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Sunday, April 27, 2008 | I was very disappointed after reading Emily Alpert‘s article on Iftin Charter School, “A School Called Enlightenment.” During the interview process, I felt extremely uncomfortable with Ms. Alpert’s questions when she asked me to share stereotypes and generalizations about “these people.” I must not have satisfied her thirst for cultural bias as nothing said during my 30-minute conversation with her was included in the article. I know another teacher also spent around 30 minutes talking about our school, only to have one comment about a Muslim dietary observance put in the article.
Ms. Alpert wrote, “A non-Muslim teacher asking her Muslim students if a food dye breaks religious dietary law. . . epitomizes the mission of Iftin, a fledgling charter school where Somali-speaking parents are comfortable, Arabic is offered, and perfecting English is a mission.” Was Ms. Alpert misinformed about the mission of Iftin Charter School, which hung in my classroom inches away from her seat while she took notes? Allow me to share the accurate version of Iftin’s Mission Statement: “Iftin Charter Schoool (ICS) provides students in grades K-7 an academically rigorous . . . core curricula supplemented with a technology-intensive program in a safe and caring learning environment. ICS will address the needs of students, their families, and their communities by building on the strength of students’ cultural heritage and life experiences to enable them to become successful, lifelong learners, and valuable members of the global community.” This is also located on our school website which Ms. Alpert included a link to but perhaps did not look over very carefully. Does a passing comment by a teacher about Doritos epitomize Iftin’s mission? I sure hope not, otherwise our school is in big trouble.
Ms. Alpert articulated well the challenges that Iftin faces with many non-English proficient students who are new to the country. But, isn’t that a very similar story in most San Diego schools south of interstate 8? Is she trying to bring a voice to the issues many San Diego schools face, or does including this information help her suggest Iftin is similar to “MidCity Charter Academy, which closed in 2006”? I believe Iftin stands to be counted among successful charter schools in the future.
I realize Ms. Alpert cannot include everything in her article; however, she clearly chose to include elements that supported her narrow perspective of our school. I expect better.