By: Asia Coleman (Sophomore)
There is more under the surface of Gerald Raines (31) than just being our dean. Living in Bronxville, he takes the role of the new Dean of Students. Last year he added on new policies. Some may wonder why he is stern and serious coming into Senn. Filled with curiosity, I dug deeper into the background of his career and why he chose to become a dean at Senn.
Coleman: Where were you before you became a dean?
Raines: Before I became a dean here or before I came into high schools?
Coleman: Before you became a dean here.
Raines: I was at Noble Charters School.
Coleman: What was your position there.
Raines: I was the assistant dean there. The assistant dean of culture to be exact.
Coleman: So what made you come to Senn?
Raines: So Senn had an extremely diverse population. It was more of a neighborhood school. The Charter Schools were good. Noble was great; but I saw an opportunity to help bring structure to the school who was looking for it and with my experience from Noble and working with the department of juvenile justice and just my law enforcement background; I felt that I could bring a lot of things that could help catapult Senn into a direction where they have consistency and that they can have a safe learning environment for their students because I feel like they deserve it.
Coleman: So why did you decide to change careers from law enforcement into schooling system?
Raines: In high school, there was a police officer there who really had shown impact on my life and I ended up going to the same undergrad as him to study law enforcement. After that I always wanted to be a police officer at a high school. I went out to Arizona, I worked out there. I ended up getting injured, came back to Illinois, got my masters in Juvenile Justice and I was working in Law Enforcement here at DePaul; and then once I graduated I got position for the department of Juvenile Justice in St Charles.
After working there for a year, I saw how broken the system was for youth. Particularly black and brown youth in that system. Compared to working at DePaul in college settings where it was less than 3% that was black and brown; than going to a criminal justice system. Which at the institution I was at, it was more than 85% black and brown incarcerated youth. So I figured what can I do to better wedge that gap, and I realized my place wasn’t there. So I started working in a Charter school that services predominantly black and brown students and being able to see all of the seniors or the freshman. When I started, all of them graduate and then go off to college is what my goal was, and now I would like to transition that here and then meeting with you guys and some of you all with that same trajectory.
Coleman: So what type of ideas are you planning on to accomplish your goal into having black and brown students graduate?
Raines: Not just black and brown, I wanted all the students because again this is extremely diverse. I was just saying that, with my background, that’s why I saw them going more towards the criminal justice system than the college system. Here at Senn it provides a wonderful opportunity for neighborhood schools. It’s not selective but it has a high quality education and I wanna give them structure I want them to realize like, school disciple and character development, it goes hand and hand. My goal is to help you develop character so you can best succeed in life, and that requires structure that requires framework, that requires students to be willing to learn and I’m just going to try to teach them what I wish someone gave to me when I was at their age. When I was in high school, I got in trouble, as I said my officer was well known, or I was well known to him and I just wanna help students completely or overall with their success in high school and then ultimately in their career path.
Coleman: So how many degrees do you have?
Raines: I have a bachelors in law enforcement and justice administration. I have two masters in Juvenile Justice and one in Social Justice. I’m currently getting a graduate certificate from the School of Law at Loyola and school discipline reform.
Coleman: Are you busy a lot?
Raines: I am busy but it’s a very strenuous, rigorous coursework, but its going to help me at my position and how we could best reform school discipline so it services all the students. Primarily the students are reciprocate of disciple are black and brown students. Particularly male. So it is hopefully educating me on how I can create systems and put policies and structures in place that could curve that so that we are supporting all of our students.
Coleman: Have you seen a change in the system, just at least a little bit?
Raines: Here at Senn?
Raines: Well I’m still working with it. You guys are really good students. These aren’t real issues. You guys are late to class like nobody’s business. You guys cut class which is high school stuff but what I’m trying to teach y’all is that’s going to translate to college and you’re going to fail out. If you keep showing up late to class, and if you cutting class in college, you won’t make it through. So I’m trying to nip that in the butt now so that you’re more prepared when you go off to college. I’m not trying be punitive, i’m not trying to kill y’all joy, I’m trying to prepare y’all for real life. So those are some of the things that I’m focusing on. Other things, you know just making sure that we have a safe learning environment that cultivates learning. Things that are beneficial to students process of learning. So that’s why you hear some of the other rules and why we put those in place; but I do see a change but again it wasn’t a bad school to begin with.
Coleman: How do you deal with students who don’t really agree with your methods like no headphones or the new tardy policy. How do you deal with all that?
Raines: Well when I was in high school, headphones, okay i’m 31. So like walking around with headphones, I don’t even remember if they had a rule or not enforced it but here it’s just; it’s so [inaudible] and students are bumping into people, not listening to staff members, not listening to each other, not engaging, taking them into classrooms, listening to them in the classrooms, that’s, you can’t learn while you’re listening to music. It’s one thing if the teacher gives you permission cause you’re doing independent work. It’s another thing when the teacher is lecturing and you have your headphones or your hood on or not paying attention. That’s not helping the student whatsoever. So, I mean to explain to students, at the end of the day, in life there’s rules. There’s systems and structures put in place to help you flourish and that’s what we’re doing here. We are trying to put systems and structures in place to help you flourish; and I’ll explain it to them, I mean they might not like it, it’s just the way the cookie crumbles.