by George J Elbaum
As a repeat of my previous 4 visits (2010, 2011, 2013, and 2014), I was invited to speak at the Edge School at Sunol (ex-Novo Community School) in San Jose. Edge serves high risk students in grades 9-12 who are placed at the school for reasons such as expulsion, truancy, out-of-control behavior at school or home, and probation. These students typically work in a classroom setting, interact with their peers and change classes in ways similar to those of a comprehensive high school. However, the classes are small enough so the students are able to receive one-on-one assistance from their instructors, who not only provide academic instruction but also emphasize the skills needed to improve attendance and behavior.
My visit was arranged again by Jack Weinstein of Facing History and Ourselves and was organized by Edge teacher Stephanie Boulianne. The session was also attended by Edge’s Principal Jesse Ramos as well as teachers and staff Christina Hernandez, Michael Pressman, Anthony Dominguez, Francisco Alfaro, Jessie Cisneros, Harry Isom, John Lee, Rose Wallace, Laura Ojeda, Gretchen Eddingfield, and Gary Granger. As in previous years, Jack had prepared me by stressing that students in this special alternative school often lead very insular lives in a narrow social environment, yet paradoxically are quite ”worldly” in ways that may or may not be acceptable in society at large – they “may have made big mistakes or bad choices, but can sometimes reinvent themselves and commit to improving academically and in their life choices.” This potential was evident in their questions, ranging from quite simplistic to very thoughtful and sensitive, and also from the personal connection that some showed afterwards.