When I began my career as a New York City special education teacher in 2003, I worked on Jackson Avenue, which runs down the east side of St. Mary’s Park in the South Bronx. If your training or your own interests have brought Jonathan Kozol’s book Amazing Grace to your attention, then you already know something about that part of The Bronx.
A bit to the north and east of that school is James Monroe High School. For 46 years, Tom Porton served as an English teacher at Monroe. The South Bronx is not exactly the garden spot of the Five Boroughs, but 46 years ago, in 197o, it was almost literally a war zone–and as the decades passed, it only got worse. Year after year, Tom Porton worked to improve the lives of children in this blighted and often dangerous neighborhood. By all accounts (like this one in The New York Daily News, or this one from NY1, our local cable news provider), he was successful and much beloved by his students. Indeed, in 1995, Mr. Porton was inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame.
If you clicked through on the link under Tom Porton’s name above, you know now that this story has an unfortunately shameful ending. As I’ve said elsewhere, this is not a political blog and I am not a political writer. That said, every so often something happens in the New York City School system, something like this episode, that is such an egregious affront to educators that I am compelled, if not exactly to comment on it, then at least to report it.
The story speaks for itself, I think. In any case, let’s hear from Tom Porton himself, in this post from Mark Naison’s blog, With A Brooklyn Accent.
Farewell, Tom Porton. You will be missed.