Parent-student event proves inspirational at EOCHS

Photo by Chris Sykes
From left, East Orange Campus High School Principal Abdulsaleem Hasan, education speaker Baruti Kafele, Superintendent of East Orange Public Schools Kevin West and Assistant Principal Damien Phoenix stand together on Wednesday, Feb. 15, at the ‘Dinner and Data’ parent-student event in the school cafeteria.

EAST ORANGE, NJ — The “Dinner and Data” parent-student event in East Orange Campus High School Cafeteria on Wednesday, Feb. 15, proved a forum for inspiration regarding what students have accomplished and what they can accomplish in the future.

“We believe here at Campus High School in the importance of using data to drive instruction; thus, we will present pertinent data to our school improvement plan, Smart Plus,” Assistant Principal Debra Boone said Wednesday, Feb. 15.

East Orange Campus High School Principal Abdulsaleem Hassan agreed with Boone, saying the school’s entire faculty are committed to striving for excellence in every aspect of its students’ academic lives and social development.

“I’m truly excited and humbled to be the principal of East Orange Campus High School and I want to welcome the parents and students here because, without you, none of this would be possible,” said Hassan on Wednesday, Feb. 15. “When we first did our Jaguars Award Ceremony, we had 350 children on the honor roll for first cycle, but for the second cycle, we have more than 400 children on the honor roll. … When we first got here, there were 20 to 38 children that (had) a 4.0 grade-point average. Now we have more than 60 children. I’m welcoming parents to come out March 2, as we have our second awards ceremony, where we give the children certificates and other pens … and also medals for their achievement.”

“East Orange public schools are developing leaders one mind at a time. A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” East Orange Public Schools Superintendent Kevin West said at the parent-student event on Wednesday, Feb. 15. “Thank you to our parents, not only from this school but throughout the city of East Orange, for coming out this evening, because I keep saying, in districts such as ours, there’s a missing piece of the puzzle and that missing piece of the puzzle is parental involvement. I expect us to really have things done in decency and in order. I’m going to be here, inside of your classrooms and at your sporting events, all over the place, just making sure that we’re raising the bar, raising the standards.”

West said he believes in the “three R’s of education,” referring to rigor, relevance and relationships.

“Rigor is challenging the students and preparing them for college; relevance is making sure as we’re teaching them we’re making it relevant to real life experiences; and talking about relationships, that’s the most important piece, because it’s about how can you use your relationships to build trust in students to let them know that you care so that they can go to the next highest level,” West said.

“We’re going to be talking about growth mindset vs. fixed mindset. And the growth mindset means, when you’re working with your children and you ask them a question, whether you’re a teacher or a parent, you don’t allow them to just say ‘No’ to things when you ask them something positive. You always make them know that, if they work hard, if they’re determined, if they strive to their fullest capabilities, anything is possible. So I want you to get into the habit of when you ask them questions and it’s something positive, that they don’t say ‘No’ to you, they say, ‘No, not yet.’”

According to West, the qualifying statement “No, not yet” is the difference between success and failure, when it comes to academic achievement.

“So if I asked them: ‘Are you one of those 400 children that made honor roll,’ you won’t say ‘No’ you will say ‘No, not yet,’ because that means you plan on doing it, you can do it, you know you can do it, but if you just say ‘No’ it means you don’t care, you don’t even have any inclination, and it’s not even important to you,” West said. “Those are the kinds of things we want to start pushing our staff, our students and everybody to make sure that we push our children to the best, highest heights that they can. To all the students who are here, we thank you for coming out and thank your parents for coming out.”

Educational speaker, teacher motivator and former East Orange and Newark Principal Baruti Kafele was the featured speaker at the “Dinner and Data” parent-student event; he agreed with what the other educators said regarding a positive mindset.

Kafele is the author of several books on education, including “Closing the Attitude Gap,” which West referred to in his remarks about his plans for improving student academic achievement in the district. Kafele said closing this gap is crucial for all schools everywhere, not just for urban, mostly minority districts such as East Orange.

“As long as you fail to think for yourself, as long as your thinking is not critical and analytical — deep — no one has to worry about you,” said Kafele on Wednesday, Feb. 15, to the students in attendance. “You pose no threat nor challenge to anybody. As long as your thinking is critical, is analytical, can’t nobody stop you. Can’t nobody put up a hand to stop you, because you’re on fire and you won’t be stopped by anybody or anything.”