to you that you have to find, you have to find a religious institutions and they are there. But it depends on whether or not you understand that your goal is, their goal was about improving the community, Jon and Amy, and that was their goal. They did not ever say anything to me about Jesus Christ or whatever.
Jon M: 40:53 Well, I could, I could just go on listening to you for hours, but thank you so much for your time and look forward very much to talking with you again. And Amy, did you want.
Amy H-L: 41:05 Oh, thank you so much.
Shirley E: 41:09 That was helpful. You know, I’m still learning, so, but I thank you for having me to put myself in a situation where I have to think about what it is that we have accomplished.
Jon M: 41:18 Well, thank you again. Take care.
Amy H-L: 41:22 Thanks for listening. We hope you enjoyed the conversation. Be sure to visit us on our website, ethicalschools.org, where you can subscribe to this podcast and to our newsletter. There are lots of great articles on the website. Also, you can follow us on Twitter. We’re @ethicalschools. See you next time.