You’re the CEO and Principal for Green Tech Charter School, adjunct professor and author. What is your personal story and how did you rise to these positions of influence?
My name is Dr. Paul Miller and I am from Rochester, NY, unfortunately known as the “Murder Capital of NY”. I grew up in the inner city projects (low income housing), which were a lot of houses close together filled with many individuals who are faced with the struggles of low socio-economical trials and tribulations. It was place where people became bonded over their similar living conditions. Seneca Manor (The Manor) in the 1980’s was known by most for the old saying, if you’re not from there, you can’t walk through there, especially at night time. It just wasn’t safe, but it always felt like home to me. It was a community that looked after its own.
Around this time my mother wasn’t working, we had no money, and a lot of headaches. We were so poor that there were times we took bottles back for toilet paper. I remember being embarrassed to go to the store with food stamps. I used to wait outside the store until everyone left out, so I could buy whatever my mother sent me to get. This journey taught me humility and has provided me with the necessary experiences to connect to the people I am leading, which is my greatest strength. To put my students and staff first with appropriate mentoring and in decision making processes.
My diverse journey as an economically disadvantaged youth led me to claim leadership roles within school districts. Accepting my journey and learning an inspirational, humanistic perspective has afforded me the ability to motivate my peers in a collaborative mission towards success. My journey as an economically disadvantaged minority has led me to want to be a leader and an example for others. If I can do it, anyone can do it. I may not be the smartest, but I will work the hardest, and outwork anyone. I use my life story as a diverse individual to inspire and help others to reach their goals of achieving success. Additionally, I bring an immense educational background, with experience in executive leadership. Fortunately, I have the ability to bridge the gaps between research, theory, practice, and the populations we serve as urban educators.
In my current leadership opportunity, Green Tech High (GTH) has achieved a 100% rate of college acceptance, and a 91% matriculation rate, which plays a crucial role for the achievement of the school mission. Additionally, Green Tech has consistently graduated over 95% of its young men and those students have earned millions of dollars in scholarship money. Comparatively, 37% of Black males graduate high school within New York State (Schott Foundation, 2012). GTH students have established success due to the supportive interventions built into the school day, strong academics, caring, qualified teachers and staff, service learning, and outstanding athletics. GTH provides a holistic approach to educating children by meeting their basic needs.
What struggles have you turned into successes, and how?
Over the past 10 years there have been minimal incremental improvements made to decrease the graduation gap between young Black men and their counterparts. Nationally, there has been a three percent increase in closing the gap, which denotes another 50 years before the education gap will be closed between Black males and their counterparts (Schott Foundation, 2012). Comparatively, GTH has worked abundantly hard to close the achievement gap sooner than the 50-year marker, by providing a supportive environment with longer school days, strong curriculum and instructional designs, research based behavior systems, data driven instruction, and teachers who have devoted their careers to develop relationships with students.
Ultimately, GTH has attempted to “limit the impact of poverty and resource disparities”, GTH has a goal of consistently graduating its Black male population at higher rates than National Averages, working towards perfection, because our urban males deserve the same opportunities to be successful in life as any of their counterparts.
My mission over the last 20 years is to educate as many people as possible in a variety of different ways, included to written works. Currently I am the author of two books, “We Need to do Better: Changing the Mindset of Children through Family, Community and Education,” and “Cyberbullying: Breaking the Cycle of Conflict; a Qualitative Study on Black Females Perspectives in an Urban Environment.” “We Need to do Better” examines the environmental factors that inhibit minority boys in the inner city from embracing education and seeing it as the most viable way to succeed. I have spoken all over the country on national platforms, and I do professional developments for schools and colleges primarily focusing on diversity, inclusion, identity, and improving mindsets in order to achieve better results for students.
It also addresses the need for families, educators and the greater community to take more responsibility in providing resources, the necessary guidance and support to assist them on the journey to a brighter future. Educators can benefit from sections that discuss everything from safety, to academic development and classroom leadership. “Cyberbullying” is a study on the prevalence of bullying in the online social media world and its impact on young Black women. I was the first researcher nationally to consider and conduct a study from the Black female’s perspective on Cyberbullying. Complete with interviews and data collection, the book helps teachers, administrators and parents to identify and manage teen conflict.
You’ve been involved in education and a passionate advocate for urban youth. What drives you to serve?
You will see that everywhere I go, my “WHY” is to WIN. Win, may sound crazy, but failure is not an option and I continue to prove that by creating results for students who may not have succeeded any other way. I want to “WIN” for our kids. I am a champion change agent that believes in developing students, staff, and the community so all will succeed and go on to lead successful lives.
What is your vision for Green Tech Charter school?
Children need time and support to develop, especially when they face daily adversity. That doesn’t mean to make excuses for them, nor to lower standards, but it does mean the traditional thought process of pass and fail needs to be revisited. Often urban children have so many factors of distress in their lives that homework may not be a priority. They may not have slept, eaten, or have heat and hot water. If their basic needs are not being met, how as educators can we expect children to follow the same guidelines of someone whose are?
As educators we have to do things to level the playing fields in every, and all ways possible, if we want to make sure kids succeed. Failure can no longer be an option. WE MUST DO BETTER. As an educational leader, teacher, parent, or community member, you have to assure that the proper support systems are in place for our kids. Schools are a great place to begin.
My vision for Green Tech is to remain a place of innovation for students, specifically serving young Black men to get to college and have careers within their community that allow them to be the change they want to see.
What do you most want to share with Black men and the next generation?
Please see my letter to GTH students:
Heavy on my heart is how unfair life is for the Black man. If it is on my heart, I know it is on all of your hearts as Middle and High School young Black men, who have their whole lives in front of them. The question of uncertainty comes up because you don’t know what life is going to look like. You don’t know if your life will be taken during a traffic stop, driving while “Black”, or will you be a victim of violence from your own Brother for living Uptown or Downtown. The stress and plights that you have to endure is a heavy cross to bear. The cross is heavier than most people could ever realize. As I write this, I empathize and understand what it feels like to consistently try, but feel like you cannot get ahead because of people and the systems stacked against you. The rocks are stacked high on us, building a wall, squishing us beneath the surface of a racist foundation, but the fence gets opened for them to storm the Capitol Building.
Often it doesn’t make sense when we see people do things, but know, if we did them, the outcomes would be different. Why is it that White people can storm the Capital of the United States of America and be met with minimal resistance? However, Black people protest and are met with Bullets, Dogs, Hoses, Tear Gas, and Pepper Spray. The question that comes to mind is one of fairness, justice and equality. Fair doesn’t always mean equal, but isn’t justice supposed to balance the scale between the two? Being a Black man in America does not necessarily follow that equation. The scales have never been just, moving from Slavery, Jim Crow, Civil Rights, to Mass Incarceration, even poor education systems that are less than adequate in our communities. Every twist and turn has been designed to slow down the Black man by putting sandbags and obstacles on his back and in front of him to carry and evade. I say all of this not to insight you, but to share that I too am angry. I too share your feelings and thoughts of confusion.
Not having all the answers, but knowing in my heart there are things we can do. Fairness, equality, and justice may never fully be granted to us, however, it is something we can take. Taking it doesn’t mean storming the Capitol building and hurting people, it means taking back the power that exists in you, needed to make the necessary changes for yourselves and the larger systems. Right now we are in the middle of a pandemic and we are learning virtually, however, you still have the power to sharpen your strongest weapon which is your mind. Develop the most feared weapon of all, which is the mind of the Black man. Sharpen your tool and load it with the desire to change things in this country. Change always happens from within, change yourself, then change the systems from within. You need to be the next leader of Green Tech, Chief of Police, Lead Surgeon, Business Owners, Politicians, Teachers, or even President of the United States.
All of these things may seem far away and you are hurting today, so they seem even harder to obtain. Why not just say forget and give up, let’s be who they think we are? That is not even an option for Kings, Rulers, and Leaders. You have to have power within you to overcome all that is in front of you. Today seems so unfair, make it fair, by changing today, fight back by taking responsibility and accountability for your education. Put more into becoming that loaded weapon. Today is the first day of training camp. You need to fight for a roster spot on your favorite team, but bringing anything less than your A game will result in being cut from the squad. You are competing with each other for roster spots and the rest of the world more importantly, particularly, people who don’t look like you and don’t have the same obstacles that you do as a young Black man. You could get discouraged, take your ball and go home, or you can look at this unjust, unfair, unequal life in its eyes of despair, and decide to be a part of the solution. Fight back by passing all tests, passing all classes, go to college, show them you are not who they think you are, you are what fairness, equality, and justice are supposed to be, an EDUCATED BLACK MAN!