Monday, April 1, 2013

PompaNO Beach High School For You!

Obviously NOT (and yes, I know that whoever created this sticker could've used an editor!).

As I sit here writing this, I'm feeling kind of numb. That's actually a good thing because the numbness dulls the heartache. Sometimes I wonder if I could sue Broward County Public Schools for rape, considering the number of times I've been screwed by them over the years. I never professed to be the greatest person in the world, but I don't think that I (or my kids) deserve the hand we've been dealt when it comes to being denied the chance of becoming "Golden Tornadoes." Some of you might be thinking, "She's just a sore loser. Big deal, so her kids didn't get into PBHS. Deal with it." But what you may not understand is, for me, it's personal.
My mom's Pompano High Senior picture.
Let's go (way) back to 1929. My grandmother, Clara Richardson (Lee) was part of the second graduating class at the newly established Pompano Beach High School. Back then, they were known as the "Beanpickers," as Pompano Beach was a farming community back then. Fast forward to the 50s and 60s. My mother graduated from Pompano Beach High School as a Beanpicker in 1954. She was the class valedictorian. :) As you can see from the commencement program, there were only 33 students in her entire senior class. Lucky for them, nobody claimed PBHS was "underenrolled" at that time. Her brother and sisters graduated from there too. By the time her youngest sister, my Aunt Henny, graduated PBHS had changed from the Beanpickers to the Golden Tornadoes. 

Rob's senior picture - PBHS c/o '82
My parents lived in New Jersey when my brother and sister were growing up, and both of them graduated from high school up north. My family moved back to Pompano Beach in 1977, when I was six years old. I attended Cresthaven Elementary, Pompano Beach Middle School (as did both of my children), and I was excited to be a third-generation PBHS graduate. My husband, Rob graduated from Pompano Beach High in 1982 - seven years before we met.

I attended 9th Grade at Pompano Beach High School, along with my cousin and many close friends (whom I have reconnected with, thanks to Facebook). I loved every minute of my Freshman year. I joined clubs, attended football games and other events. I was a good student, but I had fun too. It was everything I expected...kind of like a John Hughes movie. Little did I know that my high school experience was about to change dramatically...

Memories from Freshman year
According to the Pompano Beach High School web site, "Due to the westward shift in population, which occurred in Broward County in the 1980's, Pompano Beach High School was closed in 1985 amid much political controversy and community protest." Political controversy and community protest indeed. I attended those School Board meetings, along with hundreds of other PBHS students and their parents, BEGGING the board to reconsider. We all loved Pompano High. Many of the students (like myself) were second- and third-generation Tornadoes. The meetings dragged on well after midnight, as each person, in turn stood before the "powers that be" and plead their case. When it came time for the vote, the majority of the board members (ALL of whom lived in the western part of the county and would not be affected by their decision) voted in favor of closing the school. They couldn't have cared less about the students or the community. Ironically, one of the very board members who voted to close Pompano Beach High School is now the county Property Appraiser. Yep, the biggest check I write every year of my adult life goes to pay one of the women responsible for destroying a part of my adolescence. Tell me that doesn't suck. (Sorry, mom.)

So where did this leave the students? Well, they were divided among the three closest high schools. I was fortunate that my cousin and my very best friend were also zoned for the same school as I was, but high school was never the same. Although the school was excellent academically (it was an engineering magnet school) and I did get a good education, graduating third in my class, the social dynamics were vastly different than Pompano Beach High School had been. I never attended a single sporting event at the school, which was located in the middle of a rough neighborhood. The first week I had my car, a kid in the neighborhood threw a rock at it and busted the tail light. One of my friends was stopped by the police driving to school for a club event on a Saturday morning and questioned what she was doing in that neighborhood on a Saturday. Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of friends who chose to go to that school and loved it as much as I had loved Pompano High, but it never felt like my high school and, honestly, I always felt that I was cheated out of that part of my life. 

No blue and gold tassel for me. :(
Twelve years after they closed Pompano Beach High School (although the building remained open, hosting community education programs during that time), in 1997 the school reopened as Broward County's first all-magnet high school. By this point, I had a baby of my own and had hope that she would go to Pompano High, as her great-grandmother, her grandmother, her mother (though for only one year) and her father (who graduated in 1982) had. 

As the years went by, another baby came into our family and we ended up moving from Lighthouse Point to Pompano Beach (actually, to the the same neighborhood where I had grown up). Fortunately (or so I thought), both of my children were excellent students, earning top grades and test scores. Although I knew that Pompano Beach High School was a magnet school, I believed that surely my kids would get in! They were hard-working, well-behaved kids who lived right in the city!

When it came time to apply for PBHS for Alana, I enclosed a letter with her application, detailing her family's history with the school and what a privilege it would be to continue that tradition. Two of her teachers also wrote letters of recommendation on her behalf. I thought for sure Alana would be a Tornado. In March of 2010, Alana's friends started receiving acceptance letters to PBHS, but no letter came for Alana. Surely there had to be a mistake. I'll never forget the Saturday afternoon the mailman brought the letter stating that Alana hadn't been accepted and was number four hundred (something) on the waiting list. All but three of her friends had gotten in, many of whom had lower GPAs and test scores, some of whom didn't even live in the city or who didn't attend public school in Broward County. Suddenly I felt like the blue and gold "Go Tornadoes" foam #1 hand that had been stored in my childhood closet all these years had put its index finger down and raised "tall man". I was stunned, disappointed, heartbroken, angry, bitter, frustrated - SO many emotions - none of them positive.

Rob's and my PBHS yearbooks
I contacted the magnet coordinator at PBHS and was told that the selection process was a strict lottery and there was nothing that could be done. Alana could reapply in December for the second semester, if she wished. I tried having friends who worked for the school system pull some strings for me. It didn't help. My mother even ran into our local school board member and asked him to help. It didn't make a bit of difference. 

So, Alana ended up continuing the Communications/Broadcast Arts magnet program (from Pompano Beach Middle School) at Deerfield Beach High School. You know what? She LOVED it and never wanted to switch to Pompano. A few of her friends who had gotten into PBHS ended up switching schools (some to Deerfield!). Alana is now a Junior at DBHS,  maintains a 4+ GPA is co-editor of the school newspaper and will be Editor-in-Chief next year. She is thriving, in spite of the curve ball she had been thrown.

This December, it was Chase's turn to apply. He really wanted to go to Pompano Beach High School. For convenience alone, it would have been awesome, but of course, I had other reasons for wanting him to go. Once again, I submitted his application once the magnet window opened. I even sent updated FCAT scores in December, as suggested by his magnet coordinator. A couple of weeks ago, Chase's friends started posting on social media about receiving their acceptance letters. Nothing arrived for Chase for several days. Can you say deja vu? I thought, "This cannot possibly be happening AGAIN!" But, it happened again. Chase did not "win the lottery." (He's too nice to say it, but I know that he secretly wishes he hadn't been born to Mrs. Friday the 13th.) There is no waiting list now. If spots open up, they hold another lottery. Delightful. 

The letter. :(
So, I contacted Mr. Romance (yes, that's really his name), the CBA Magnet Coordinator at DBHS to find out how I register Chase. Being Spring Break, I didn't expect a response this week, but I received one within an hour. After Spring Break, I called the CBA office and they could not have been friendlier or more accommodating  DBHS is happy to have my kids, and for that, I am very grateful. I decided to email Ms. Young ^ and request that Chase remain in the wait pool once he is registered at DBHS. I also explained to her about my family's history at PBHS and how it would mean so much to have Chase attend the school. In the letter, I also let her know how great the CBA Staff at DBHS had been. :) Do you think I received a response? Go ahead...guess! Did you guess, "No!"? Congratulations! You win the lottery!

When Chase returned to school this week, he learned that a lot of his friends are swimming in the wait pool with him. None of the three PBMS students who live on our street were accepted. One of them has a mother who graduated from PBHS and had a sister who would have been a Senior they year they closed it. She is also a teacher at Pompano Beach Elementary, which is right next door to the high school. I'm sure she's not too happy right now either. :( Most of Chase's friends who didn't get into Pompano are planning to continue the CBA Magnet at Deerfield, so at least he'll be in good company.

I think that what frustrates me the most is the fact that the whole process sends a glaring message about "leveling the playing field". Just because you work your butt off and are a good person who does the right thing doesn't give you any advantage over someone who works half as hard and just doesn't care. Hmmm...remind you of anything else? I truly believe that the school board should give first priority for Pompano Beach High School to good students who live in the city, THEN go to a lottery system for everyone else. As my father pointed out, the school board complains that they have no money because of all of the bussing. Well, DUH! How about letting kids attend the school closest to their homes? Nobody ever said that you had to be intelligent to work for the government, though.

I'll admit, there is still a part of me that is hoping for a miracle (I'm such a glutton for punishment), but I know that wherever my kids end up, they'll do fine. I believe that, like Alana, Chase will continue to do his very best, whether he is a Buck OR a Tornado! 

With Love and Aloha ~ Nancy

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