Chapter 8 from my novel, “The Junior High.”

Chapter 8- the beginning of the end.

 

Sadly, the demise of Kakiat JHS came about slowly over its life of 40 years. From 1960 to 1975 the school enrollment increased from 600 students to 1600 by 1975. After that year the enrollment began to drop a steady 50-100 students a year. This was not only evident in Kakiat JHS but across the entire East Ramapo School district school district. The reasons were many. Parents were having fewer children in this period of time than they were in previous generations. The local Jewish schools called “Yeshivas,” were increasing at the same time the public schools dropped under 10,000 students in 1990, the Yeshivas were increasing and at 15,000 students at the time. Jewish parents of Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox had lost faith in the public school districts over the past 40 years of Kakiat JHS  and other schools in the East Ramapo School district School district. Fights between Irish students, and Jewish students that got into the local newspaper only made things worse. As the rich Jewish parents in Northern East Ramapo School district hired more and more Haitian domestic help the Haitian population grew in the 1960’s from 1 % to 70% by 1995. The reason is the Haitian nannies and cleaning help sent back to Haiti for their children, and their husbands, and extended family to come to East Ramapo School district, New York State where jobs were many. Of course, the nannies started working for $2.00 an hour in the 1960’s, which increased to $10.00 an hour, and they didn’t do windows also. The population of Haitians in East Ramapo School district doubled and tripled over 30 years.  Eventually East Ramapo School district became known as “little Haiti.” As the Haitian population moved in they were eventually able to buy home with the help of Welfare and Social agencies. As the Haitians moved into neighbors, the Jewish moved out to the next town over Hidden River city. Over a period of 40 years the Jewish student population went from 70% to 15% in 1995. As the Jewish children grew up and went to college their parents downsized and moved into condos in the next towns over from East Ramapo School district.

Another reason for the demise of Kakiat JHS JHS was the decrease in student population to the point where in 1995 the school had only 440 students down from 1600 in 1975. Statewide, and nationally a new trend developed to convert the Junior High school concept to the new Middle school concept consisting of schools of grades 6-8 rather than 7-9. Many high schools wanted to have the 9thgrade students in their buildings to round out their academic disciplines, and their sports programs. More and more school districts in New York State were changing their Junior High schools into Middle schools with grades 6-8 or 7-8. The writing was on the wall for the Middle school national movement.

As the third Principal left after his heart attack, the fabulous programs he created and supported all died for one reason or another. The 20 year Gymnastic Exhibition program finally came to an end when the coach retired from coaching and went back to college to get a Doctoral degree. This exhibition program generated more positive community good will than anything else at Kakiat JHS JHS. Students were dying to come to Kakiat JHS JHS where they could join the only gymnastic team in the entire East Ramapo School district School District. The school within a school program faded out after a $200,000 technology grant in 1991. The leaders of the 7thgrade and 8thgrade level programs retired.  The security guards that were five strong dropped to only three people due to budget cuts. He peer coaching program lasted four years until funds ran out The conflict resolution program stopped because the teachers that used to train other teachers retired. Most of all the spirit of the teaching staff had died out and could never be replaced.

The Kakiat JHS JHS teachers had aged, some had been at Kakiat JHS JHS for 30 years plus.  Many were retiring in the 1990’s to take advantage of the early retirement incentive offered by the East Ramapo School district school district. AP programs that were once offered stopped because there weren’t any certified teachers to teach them. The certified teachers had retired. The Music program went downhill as the instrument lessons were cut out of the music curriculum due to a shortage of funds. The Music teacher that had led the band for generations retired, and when he retired the program went downhill. Many key teachers in various departments who were leaders among their peers retired and were replaced by inexperienced teachers who often quit after a few months or at the end of the first year. The teacher turnover rate was almost 40% and the Districts were stealing teachers from one another by offering higher salaries for them to transfer.

One of the biggest reasons for the demise of Kakiat JHS JHS by the end of the 1990’s was the third Principal that had made so many improvements and led the school to the Most Outstanding Junior High Federal and State recognition program was retiring after staying on a few years part-time after his heart attack. The incompetent female Assistant Principal took over in his absence the she could not control the teachers or the increasing discipline programs. It takes a whole faculty to run a school and it takes a lot of self initiated leaders to keep things running smoothly. The formal rules system cannot function unless the informal culture of teaching is healthy and functioning properly. Teachers were being hired because they were black or minority to combat the accusations of racism around the district. Unfortunately, hiring a teacher based on their skin color does not mean the teacher will be successful with black students or minority students. Many of these new teachers quit suddenly after only a few months of teaching. Gone were the mentors of the old days. Everyone was out for he or she and no experienced teachers volunteered to mentor the new teachers. New teachers felt they were on their own. The negative attitude created by the female Principal was undermining everything that went on in the past. She had her favorite teachers who she gave the best schedules to and the rest she ignored. She held grudges against teachers that would not do her will and was vindictive with end of the year evaluations. She could not speak creole or French the language of the Haitian students and she lost control or any communication with these students who were the majority of the school population. Being a Principal involved networking with the community and the Board and this female Principal has no friends on the board and her arrogant attitude from years previously when she was an outspoken cursing administrator didn’t help her cause any. She lost the assistant principal position due to budget cuts and she had to do the school budget which she had never done before and the school academic schedule. The school-within a school concept established in 1991 for grades 7 and 8 was discontinued since there were not enough leaders to keep the program alive.

The final straw was when the district population had dropped so low that the Board of Education voted to convert the Junior high to a 9thgrade extension building to the high school which was down the road from Kakiat JHS JHS. As of 1999 Kakiat JHS JHS became known as East Ramapo School district Central High School 9thgrade extension building. The 7 and 8 grades were transferred to the other two Junior high schools that had now become Middle Schools. The faculty was split up and transferred to other buildings and only the 9thgrade teachers remained. Many decided to just retire rather than transfer to another building.

After a decade of failed programs and declining enrollment in the 2000’s the 9thgrade extension building ceased and the 9thgrade students went to the East Ramapo School district Central High School building. The 9thgrade extension was converted into an Elementary School renamed Kakiat JHS Elementary School. The female principal retired after completely running the program at the 9thgrade extension building into the ground. Even single sex classes were being used because the administrators could not control the students in coed situations.

So for 40 years Kakiat JHS JHS rose and fell but had some glorious years in the 1970’s and 1980’ both for students and teachers. Many retired teachers remember Kakiat JHS JHS fondly and many students remembered the teachers that inspired them to achieve.

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