Why the Head of Baltimore's Public Schools Won't Watch “The Wire”
Dr. Andres Alonso was born in Cuba and emigrated to the United States with his parents at the age of 12. Originally speaking no English, he attended public schools in Union City, New Jersey, and ultimately graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Columbia University. Dr. Alonso went on to earn a J.D. from Harvard Law School and practiced law in New York City before changing course to become an educator. In 2006 he was awarded a Doctorate in Education from Harvard University.
From 1987 to 1998, Dr. Alonso taught emotionally disturbed special education adolescents and English language learners in Newark, New Jersey. He worked at the New York City Department of Education from 2003 to 2007, first as Chief of Staff and then as Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, working closely with the Chancellor in planning and implementing the reform of the largest educational system in the nation. On July 1, 2007, Dr. Alonso was named CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools).
Among many other awards, in 2008 he was granted the “Audacious Individual Award” by the Open Society Institute Baltimore, and named “Innovator of the Year” by The Daily Record. In 2009 he was named “School Superintendent of the Year” by the Fullwood Foundation, and recognized as a “Hispanic Hero Award” winner by U.S. Hispanic Youth Entrepreneur Education. In August 2009 Dr. Alonso was appointed to the prestigious No Child Left Behind Committee for the Aspen Institute, a bipartisan effort to improve federal education policy to spur academic progress and close the achievement gap.
Question: As the Baltimore schools CEO, have you ever watched “The Wire”?\r\n
Andres Alonso: I never watched it. I’m familiar with it. You know why I’ve never watched it? So, first of all, people think it’s an amazing show and they always react to me as in, “How could you not have watched The Wire?” When I decided that I was going to go to Baltimore and everybody said, “You have to have watched ‘The Wire,’ and you have to watch the fourth season. That’s the season that is about education.” It just struck me, no, if I’m going to give the city a chance, I can’t approach it through the lens of a work of fiction, however magnificent it might be, that shows it in its worst light. And I love people in schools too much to do that to them.\r\n
So, I - and, of course, I taught in Newark, New Jersey for 12 years, so I felt that I don’t need to watch a TV show to understand what happens in some of the urban, the core of America. So, I’ve decided that I wouldn’t watch it and I’m just too busy to watch 150 hours of TV or however long it might take right now. So, I haven’t watched an HBO series since “The Sopranos” and, of course, “The Sopranos” I watched because I’m from New Jersey. So, that’s the story of “The Wire” for me.
Recorded on January 29, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen
The fourth season of the acclaimed TV drama was all about the Baltimore school system. So why won’t the real-life CEO of Baltimore’s public schools watch it?
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