let them eat packaged cake

Brooklyn Tech to students: No homemade baked goods allowed

Brooklyn Technical High School students buy snacks before school today at Rocky's Deli and Grill on Fort Greene Place.

If students at Brooklyn Technical High School want to eat a homemade brownie with their lunch, they now have to do it surreptitiously.

The elite high school instituted a new policy last week banning all homemade baked goods from the building. Students are speculating that the policy is a response to drug-laced baked goods that are sometimes brought to the school.

The announcement came in Tech’s morning announcements Feb. 9, sandwiched between the Pledge of Allegiance and a notice about healthy relationships:

Attention students: Homemade baked goods are no longer allowed in Brooklyn Tech. Students found with baked goods will have them confiscated. Be advised that store brought baked goods in a sealed package are still allowed in school.

We apologize for any inconvenience.

Principal Randy Asher declined to comment on the new policy, citing an ongoing investigation. A spokeswoman for the Department of Education, Marge Feinberg, said the investigation was internal to the school.

She also said the policy change had nothing to do with the city’s own two-year-old restrictions on homemade goods at school bake sales. The restrictions ban the sales of homemade goods before 6 p.m. in school buildings, with a once-a-month exception for sales organized by parent organizations. ban on homemade goods being sold at school bake sales.

The city’s limits on school bake sales have made it tougher for Tech’s clubs to raise funds and have driven food sales onto the black market, Tech students said today. They said some students would bring baked goods to school and sell them in the halls and cafeteria or by word of mouth.

A sophomore who was buying a packaged chocolate chip coffee cake at Rocky’s Deli and Grill, on Tech’s block, before school today suggested that Tech’s administrators were trying to end that practice.

Plus, students said, at least some of the underground bake sales featured goodies laced with drugs, especially marijuana. Earlier this month, students at I.S. 208 in Queens bought pot-laced brownies from a classmate and ate them at school.

“I think the [new] policy is reasonable. … A lot of kids do actually put weed in stuff,” said a Tech junior who stood outside Rocky’s this morning. “But sometimes it’s a bit of a punishment, too, for the kids who don’t participate.”

“It’s really stupid because maybe one two people put bad things in, but not everybody’s going to do that, obviously, said another student, a sophomore.

Students said they doubted that administrators would crack down on a single homemade cookie pulled from a lunch bag but said they didn’t expect trays of brownies and cupcakes to make their usual appearances anytime soon.

The new policy was already having an impact today. Students said baked goods would typically have been part of Valentine’s Day celebrations, as they were during the lead-up to the holiday break in December. Instead, the parade of students down Fort Greene Place carried flowers, candy, stuffed animals, and even the occasional balloon — but no trays of baked goods.

“It takes away from the holiday,” said a sophomore on his way to school. “If we can’t do that next year [at the holidays], it’s going to be a big blow.”

father knows best

How a brush with death convinced one dad to get his diploma, with a boost from the Fatherhood Academy

PHOTO: Courtesy of Steven Robles
Steven Robles with his family

Steven Robles thought he might not live to see his daughter’s birth.

In May 2016, the 20-year-old was in the hospital after being shot during what he described as an argument in his neighborhood.

A year later, Robles just graduated from City University of New York’s Fatherhood Academy. He passed his high school equivalency exam and is happily celebrating his daughter Avare’s 8-month birthday.

“That conflict is what got me into the program, and what happened to me before she was born motivated me to stay in the program,” Robles said. “It motivated me to manage to pass my GED.”

Robles grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn and attended Franklin K. Lane High School. Though he liked his teachers, Robles said other students at the school were not “mature enough,” and the disorderly school environment made it hard for him to concentrate.

A quiet student, Robles said teachers would often overlook his presence in the classroom. Between that and friction with other classmates, Robles lost interest in school.

“My parents didn’t try to help me, either,” Robles said. “Nobody really tried to help me with that school, so I just stopped going.”

It was a whole different experience for him once he arrived at the Fatherhood Academy at LaGuardia Community College, a program run by CUNY for unemployed and underemployed fathers ages 18 through 28. The Academy, now partnering with the New York City Housing Authority at its LaGuardia location, was launched in 2012 and also has programs at Hostos and Kingsborough Community Colleges.

“I have interviewed many of the men who come into the program and I often ask the question, ‘What brought you here?'” said Raheem Brooks, program manager of the Fatherhood Academy at LaGuardia Community College. “Mostly every young man says, ‘I’m here because I want to create a better life for my child than I had.’ So, I think the main theme of the program is that we help promote intergenerational change.”

At the LaGuardia branch, 30 students attend classes three times a week over the course of 16 weeks. Subjects include mathematics, social studies, and writing for students seeking to get their high school equivalency diplomas. Students also attend workshops run by counselors who guide them in professional development and parenting.

Robles found out about the program after seeing a flier for it in his social worker’s office at Graham Windham, a family support services organization. Curious to see what the Academy offered, he called to find out more and officially enrolled after passing a test to prove he could read above seventh-grade level.

“Before the Academy, I was not really into school at all,” Robles said. “But when I got there, it just changed my life. In this program, I didn’t know anybody there, there were no distractions. It made me more focused, and I just really wanted to get my GED and education.”

What helped Robles the most was getting to learn from the other fathers in the class, who were going through similar experiences as him.

“Little things I didn’t know, I learned from them because they were also fathers,” Robles said. “I just liked the way they were teaching us.”

In fact, he liked the Academy so much, he doesn’t plan to leave. He is applying to study criminal justice at LaGuardia Community College and to become a mentor for the Academy next year.

Currently, Robles lives with his grandparents, his daughter and the mother of his child. Getting a place for his family is next on his to-do list, he said.

“Avare always has a smile on her face and always puts a smile on my face,” Robles said. “She motivates me to get up and do what I have to do. Anything I could do for her, I will.”

Though school did not play a huge role in his life growing up, that is not what Robles wants for his daughter. He said after participating in the Academy, he wants to make sure Avare stays motivated and in school.

“I hear a lot from people about how they think they can’t do it,” Robles said. “I almost lost my life before my daughter was born and that motivated me. If I could do it, you could do it.”

Behind the brawl

Three things to know about the Tennessee school behind this week’s graduation brawl

PHOTO: Arlington Community Schools
Arlington High School is a 2,000-plus-student school in suburban Shelby County in southwest Tennessee.

Arlington High School is considered the crown jewel of a 3-year-old district in suburban Shelby County, even as its school community deals with the unwelcome attention of several viral videos showing a fight that broke out among adults attending its graduation ceremony.

The brawl, which reportedly began with a dispute over saved seats, detracted from Tuesday’s pomp and circumstance and the more than $30 million in scholarships earned by the school’s Class of 2017. No students were involved.

“It was unfortunate that a couple of adults in the audience exhibited the behavior they did prior to the ceremony beginning and thus has caused a distraction from the celebration of our students’ accomplishments,” Arlington Community Schools Superintendent Tammy Mason said in a statement.

Here are three things to know about the 13-year-old school in northwest Shelby County.

With more than 2,000 students, Arlington is one of the largest high schools in Shelby County and is part of a relatively new district.

It’s the pride of a suburban municipality that is one of six that seceded from Shelby County Schools in 2014 following the merger of the city and county districts the year before. (School district secessions are a national trend, usually of predominantly white communities leaving predominantly black urban school systems.) More than 70 percent of Arlington’s students are white, and 6 percent are considered economically disadvantaged — in stark contrast to the Memphis district where less than 8 percent are white, and almost 60 percent are considered economically disadvantaged.

The school’s graduation rate is high … and climbing.

Last year, after adding interventions for struggling students, the school’s graduation rate jumped a full point to more than 96 percent. Its students taking the ACT college entrance exam scored an average composite of 22.5 out of a possible 36, higher than the state average of 19.9. But only a fifth scored proficient or advanced in math and a third in English language arts during 2015-16, the last school year for which scores are available and a transition year for Tennessee under a new test.

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Education Commissioner Candice McQueen visits with students at Arlington High School during a 2016 tour.

The school was in the news last August when Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen visited its campus.

The commissioner spoke with students there to kick off her statewide listening tour that’s focused on ways to get students ready for college and career. McQueen highlighted the school’s extracurricular activities and students’  opportunities to intern for or shadow local professionals. She also complimented Arlington for having an engaged education community.