Saturday, October 31, 2015

R.I. P. Alex Poinsett

I'm deeply saddened by news of the passing of old friend and renowned journalist/author, Alex Poinsett at age 89.

Poinsett spent three decades as Ebony Magazine's senior editor. He was author of five books: “Black Power Gary Style: The Making of Mayor Richard Gordon Hatcher,” and “Walking with Presidents:  Louis Martin and the Rise of Political Power.” He received the 1999 University of Michigan Book Award for his work.

He also wrote extensively about Chicago's inner-city schools and communities.

I met Alex back 1996 when he interviewed me for some stories he was writing about the small schools movement. Later we traveled together to South Africa to look at schools and the emerging post-apartheid educational system.

Here's a piece Alex wrote for Catalyst in 1996 about DuSable High School's attempt to restructure into small schools.
DuSable’s 8-year journey toward small schools
February 1, 1996
By Alex Poinsett  
Eight years ago, Charles E. Mingo made a crucial career move. Leaving prestigious Whitney Young Magnet High School, where he was assistant principal and then district administrator, he became principal of DuSable High School, one of the nation's worst schools. 
Roughly 80 percent of DuSable's students resided in the Robert Taylor Homes, located in one of the nation's three most poverty-stricken communities. Many were and still are poorly prepared, poorly motivated and poorly informed about the potential of education to empower them. Over the years, no more than 65 percent have attended school regularly.
Clearly, the veteran, politically astute administrator was challenged to salvage the seemingly unsalvagable by raising academic achievement while reducing truancy and dropout rates. Eventually, he would reinvent DuSable by sub-dividing it into smaller schools. But first he had to complete several housekeeping preliminaries.
Early on, the principal bought alarm clocks for some students, sent emissaries knocking on doors to rouse others, even visited homes himself. "He's in the bed," one mother told him.
"Well, you get him to come," the principal pleaded.
"I'm tired!" the mother responded...
Read the entire article here (It's mis-dated 2005, in the Catalyst archive). 

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