DR. ROBERT B. INGRAM
Robert B. Ingram, Ph.D.
I bring greetings from the Miami-Dade
County School, a place bombarded by headlines of car jackings,
smash and grab robberies, home invasions, drive-by shootings
A school system where in, if you believe the press, you
would believe that our system is a place where coconuts
have been replaced by coke heads, coke freaks and coke
A school system where:
Our educational programs are minimized,
Our criminals are organized,
Our schools are terrorized,
Our homes are burglarized,
Our children are narcotized,
Our Board Members are mesmerized
Our Administrators are tranquilized,
Our Principals are canonized, and
Our poor Teachers are victimized,
scandalized, polarized and demoralized.
Other than that, Miami-Dade County
School System is a great place to be.
Good day everyone. It's an honor for me to be here today
to welcome you to a new school year. Yes, it's true -
next week the 1999-2000 school year begins, and more than
349,000 students will stream into the halls and corridors
of our public schools.
They will again depend on us - schools' leaders - to
teach them, to guide them, and to nurture them. This year,
however, is much different than other years. Not only
is it a new era of time dawning upon us, with the new
century just a few short months away, but a new era of
education is upon us, as well.
Never in the history of American public education has
student achievement been such a concern. We know that,
as educators, we have always been accountable to our students
and to the schools we run. Our personal pride demanded
it, and our dedication to this most noble profession ensured
Now, public education in America is big, really big,
as an example, in the 1997-98 school year, 87,631 public
schools provided instruction to 46.1 million students
in the United States. How and what our students learn
determines their success in the rapidly changing employment
market. How and what our students learn determines their
self-fulfillment as productive and hopefully giving human
Our students must learn. We know that in a large urban
districts such as ours, test scores that measure students
achievement usually hover below the national average,
mainly because of the adverse deprivations that exist
in our community. Yes, we have our challenges of poverty,
limited language skills, and lacking parental involvement.
Most believe that disadvantages such as these should not
dictate poor student achievement. We agree, and seize
upon these obstacles as opportunities. I believe we have
always done our best to address our very diverse educational
needs, but the public and most elected officials, our
board included, are demanding even more.
We must be more accountable than ever. The State of Florida's
new system grades schools based on test scores. As we
are all aware, 26 of our schools received "F"
grades and another 127 received "D's." In two
years, if our "F" graded schools do not improve
their test scores and eliminate their "F" grade,
then students who attend those schools can receive "opportunity
scholarships" to attend the school of their choice,
including private schools. Funding that our school system
would have received goes with them.
Admittedly, it is not good news that some of our students
are underachieving. What's refreshing however, is the
attention that is being given to utilize innovative strategies
at our schools to help our students learn.
The superintendents COMPREHENSIVE READING PLAN and the
READ to LEAD program that I initiated in District One
last year are now in full swing, and guess what? Test
scores are up significantly on the F-CAT, the Standard
Achievement test, and Florida Writes! We're on our way.
And just last week Florida got news that it will receive
$26 million from the U.S. Department of Education for
reading programs. It is expected that Miami-Dade County
will receive a large portion of that grant.
Now, we must continue with the same finesse and tenacity
to strengthen our children's math skills. We must find
new ways to teach old, but very vital subjects.
The enthusiasm of the new millennium must be equaled
by a renewed enthusiasm to lead. As leaders of the most
important institutions of our society, we must motivate
our staffs to continue doing their best. We know, and
we must always keep this in perspective, that we cannot
cure the ills of society that often dictate how successful
a student is going to be in school. Yes, again I am talking
about poverty, lack of language skills, and lack of parental
interest and involvement. But we can make a child feel
cared for while he or she is at school. We can encourage
the child to excel.
We are the personal touch in an often impersonal world.
Let's keep up the good work! Let's do our best! Let's
renew ourselves and our commitments. After all, our children
deserve our best effort.
And remember, in the not so distant past, some of our
schools were placed on a critical low performance list.
And let's also remember that those students, teachers,
and the principals who led the efforts, got those schools
off the list by improving student achievement. We can
do it again, and we can raise our test scores even more.
I'm going to ask you to do four things this coming school
1. Number One Be a Positive Person
Think positive thoughts that keep a positive
Listen to positive sounds, that is, hear things that are
good & pleasing to our efforts.
Look for positive sights, that is, search for that which
is good in our students.
Speak positive words, words that extol goodness, grace
and care, and
Perform positive deeds, in other words, lift up those
who are down.
You see I have come to a frightening conclusion that I
am the decisive element in this pursuit of education.
It is my personal approach that create the learning climate.
It is my daily mood that makes the weather of our students
education comfortable or uncomfortable . As an educational
leader, I possess tremendous power to make a child's life
miserable or joyous. I can humiliate. I can humor. I can
hurt, or I can heal. In all situations, it is my response
that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated,
and a child humanized or dehumanized. I am the catalyst.
Therefore, I choose to be a positive person.
2. Secondly Take Some Risks
Risks require courage.
It will take require taking some risks to conquer the
obstacles that we will face as we educate our students
to meet the challenges of the F. CAT, The Standard Achievement
Test, The Florida Writes and our High School Competency
But if you study our school system's past record,
I think you will agree that risk takers have always been
around one shining example was Norma Brossard who represents
our own variety of a risk takers - there exist many Norma
Bossards in our school system right now.
The bottom line is this, we want you to acknowledge
your risk taking ability and see change not as an obstacle
but as an opportunity. A wise person once noted: "Isn't
it strange, that Kings and Queens and Clowns that caper
in saw dust rings/ and common people like you and me/
are builders of eternity/ each is given a bag of tools/a
shapeless mass and a book of rules/and each must build
or life is flown/a stumbling block or a stepping stone/."
Taking risks means moving forward while others
are waiting for better times.
Taking risks means moving forward while others
are waiting for proven results.
Taking risks means moving forward while others
are waiting for applause on their past performance.
Taking risks seeks to strengthen our solidarity,
our unity and when we strengthen our solidarity -
we strengthen our educational successes.
Taking risks is the substance of an educational
liberation hoped for and evidence of an educational
success not yet seen.
Taking risks means to never give-up. To believe
with all our hearts in our students, our parents,
our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and
vitality of our struggle.
Taking risks is that essential quality that
will help us to rewrite the future, because it is
that inward strength that encourages us to go on while
others are quitting.
Taking risks is to have a never give-up attitude
to have the right concept, to have reliable conduct,
to have realistic comportment and to have ready courage.
You see I agree with Rev. Jesse Jackson it is your
attitude not your aptitude that will determine you
Taking risks can help us to build up people
who have been torn down.
3. Thirdly Have Some Fun
In order to have fun in your work - you must make your
Confucius is alleged to have said "choose a job
that you love, and you will never have to work a day
in you life."
I believe Confucius was right - my job is fun - most
of the time.
And don't whine, there is always someone worse off that
you. As illustrated in this poem, whose author is unknown:
This World is Mine:
Today I saw upon a bus a handsome man with wavy hair,
He looked so stately I envied him, and wished that
I was as fair.
Until suddenly he rose to leave, and I saw him hobble
down the aisle,
He had one leg and used a crutch, and as he passed
a glowing smile.
God forgive me when I Whine, I have two legs - this
world is mine.
Then I stopped to buy some sweets, the lad that sold
them seemed so warm,
It seemed so nice to talk with him, If I be late would
do no harm,
And as I left he said to me, thank you for being so
It's nice to talk to folks like you, "you see"
he said, "I am blind."
God forgive me when I Whine, I have two eyes - this
world is mine.
Then later, walking down the street, I saw a child
with eyes so blue,
She watched the others as they played, it seemed she
knew not what to do.
I stopped a moment and I said, "Why don't you
join the others dear?"
She looked ahead without a word, and then I know,
she could not hear.
God forgive me when I Whine, I have two ears - this
world is mine.
Two legs to take me where I go;
Two eyes to see the sunlight glow;
Two ears to hear what I should know.
O God forgive me when I whine, I'm blessed indeed
- this world is mine!
Don't be a whiner - be a winner, have some fun!
4. Fourth and Finally Get Turned On
Ted Engstrom in The Pursuit of Excellence
I was cleaning out a desk drawer when I found a flashlight
I hadn't used in over a year. I flipped the switch but
wasn't surprised when it gave no light. I unscrewed it
and shook it to get the batteries out, but they wouldn't
budge. Finally, after some effort, they came loose. What
a mess! Battery acid had corroded the entire inside of
the flashlight. The batteries were new when I'd put them
in, and I stored them in a safe, warm place. But there
was one problem, those batteries weren't made to be warm
and comfortable. They were designed to be turned on -
to be used. It is the same with us. We're not here to
be warm and comfortable. You and I were made to be "turned
on" - to put our caring attitude for our students
When we work together - we divide the effort and multiply
It is possible to give our frightened students peace.
It is possible to share our warmth and compassion even
when our students come to school poor & hungry.
It is possible for our commitment our cooperation and
our companionship to assist even the lowest of achievers.
When we're turned on we are not overwhelmed by the challenge
- we know that a journey of a million miles begins with
one step and that one step can create a domino effect
for other steps to follow.
1. Our children are precious, teach one;
2. Our parents are needed, reach one;
3. Text books increase knowledge, read one;
4. Goals can be achieved, have one;
5. Philosophies inspire, create one;
6. Cultural partnerships promote diversity, join one;
7. Obstacles are surmountable, move one;
8. Prejudice prevents growth, conquer one;
9. Contributions enhances opportunity, make one;
10. Scholarships are needed, provide one;
11. Positive Teachers are good examples, be one.
Now is the time to make real the promise
of giving our students the world.
Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley
of "F" schools and "D" schools to
the sunlit path of "A" schools and "Triple
Now is the time to make Academic Excellence a reality
for all of our children.
But we cannot do it alone.
As we educate our students we must make the pledge that
we are all in this together.
We will succeed!
Now is the time!
Friends, the new millennium will be here soon, and the
plain truth about moving our students to excellence is
that now is the time!
Now is the time for shiftless teachers, to pep up.
Now is the time for sleeping teachers, to wake up.
Now is the time for gloomy teachers, to cheer-up.
Now is the time for angry teachers, to make up.
Now is the time for bitter teachers, to sweeten up.
Now is the time for bent over teachers, to straighten-up,
Now is the time for gossiping teachers, to shut up!
Making a good thing better.
We are counting on you to define the educational issues
and offer suggestions to improve our human educational
condition as we move into the 21st century.
To me, education is essential to empowerment.
Aristotle mastered education.
Shakespear enlivened education.
Booker T. Washington advocated education.
Mary McCloud Bethune illuminated education.
Dr. Benjamin Mays rejuvenated education.
Sir Winston Churchill aroused education, as did
Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President John
F. Kennedy, and many others whose lives articulated
the fact that one can live without air for a few minutes,
without water for a number of days, without food for
a number of months, but to live without education is
a death unto itself.
So I've stopped by to remind you that,
When the history books are written describing what the
Miami-Dade County Public School leaders did to help our
children achieve, historians will have to pause to say,
there taught a great people -Public School people- who
injected new meaning and dignity into the veins of education.
This is our challenge this is our responsibility:
1. Be a positive person,
2. Take some risks,
3. Have fun,
4. Get turned on,
And together we will make this one of our best school
We must show our children that the opportunity to earn
a dollar knowing "Math figures" is infinitely
more valuable than spending a dollar on "Tommy Hilfiger."
When this has been achieved - we will produce;
An education that can never be forfeited,
A learning that can never be circumscribed,
A joy that can never be suppressed,
A concern that can never be questioned,
A relationship that can never be disputed, and
A service that can never be clouded.
We must lift up those who have been knocked down.
We must regenerate the left out and the locked out.
We must retrieve the unlearned and the unloved.
We must revive the misfits and the unfits.
When we do these things educational excellence will run
down like water,
and student achievement will come forward like a mighty
We have been successful in the past.
We will be successful in the present and
We will be successful in the future.
So get up and get busy,
Our students are depending on you!
Thank you and have a great school year!