“As educators, we are in the business of saving lives,” said Dr. Luis Cruz, the keynote speaker for Fulton City School District’s Staff Development Day.
From Los Angeles, Cruz brings 25 years working in elementary, middle and high school education.
His family coming from Ecuador, Cruz talked about the trials growing up as an English-Language Learner, and the stigma that society can place on similar children.
“I have some news!” declared Cruz. “Poor children can learn! English learners are intelligent! All kids are capable – black kids, white kids, Native American kids, Latino kids!”
Perhaps the most touching story Cruz shared was about his time working at a school known in the community as the “athletic” school, as opposed to the neighboring “academic” school.
Cruz said that the low expectations held by the community found their way into his students’ heads.
A team effort and a lot of hard work in examining the school’s culture caused a 72% graduation rate rising to a 92% graduation rate in only a few short years.
“After I left that school, the staff called me three years later to let me know that the graduation rate had grown again to 95%,” told Cruz. “This is not a story about a principal coming in on a white horse to save the school, this was about working as a team, and the growth continued after I left.”
Cruz then challenged the staff in the audience to take a few minutes to discuss among themselves the current school culture inside the FCSD, and how they can work together to break through the barriers that hold students back.
“Our profession is the most important profession in society,” said Cruz, “because it is our job to make sure everyone else in the world is successful.”
Director of Student Support Programs Geri Geitner also gave a presentation on The Dignity for All Students Act .
Geitner showed a touching video about student bullying and violence that ended with the words: “Stand up. Stand strong. Stand together. It’s up to you.”