This guest post is by author, educator, and consultant Ray Golarz. For almost 20 years, Dr. Golarz directed work with at-risk children and gangs near Chicago. In addition, he did extensive work with juvenile courts, probation offices, and police departments.
The tragedy of this story is that it is the story of thousands and thousands of hardworking Americans.
Stan and Mary were married in 1953. In 1956, Stan returned home from the Korean War and got a job working on the Lake Erie docks in Cleveland. Soon Mary had their first child. A house became available in a modest neighborhood. With financial help of family they bought it. The house had a basement, kitchen, dining room, a small den, one bathroom and four bedrooms upstairs.
For the first five years after purchasing the house, they bought only the essentials. With any money left over they paid back their relatives.
Ultimately, they had five children who all attended the school down the street — Roosevelt Elementary. It was a school where parents and teachers worked together. Children understood that violating standards would not be tolerated.
Over the years Stan slowly improved their house. A second bathroom was added and in 1963 Stan began remodeling the kitchen, giving Mary a double sink, a window to look out of over her backyard and a larger area for the kitchen table. He finished the kitchen in 1965. In addition, he rewired the basement, built bookshelves in the den and put in a two-car garage. With friends and relatives, Stan laid a concrete driveway on the side of the house back to the garage. By the time he retired, there wasn’t much that hadn’t been rebuilt, repaired or touched up.
After a long, good life together raising their family in that comfortable home, Mary passed away. Stan, shortly thereafter, began getting confused, fell badly a couple of times and then went to live several miles away with a daughter and her husband.
Stan and Mary hadn’t saved a lot. They had spent their money frugally while raising their family. Stan had done most of the home improvements. Mary had cooked, cleaned and helped maintain the condition of their home while she tutored, nursed and gave individualized attention to a growing and maturing family.
Stan’s only real asset was the house, and now the time had come to sell it. He had kept it in good shape, and its reasonable sale would give to each of his children a small inheritance. So Stan arranged a meeting at the house with a real estate agent.
“Sir, I know the house is in great shape and immaculate but the school down the street has just been given a grade of ‘F’ by the state. So, finding a family willing to buy here will be immensely difficult. You may need to come down at least $40,000 or maybe more if you want to sell.” Stan said nothing. He just dropped his head then walked slowly to the sink and looked out of the window that Mary loved so much.
It was now time to say goodbye to the house and have his daughter drive him back to her home. They stopped for a red light, and from the rear seat of the car he looked out. He could see after-school children laughing and horse-playing as the left Betty J’s corner store, chewing their penny candy on their way home, full of hope and joy as his kids and their friends had done so often years ago. Stan slowly turned from the window and looked forward. He smiled. Nothing of real importance had really changed in the neighborhood.
Maybe someday someone would explain to him exactly what an “F” school was and why it meant that he now practically had to give his house away.