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article imageOp-Ed: Suzan Hebson and Arizona controversy

By Michael Bearak     May 14, 2010 in Politics
Dr. Sue Hebson, the Assistant Superintendent of the Highland Park High School in Chicago, has been in the trenches fighting the fight for years. But now Facebook has over 10,000 members, asking Hebson to back-down on letting the girl's team go to Arizona
I can say that Dr. Suzan Hebson was a great teacher, at least for me. I was fortunate enough to have her twice while at Deerfield High School. If memory serves me correctly she had just joined the DHS staff about the time I was a freshman, which means she has served for over 20 years. What is important is to understand what life is like for District 113 teachers and administrators.
This article is not meant to bash Deerfield, Highland Park, or Dr. Hebson, but I would advise all to consider putting on a helmet for a reality check.
District 113 is comprised of Deerfield and Highland Park High Schools, that is it and they are each others arch-enemies. The schools are located about 30-45 minutes north of downtown Chicago and are situated right next-door to each other. Highland Park has the advantage of being on Lake Michigan, while Deerfield, much smaller (or at least while I attended it was) has Deerfield's Bakery--which thankfully is still there!
The schools are tied in a number of ways, not just the fact that they are part of the same school district. They share track and field facilities, students at one time had the option to take certain classes at the other school, they shared a swimming pool, and of course district administration officers.
The schools tended, even back in the '90's to have students who often drove nicer vehicles than the teachers. Parents backed the children, often over what the school's teachers and administrators were recommending. There was affluence at both schools and they were primarily white, especially Deerfield. Highland Park had a better racial diversity than Deerfield, but mostly it was white as well. My graduating class from Deerfield was 150 students, we had 3 Asians, 2 African-Americans (well, one actually had one white parent, one African-American), and 2 or 3 Hispanic students. So for the sake of the argument, 8 students who were considered minorities out of 150.
I can remember parents not just going to bat for their children, but defending them. Defending them when had I done the same thing, my father would have looked at the teacher and told them to hit me, and I would have deserved it. I always felt that there were a bunch of parents, who no matter what their child did was going to take their side over the school's. It set a very confrontational atmosphere at times.
That kind of gives you an idea of what type of population that Dr. Hebson was working with back when I had her for a year and 1/2 as my English teacher. What I can say about Dr. Hebson is this, she was fair, she was just and she didn't let anything slide by.
My first experience with her was on AP English my sophomore year, which was for 1/2 the year in a course called "Persuasion and Debate." Now I was also a member of Student Congress, and I grew up in a household where you could plead your case all day long (it didn't mean you would win or not get yelled at) and I was pretty good in Congress and debate so I figured P&D would be a cake walk. The only problem was, Dr. Hebson wouldn't let me get off easily. I remember winning a debate in class, but my score and grade was lower than my opponent. I think the term, "What the f*&k?" went through my head and possibly came out loud because I won, yet I lost!
What Dr. Hebson was teaching me was that I could do better than I had done, she probably was trying to teach me humility as well, but all she did was frustrate me. Through my frustration and aggravation with her though I earned a high level of respect as well. She demanded from me what she knew was in my best interest and what she knew I was capable of doing, regardless of what I could do to my classmates in debate.
Out of that respect I went to her my senior year, I wanted to do an independent study on poetry writing. She sponsored me, now as the Chair of the English Department. Besides her normal class-load, she was also a department head with greater responsibilities, yet she took the time to work with me, to help mentor me and to teach me how to capture my ideas and to put them on paper.
My senior year writing wise was a break through year, due in large part to Dr. Hebson, you see again she guided me in what was my best interest to submit my best pieces for our literary magazine. She pushed me to figure out the appropriate layout for my materials to develop it into book form. She didn't hand anything to me, even in my last semester as a senior. She wouldn't let me "cruise" to graduation, she made me work for it and earn it, and oh by the way, independent study is just pass/fail. She busted my b*&t repeatedly so that I didn't just pass, but I would have gotten an "A" if it were for grade.
So that is a bit of the history of Dr. Hebson from her student's perspective. Now I see a Facebook page that has over 10,000 members, with it dedicated to either firing her or forcing her to back-down on letting the girl's team go to Arizona. I will admit, I am a member of it, not because I support the cause but because I will tag this article in there!
Dr. Hebson has never been one to mince words, or lie about what she feels. Is it possible that her decision was politically motivated, sure maybe even probable. Does Dr. Hebson have concern about the safety and wellbeing of the students, without a doubt. What is her job though?
Her job is to protect the wellbeing and the safety of these students, not only their educational or intellectual safety but their physical and emotional as well. Face it folks, there has been violence in Arizona since the passing of the legislation, I am not sure I would go there right now either. Now the argument will be made that it isn't until December and that is a long way off, sure it is, but you aren't going to decide 4 weeks out, most likely the decision had to be made now, a commitment had to be made to tournament organizers. None of us have crystal balls into the future, so we have no idea what Arizona will be like in December.
If it is peaceful then she is wrong. If things are still rough, then don't you think she made the right decision now?
Dr. Hebson will march to her own drummer, if you spend five minutes talking to her you will figure that out really quickly. What you will also figure out is that she is devoted to the well being of the students under her care. So you take the good devotion with the bad opinions, where you end up you decide.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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