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Miami Northwestern: From Football Scandal to "A" School

Uncle Luke, the man whose booty-shaking madness made the U.S. Supreme Court stand up for free speech, gets as nasty as he wants to be for Miami New Times. This week, Luke assesses the reformation of a once-failing school.

Miami Northwestern Senior High Principal Wallace Aristide has done the unthinkable. He has turned the school into an academic institution that received its first A grade this year. Aristide has now fulfilled the vision of his predecessor, Charles Hankerson.

Hankerson, you might recall, is the former principal who butted heads with Northwestern's tight-knit community of parents and boosters.

Aristide, however, is the man who deserves credit here. No one can turn a failing school around overnight.

"It's incredible. It's quite a feeling," Aristide recently told the Miami Times. "I am in awe. I haven't slept in three days."

Northwestern always had a reputation for producing all-star athletes, winning state and national championships in football and women's track and field. Unfortunately, the success didn't filter into the classroom. Northwestern received D or F grades for 12 consecutive years from 1998 to 2010. It was labeled one of the state's 163 "dropout factories" in a Johns Hopkins University study.

Hankerson began to change the culture, and Aristide picked up the torch when he took over three years ago. Aristide found a way to rise above the political backroom dealing that didn't serve the best interests of Northwestern. During the two years I volunteered as an assistant football coach there, I saw Aristide motivate every Northwestern faculty member and employee. He urged them to accept responsibility for the well-being and education of every student.

Aristide hasn't won anything on the football field, but he can claim victory in the classroom. During my tenure, my defensive players averaged a 3.0 GPA, and many of them received academic scholarships to attend college. That's why Aristide deserves props for reshaping Northwestern into a model school of the 21st century.

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