In Mayor Mike's NYC school system the concept of heritage and history get short shrift
Black History Month: UWS School Retains King's Message Despite Name Change
February 16, 2008
NY1 Education reporter Mike Meenan filed the following report on a high school on the Upper West Side that once beared name of the civil rights leader Martin Luther King, as the station's coverage of Black History month continues.
In 1975, a school opened in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. -- assassinated seven years earlier in 1968.
But in 2005, the Department of Education carved out six theme-based mini schools within the building. Despite the reorganization, students feel reminders, like the towering monument on Amsterdam Avenue, still make this King's school.
"It makes me feel good inside that I'm going to Martin Luther King," said one student.
The push to alter the school began in 2002, after a shooting left two students wounded and years of failure left too many kids without a diploma, an unfortunate fate for a school named after a civil rights leader.
One veteran teacher who has spent nearly his entire career at the school believes that it's the sports teams that embody the spirit of Dr. King.
"It is extremely sad that the legacy and honor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not kept alive with the school's name," said Athletic Director Martin Jacobson. "It is not so sad that many of the teams on the campus, we call ourselves Martin Luther King. So the unity still exists."
Academic achievement has increased on the campus since the reorganization, and teachers and students say that attracts a wider student body.
"We have six different schools, and we were trying to get the diversity," said teacher Byron Tummings. "And I think we have reached it. And it's working."
"They came because our higher academic levels," said student Charlie Watson. "Actually, that's a good thing that not only black people come here."
The captain of the school's soccer team says racial diversity's helped win ten of the past 12 city championships.
"The team, also, is different races, Africans, which is black, Hispanics, like South Americans and Central Americans, and you have Americans, like white peoples, and we all combine and win the championship together," said Biko Edwards, the team captain.
So despite being known as Martin Luther King High for only 30 years, students say this building where they go to school will be always be known as Dr. King's because of what they still learn here.
"What I'll tell my peers of what I've learned is to not to look at color or culture, just to be true to yourself and what you believe in," said student Tiffany Puente.