by George J Elbaum
Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School is similar to other inner city schools I’ve visited in having a challenging student body and a dedicated and exceptionally qualified staff. The high diversity student body (92% Black and Hispanic, 5% White and Asian, 3% all other) of 570 in grades 6-8 includes 89% low income and 40% ELL (English Language Learners). The staff of 79 includes 53 teachers (10.8 student-teacher ratio) which 60% are rated “highly qualified.” A good example of this is humanities teacher Tommy Simmons, who organized my visit to the school, and whose qualifications include: BA in Communications and Philosophy from Boston College, Masters in Education from Harvard, 2 years teaching in Mozambique with the Peace Corps, and 7 years with Lilla Frederick where “he is currently a 6th grade humanities teacher and wrestling coach. Mr. Simmons is fluent in English and Portuguese, can speak some Spanish, and is proficient in understanding (but not speaking) sass.”
The stated mission of Lilla Frederick is “to help our students develop to their full potential in a welcoming and nurturing environment that fosters strong achievement and positive connections to the larger community and the world they will lead.” By asking me to speak to his 6th graders about my Holocaust childhood, Tommy focused on “the larger community and the world they will lead.” While I focus my talks at those who “are old enough to understand but young enough to have an open mind,” Tommy’s 6th graders definitely qualify for being “young enough,” and time will tell if they are also “old enough” to absorb most of my message and carry it onward in their life.
Attending my presentation were also teachers Tim Maher, Michelle Sathan and Veerentra Veeragoudour, and Assistant Principal Meghan McGoldrick and Director of Operations Allan Arrington. Judi Bohn, Special Projects Coordinator of Facing History and Ourselves, arranged my visit, and sustained me before and after the talk with wonderful home-baked cookies 🙂.