Saturday, August 15, 2009

Roberto Clemente

Many people in Ann Arbor think that there is only one alternative high school--Community High School. But that's not true. Let's not forget Roberto Clemente and Stone School.

If Community High School offers warmth and a lot of freedom, Clemente offers warmth and a lot of structure. Given that the founder, and principal for many years, of Clemente is retiring, it seems time to say a little something about the school.

First of all, do you know who Roberto Clemente was? Great baseball player, great person, killed in an airplane accident on his way to help with earthquake recovery efforts in Nicaragua. Roberto Clemente was a whole person--by which I mean he was well-rounded, smart and athletic and caring. A good model.

Even though he is retiring, Joe Dulin is not a retiring (as in shy) man; but for many years Roberto Clemente High School has been somewhat shy and retiring. In fact, the first time I visited there (in its old building), I wasn't sure we were actually still in the Ann Arbor school district boundaries, it was so far east.

Roberto Clemente Student Development Center is the school that you get referred to (or refer yourself to), if you don't do well at the other schools. You can't graduate from it (you graduate from your home school), and most kids only stay a year. But if you have been wondering how Ann Arbor keeps its graduation rates up, Clemente is definitely a contributing factor.

Want a school that provides a lot of structure, but also warmth? That is Clemente. The school became well-known for having its staff go roust kids out of bed, if necessary, to get them learning. Parent involvement is required.

The target has really been those kids described in Gwendolyn Brooks' poem:

We real cool.
We skip school.
We lurk late.
We strike straight.

From their web site:

Roberto Clemente is an alternative educational program that was established by the Ann Arbor Board of Education in 1974, for 8th through 12th graders, who reside in the Ann Arbor Public School District. The “Clemente Family” serves students who require a smaller, more structured and nurturing environment. Students may be self-referred or referred by their counselor or administrator. Please contact the liaison at your child’s school if you are interested in attending Clemente. Students may enroll at any time during the school year. Once accepted into the program, the student, accompanied by his or her parents, must be interviewed by the principal.

I feel pretty sure that Joe Dulin will continue to do interesting things. Not only has he been the principal at Clemente for many many years, he is also the founder. I imagine that having a new principal there will make things...interesting. Sometimes when founders leave there are big shake-ups. I haven't always agreed with Joe Dulin--and I am guessing that I'm not the only one. But--he has made a difference in a lot of kids' lives, and I appreciate that.

And as for Roberto Clemente Student Development Center? May it live long and prosper.


  1. It may be a good school, but it costs $23,000 per pupil to run. Compare that to $6,500 as an average for other schoos in Ann Arbor.

    Are the students 3.6 times more important? I don't think so. They need to be provided the same budget constraints, or close the school and move the students to one of the other FIVE (Pioneer, Huroon, Community, Skyline, Stone...) High Schools in Ann Arbor. It is a public school, not a private school

  2. you have no idea what your talking about. you want to put these children back where they started because it costs too much. i can see that you have priorities mixed up here. This school is doing more for the education system then pioneer, huron, skyline, community. Does the principal at all those schools know anything about even half of the student body. NO. not at all. At Clemente all staff including custodians know every students name and background. That is the key to a good education system. learn that before you speak on it.

  3. Marriah, I published your comment but I'll ask you to please try and be gentle here. For years Roberto Clemente has been a well-kept secret, and lots of people don't know very much about it. I ask people to assume when they comment that everyone else also wants the best thing for the kids and the schools. As you rightly point out, the relationships that are built at Clemente are crucial to the success of the kids there.