Rev. Calvin Butts' School Tells Parents Not to Speak With the Media; Actually Claims It Could Endanger Their Safety

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In what one observer called a "ham-handed attempt to control the media," officials at the Thurgood Marshall Academy, a public school founded by Rev. Calvin Butts' Abyssinian Development Corp., sent out a memo last week telling parents to refuse to talk to reporters.

The memo was sent out to parents and staff of the school in the wake of the Village Voice's April 17 article about ADC's troubles and controversies. One observer point out that the document appears to ignore a little thing we like to call the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

"Just a reminder re: communication with the media," the unsigned memo begins. "We advise to offer no comment and refer the media to the school main office. Don't be afraid to say no to a media request, especially if the intention is not clear."

The memo then gets kind of bizarrely sinister, actually suggesting that talking to the media would endanger the safety of the students. "We intend to protect our children and school community from any media attention that does not benefit the education and safety of our children," the memo says.

ADC President Ralph Dickerson did not respond to an email message requesting comment.

"It looks desperate," says one observer. "Who are you to tell these people they don't have a first amendment right? Isn't that what we marched for during the civil rights era?"

While ADC officials often tout the achievements of the 216-student elementary school, the Department of Education gave it an overall C grade last year, and an F in student progress.


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9 comments
albb
albb

New York City Department of Education 2012-2013 Official Progress and Overview Reports are in for Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School. The Overall Score for Student Progress, Student Performance, School Environment and Closing The Achievement Gap is: 

                                                          "A"

Congratulations to Principal Dawn Brooks-DeCosta, her faculty, staff, students, parents,

partners of TMALS, volunteer workers and friends ~~ YOU DID IT !!!

Our prayers are for your continued success in the battle against great odds. You are valued and honored in the hard work of helping to secure the future progress of this great country ~~ America. Thank you! God bless you all !!!

BarbaraWallace
BarbaraWallace

I would like to add to this conversation right now.  I go to the Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School twice a year to sell signed Faith Ringgold Books to the parents and children on Open School Days and Evenings.  I am the daughter of Faith Ringgold, the artist, art lecturer, author and illustrator.  I met Principal Dawn Brooks DeCosta quite a few years ago when she was the art teacher at her former school.  My mother was so proud of the annual art museum that she created with her students and the fabulous art exhibitions mounted at the school every year.  Ms. Ringgold and I recently attended a Partners' event and were recognized by the children, parents and staff of the TMALS for our contributions to the school.  I found the school to be organized, disciplined, clean, and beautiful.  The youngsters are beautifully dressed and immaculately behaved as they have always been since the school opened up.  They are bright and well spoken.  Any time I have spent inside of the school has always been a joy, whether in the classroom assisting with art lessons for the Anyone Can Fly Foundation or attending art shows or selling books at my book table I have seen the children behaving in an exemplary manner with self control and dignity.  The children respect the staff members and the staff treat the kids with respect and equality.  Ms. DeCosta talks to each child as if they were one of her own family but she does not baby them.  I am always amazed when I talk of a child and mention the name of a family that has purchased one of my books and she is familiar with the mother, father and siblings of the child as well as the class and teacher!  This is a public school run like a small, prepatory academy.  Take notice Upper Harlem, there is a jewel amongst us.  Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School.  

allb
allb

Principal Dawn Brooks-DeCosta has a hard earned Master's Degree in Educational Leadership from Teacher's College at Columbia University and is qualified to lead Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School.

The following is just a sample of the extras that have gone on there under her marvelous leadership:

The most recent "Quality Review Report 2012-2013" with DOE Superintendent Gale Reeves as lead reviewer gives Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School an overall evaluation of "Proficient."

In March, 2013 Faith Ringgold, world famous African-American artist and author of children's books appeared before the students of TMALS to give a lesson on and to discuss the issue of "Bullying and Cyberbullying" ~ a problem that affects millions of students of all races and classes in a dark and horrific way.

Also in March, 2013, TMALS was honored to have New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott meet with 4th Grader Gabriel Lopez, President of The Student Council and members at their request to have a discussion in regards to improving the quality of the school.

In April of this year, footage of an upcoming music video was produced at Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School with students participating in "promoting evidence based health strategies to motivate and inspire children to live healthier lives." On the spot were Hip Hop Dr. Olajide Williams, physician and professor of neurology at Columbia University, Dr. Mehmet Oz of the Dr. Oz Show and Hip Hop Artist Doug E. Fresh. The video is being produced in partnership with the Partnership For A Healthier America whose Chair is First Lady Michelle Obama.

As parents of this wonderful, unique and budding school, your sustained and positive support is important. Please don't stop doing your best to see that your children's needs are first met at home. It's not easy, but your continued input is vital after the kids leave the Day Session and The ExpandEdSchools by TASC Afterschool Program. Your hard work and sacrifices is paying off and you're appreciated more than you will ever know!

The Reverend Calvin O. Butts III, Principal Dawn Brooks-DeCosta, Faculty and Staff cannot do anything alone. You are a crucial part of The TMALS Story Of Success.

Thank you so much for your time and patience. May God continue to bless you with the strength and courage that you need to hold on to the vision of a bright future for the kids of America

KLBG
KLBG

I would have to disagree with the previously made comments about Mrs. DeCosta's work at TMALS. She is not only is an outstanding teahcer, but she is an exceptional principal. Her artistic background doesn't hinder her capabilities, it simply compliments her renowned leadership. She ensures that all of her students perform to the best of their abilities in all aspects of life; nurturing excellence in their academics and self-esteem building. Her accomplishments during her educational carreer are remarkable and this is clearly reflected in her students. TMALS functions as a tight knit family which provides the students with teacher and parent support at all times. Just in case you had any doubts about Mrs. Decosta being qualified for the job, take a second and do some research. You'll find quotes from Philanthropy New York such as, 

" Dawn has received numerous awards and recognitions for her work such as Teacher of the Year 1998, Heroes of Education Award 2002 for her work with students involving the 9/11 tragedy (highlighted in CNN’s, “Through a Child’s Eyes”), and Outstanding Educator 2002. Her Museum Ambassadors Program, parent/grandparent workshops and student exhibits have been highlighted in numerous publications.  Dawn has written and received grants including the Faith Ringgold Anyone Can Fly Foundation Art with Kids Grant 2006-2011, The Anyone Can Fly Printmaking Grant, and the Studio Museum in Harlem Arts in Focus Collaboration Grant, The UFT Mini Grant to name just a few.  Dawn has also designed Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School’s Integrated Arts program entitled the Faith Ringgold Museum Ambassadors Program with a theme that focuses on literacy and studies of various artists, an inquiry-based integrated curriculum approach that also includes monthly student and family visits to museums and galleries."

And there are numerous other reviews similar to this one from multiple sources. Its a shame how such negativity can be found in all things positive. 

Uptown
Uptown

i will have to agree the children are out of control they don't respect the teachers/staff or themselves i have witnessed this many times as a visitor. there is no clear leadership in the school they don't even respect decosta they carry on at times like she's not even present in front of them she is nasty ,& rude often brushes concerns aside talks in circles as if anybody with a 8th grade education or higher can't decipher the BS she dishes when they hear it ! they need davenport back 

parent2
parent2

That Is What Happen's When You Take A Art Teacher and Make Her A Principal! She is only use to doing art & craft"s!" No Wonder The School Is Out Of CONTROL!" We Need More Caring Parent's LIKE THIS!!!

parent
parent

It would be nice if you can follow up on how this school went from a C to an F grade in student progress in one year. I will tell you as parent who has  a child in that school and am looking to transfer out, the principal DeCosta is to blame. She is nasty, unavailable to parents, ghetto and doesn't know what she is doing. Her secretary is nasty always yelling at the parents. You have parents cursing out the secretary in the play yard cause of the way she speaks to them. She is a bully. Since the original principal Mr. Davenport left the school has gone down. A bunch of parents complained to the district and nothing happened. The children are out of control and have no respect for teachers. You come visit our school. There are parents there who would talk to the media. They are fed up. When parents have concern they are ignored and then the child becomes a target. There is no structure it looks good on the surface but come inside. The lunch time is out of control children running around fighting and getting hurt.  The teachers can't control them and they are tired. my child has been bullied for months and I complained to DeCosta and nothing was done. Last week I went to pick up my child and the school was on lock down. No one would tell us why. and the fights in front of the school and she didn't come out to investigate. You investigate Abyssinian investigate why the children are not learning, why they hire a parent who is always yelling at the kids, and cursing at her son who goes there in front of the children. She is nasty and parents complain about her all of the time and nothing is done. we are working class parents wanting an education for our children. I don't think Reverend Butts knows how bad the school has gone down under her leadership. How dare they use the Thurgood Marshall name. The school does not live up to his character. Its a shame that in a few everybody will forget about the articles and the children will continue to not learn. The school is in trouble and the DeCosta needs to go

parent
parent

It would be nice if you can follow up on how this school went from a C to an F grade in student progress in one year. I will tell you as parent who has  a child in that school and am looking to transfer out, the principal DeCosta is to blame. She is nasty, unavailable to parents, ghetto and doesn't know what she is doing. Her secretary is nasty always yelling at the parents. You have parents cursing out the secretary in the play yard cause of the way she speaks to them. She is a bully. Since the original principal Mr. Davenport left the school has gone down. A bunch of parents complained to the district and nothing happened. The children are out of control and have no respect for teachers. You come visit our school. There are parents there who would talk to the media. They are fed up. When parents have concern they are ignored and then the child becomes a target. There is no structure it looks good on the surface but come inside. The lunch time is out of control children running around fighting and getting hurt.  The teachers can't control them and they are tired. my child has been bullied for months and I complained to DeCosta and nothing was done. Last week I went to pick up my child and the school was on lock down. No one would tell us why. and the fights in front of the school and she didn't come out to investigate. You investigate Abyssinian investigate why the children are not learning, why they hire a parent who is always yelling at the kids, and cursing at her son who goes there in front of the children. She is nasty and parents complain about her all of the time and nothing is done. we are working class parents wanting an education for our children. I don't think Reverend Butts knows how bad the school has gone down under her leadership. How dare they use the Thurgood Marshall name. The school does not live up to his character. Its a shame that in a few everybody will forget about the articles and the children will continue to not learn. The school is in trouble and the DeCosta needs to go

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