I recently read several articles in the Jamaica Plain Gazette regarding the atmosphere and achievement levels at English High School (EHS). My wife was once a resident of Jamaica Plain. I am an English High graduate from Dorchester. When my class was planning a reunion, our group was in EHS for meetings over a period of a year.
I never saw “chaos” as mentioned in one article. When you have hundreds of high school students in a building there are going to be energies and incidents, especially during class changes. I saw that at times, but generally always with good feelings among students. Once when a student swaggered by with a hat on Headmaster José Duarte stopped him and talked to him in a firm but caring manner. The students in the office, in the library and corridors were respectful. The staff was always helpful, friendly and welcoming.
At one time Headmaster Duarte did mention that two of his great concerns were student attendance and tardiness. Apparently, many students work, and some are the main breadwinners of the family. Some of the students come from countries where they have missed the basics.
“The school has zero pride whatsoever,” an anonymous alumnus complained. I attended two recent graduations. Mr. Duarte always invites and encourages alumni to attend the graduations. I have never seen such graduations. Graduates often dance across the stage and embrace their teachers. What a joyous occasion! I have seen a lot of school pride at these events.
As far as expenditure of funds for the school and alumni events. Peter Powilatis, who supports Mr. Duarte, is a fine accountant, and I trust his judgment.
As far as the Junior Reserve Office Training Corps (JROTC) program goes, I heard Jeffrey Herman, a substitute teacher who voiced complaints about it at EHS, followed by a lawsuit, on the radio and I can understand his views on the war and military recruitment. However, the military is certainly a viable and honorable option for young graduates. Students in the JROTC program at EHS help park cars when the annual alumni meeting takes place, and the provide the color guard at yearly alumni events. They are quietly helpful and look great and seem proud in their uniforms.
Could Mr. Duarte do better? Probably. However, what I saw during my visits to the school was his trying to make tough decisions. This is not your ordinary high school. What a challenge!
I had to laugh when I read the anonymous alumnus said there was tension, and a student complained about the walls of EHS being filled with “pictures of old white guys.” It’s true! There are many photos and trophies of the school’s history, and I think Mr. Duarte has done a fine job honoring some of the graduates’ achievements, from J.P. Morgan to Louis Farrakhan. Yes, perhaps the administration could now have more of the recent graduates’ achievements on display.
I support and admire Mr. Duarte’s and the staff’s efforts. They are on the front line of trying to educate and care for a new generation of local citizens. Many EHS students are new Bostonians. They are fortunate to attend a school that tries its best to further their skills and education. EHS is unique and serves a real need in Boston. Mr. Duarte and his staff understand these challenging students and their needs. Jose Duarte has my support.