Principal Irene DaMota swept into her office, late for an appointment. A student in the Family and Consumer Science program had just been awarded a four-year $40,000 culinary scholarship. DaMota found it difficult to tear herself away from the jubilant awards ceremony. Successes are hard won by students at Roberto Clemente High School. Located in Chicago's predominantly His panic Humboldt Park neighborhood, Clemente High has long been the poster child for everything wrong with Chicago public schools.
As DaMota sat down, an aide handed her a neighborhood Hispanic newspaper, carrying a full-page advertisement with the flaming headline, "Massacre of a School." Filled with diatribes, the ad vilified Da Mota, branding her an "executioner" for allegedly expelling 1,400 Hispanic students in a "war against the people."
The truth involved more complicated factors, including the large number of students asked to participate in after-school tutoring, summer school, and other options to make up for failing grades. Only 80 students were actually dropped this past year from Clemente's rolls—as required by Chicago Board of Education guidelines for chronic truancy.
The two incidents—the scholarship victory and the vicious personal assault—are typical of DaMota's experience since be coming Clemente's principal about three years ago. DaMota is one of thousands of Christian educators around the country who have re fused to give up on public schools. As more Christians turn to home schooling, voucher programs, or traditional private schools, many educators believe public schools are more open than ever before to the contributions offered by Christians who are willing to work within the system and provide solutions that work.