Susan and Alan Raymond spend 1 year at Stanton Elementary School in urban Philadelphia where 90 percent of the students are living way below the poverty line. Many of them come from single parent homes and some even have crack addicts as parents. Also, many of these kids suffer from behavioral and learning disabilities, many are given drugs such as Ritalin to help them cope. This documentary focuses on the kids and the Principal - Deanna Burney.
The principal comes up with very good solutions for problems that these kids face, including breakfast and lunch programs - where these are the only two meals some of kids get to eat in a day. Also the teachers talk to them about drugs, alcohol and and the things that they see everyday and how to best respond to them. They are lectured about how they are 'intelligent, talented, and gifted' students and not to every doubt themselves.
There is one black male teacher who is assigned a class of all boys who need a positive male role model in their lives, he was remarkable. One kid said that all the white people in the neighborhood were mean because they came by and shot up some of the black people. This teacher goes on to explain to them on how not generalize and gives them some good examples. He also explains very well to us that these kids want to feel appreciated and loved before they can start the learning process.
There was one 8yr old girl who was having a hard time at school because both of her parents were crack addicts and decided herself that she would go live with her grandfather. This old man isn't her grandfather, he's barely a friend of the family. He explained how her moving-in was like how an alley cat finds itself a new home, it just appears and he took her in.
The principal is an exceptional human being who really cares for these kids. She puts in a lot of time and devotion (coming in 3hrs before school starts, working evenings). It's obviously hard for her when the school is very under-funded ($4000 per kid, where in the suburbs get 32,000 per kid).
This movie won the Oscar for 'best documentary feature' in 1994 and it was well deserved. This ranks as one of the best documentaries I've ever seen.
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