Friday, October 9, 2015

How Did I Get Here?

How Did I Get Here?

I don't know why, but I am feeling a bit nostalgic. Maybe it is texting a good friend I haven't seen awhile today, or maybe looking through some old photographs in albums I had on Facebook. Maybe it is just in the air. I look at myself now and sometimes, I don't even recognize the person I am. Not in a bad way or maybe not even in a good way. This guy is just different. Today, I had to venture into New York City for an opportunity to sit with Fox News for an interview regarding education in the city of Newark and how the ParentPower Movement came about. Me...Fox News? HOLY CRAP! When I initially got the call several weeks ago and heard on our voicemail that they wanted to speak with me I have to admit, I was a little skeptical in returning the call. It's not like Fox News and I really have that much in common. Especially, when it comes to political views. I did and I was even more surprised when they asked me to come in and do an interview in their studios. I wasn't going to do it but I asked my friends Julia and Susan what they thought and my concerns for it being Fox and both said to do it and that would be a great experience for me to have. Both equally said to stick to my guns and don't let them twist my words around or go down avenues I didn't feel comfortable going. After speaking to Julia and Susan, I contacted the producer and agreed to come in. So today, I hoped on the PATH, headed across the river into Manhattan and walked down the streets of Time Square pretty much a new person and a new type of Dad!

I got to Fox Studio and was greeted by the producer who arranged the interview. There was a signing in and badge process. Many large bodied guards! All around me were signs of faces from the Fox News teams and People like Hannity and the likes. I WAS TOTALLY A FISH OUT OF WATER! I flet as if I were behind enemy lines!  I was able to peak into some of the studios that were being used as we walked down the halls. " I'll get you into hair and make up!" he said and I instantly got nervous! I was brought to a small make up room with 4 chairs, 3 make up artists and TONS of make up supplies. As I sat in the chair I wondered to myself HOW DID I GET HERE? My nerves rattled a bit. It hit me like a ton of bricks that I just an average everyday dad, was sitting in a hair and make up chair at Fox News. The make up artist introduced herself and to be completely honest I was so focused on remaining calm that I completely forgot her name. she asked me what brought me to the studios today . I am almost positive she had to repeat herself because I was in a different world. part nervous and part thinking who else has sat in this very make up chair? I am a total movie and TV buff and being in front of the camera has always been a dream of mine.  I snapped back in to the tone of her voice and told that I was there to tape an education segment about Education in the city of Newark and about a parent organization I am a co-founder for.  She told me that she was from NJ and again I completely forget where. That loosened me up more. As she dabbed and blotted make up on my face (which is a very strange experience in itself)  and fixed my hair, I told her that I was a pro Traditional public school parent and how my family have all graduated from Oliver Street School. She told me that she as well strongly supported traditional public schools in our state and how it was a shame what was going on. 

She told me about her 2nd grader and the homework that she was coming home with. She said " it is impossible to help her! I feel like an idiot because I can't help my own daughter with her homework! 2nd grade homework!" I told her how she wasn't alone and as they get older it get's wore. The gentleman interviewing me was standing by the door listening to our conversation and he was puzzled as to what we meant. He obviously, had no children and experienced the format The Core has brought to the classroom and how learning practices in the classroom have changed. I responded with " Yes, 2+2=4 is not the way you get to 4 anymore!" He looked totally confused. The make-up artist from NJ just validated the reason why my butt was in that seat. The trip across the river...just got interesting! 

When hair and make up where done. we proceeded threw the corridors of Fox, I saw a couple of familiar faces from the channel. If you ask my wife, I don't get star struck or run up to people and ask for autographs and pictures. Just never was my thing. so this was no different especially when I felt every move I made was under watch. We approached a man and he introduced him self and told me he would be the camera man filming the interview. As we walked to the studio, he told me he was from Summit, NJ and had a 2 year old and a 8 year old. We discussed again how hard helping kids with home work was. How ironic, in the middle of Right Winged Fox News and I found two of my Jersey peoples. Again, validating the very reason for me being there. We entered a dimly lit sound stage filled with various sets and stage equipment. In the middle were two chairs facing each other a few fake book cases and statues. The two chairs where the only thing lit in the room. Here goes the interrogation! That's what it reminded me of. The camera man placed a mic on me, made some adjustments to some equipment. The producer sat in the chair opposite of me and made small talk telling me he actually taught for a year in Portland (I believe). One year being in kindergarten.  He also asked me how much Mayor Baraka was involved and I told him tremendously. The camera man gave the all good to go and we were ready to tape. 

He asked me questions about how Newark Parents Union started and how we evolved into the Parent Power Movement. We then went on to discussing the $100 million dollars donated by Mark Zuckerber then matched by the state. That seemed to be his primary focus. Where did I think the money went. We talked about making the playing field fair for all children. I don't want to give to much of the interview away before it airs. We wrapped the interview and the producer asked me if I would be okay with them filming some walking sequences down the street. I said that would be fine and we left the studio. I walked up and down from the corner of 48th St. to about mid block on 6th Ave and back again a few times (an awkward process) and that was the interview! We all shook hands and they thanked me for coming to do the segment. With that we said our goodbyes and I headed back down 6th Ave.

As I sat on my train ride back to New Jersey, I started thinking how did I get myself into all this? Surely, the reasons I was taking the Path into NYC were definitely not to go speak to Fox News about the state of education in Newark and to be an advocate for empowering parents. Who is this guy? I think about how far I have come from that old person. That old dad. From that day I said "Hey I think we should start a Facebook page!" From meeting my great friend Hassan Manning and both of us saying let's really wake people up and shake the rafters! It seems ages ago that I was standing fore the very first time in my life in the State House with my family, best friend friend Pedro, Hassan and Liz standing with Senator Rice on getting Stop Force Public School Closures Act S966 initiated. I didn't even know really what a bill was really until getting involved with my good friends at Save Our Schools New Jersey. Only bill I knew was that School House Rock Song. 
If you asked me that I would be speaking at rallies and judicial hearings or speaking at a dais in front of my State Senators, I would say " sorry wrong guy!" Even getting involved in politics, if you would have told me that I would be hosting a coffee clutch for the elected mayor of the city, I would have told you NEVER!If you would have asked me on December 18th, 2013 when we launched our parent portal with only 6 of us on it, that it would grow to over 3, 050 and counting and a reach of up to 45k news feeds a week all over the nation, I would say "GET OUTTA TOWN!"  
I have traded in the Playstation controller and have picked up the Smart Phone to read articles and information regarding curriculum, legislation, the charter expansion, educational lawsuits and parent blogs. I mean i had no clue what Common Core was about 5 years ago and know I am deeply vested in educating myself and others about standards that are not our own being forced on our children. Attending book discussions, State Board of Education meetings and municipal level committee meetings on education. Like...who is this guy?
 The only logical way I think I have morphed into this new person, this new dad is I love my son. Education is very important to me especially when it comes to educational matters that will ultimately impact my son's future! In turn, helping those children in my community as well and their families have what is fair and just! I want to sit with my friends from Livingston, Short Hills, Warren, Maplewood and Belmar and them not gasp when I speak about things like my son's school schedule or how my son has been in the same school K-8. 
I want to be able to understand what rights as a parent I have to be at the decision making table when it comes down to legislation, curriculum and whats best for my child. I want to make sure when I say " NO MY SON WILL NOT BE TAKING THAT TEST" that my voice is not only heard but it is RESPECTED!

I am not quite sure how this all happened or how I even got here, but I am here! I am that dad who is vying for a seat on his son's school PTSO. I make my son brown bag lunches. I attend open houses. I meet with teachers. I volunteer to direct the school talent show. I research my sons text books and what is going on in his classroom. I am that dad who will as a million and one questions and demand truthful answers. I am that dad who hashtags #PARENTPOWER because I believe in it!

I am that dad who will get on a PATH train and speak to media about what really is going on in our school system. Again, not sure how I got here and don't think I can ever go back, but I like this guy and dad I have become!

The one who reaps the benefits of me becoming this new type of modern son!


  1. I never have really thought my journey to "here" either. I suspect that all parents who are in this "place" have had a similar trajectory. Too many have forgotten that part of being a citizen is calling out injustice and wrongdoing when we see it. Largely, you (and the collective we) are doing just that. Much respect, my friend.

  2. @Julie B It's not a bad place to be "Here!" I am up for the task. Just if you told me 20 years ago that I would be in this place! I would have said..."YOU ARE OUT OF YOUR MIND!" What ever has brought me " Here" I have met wonderful comrades along the way. People I learn and grow from like yourself that make me a better Dad!