Dr. Kenner Exit Interview

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Dr. Kenner : …Honestly, I would say no. And even if I were treated differently, I would not have viewed it that way because I am a strong Black woman. I’m going to fight back against people who I feel are unjust or saying something stupid. I know how to fight back. I’ve learned how to politically fight back and articulate my position without people saying that she’s really, really mad. So I never wanted it to be about my skin color and me being a woman. I never wanted to be viewed that way.

ABG : What impact do you think you’ve had on your community?

Dr. Kenner : I just think that I was able to be a role model for our students here. And however students identify – Black, white, green, female, male, it didn’t matter. I was just a role model. And some of the things…students would say, “Oh my God, why is she so uptight about hats in the building?”, “Why is she so uptight about crop tops?” Basically, I’m trying to prepare you guys for society, and society is not going to be as liberal as a Whitney Young inside our walls…You know, whatever the controversies were, I felt like I did them to benefit our kids.

TK : … And you often have had a position of letting teachers teach their own way without dictating everything. As you say, you don’t want to be dictatorial. How did you develop this policy and do you still stand by it?

Dr. Kenner : I majored in physical education, and I think I know a lot about physical education. I don’t know anything about math or English or social science or science – that’s not what I majored in. So how can I tell a superstar teacher how to teach? That shouldn’t be my role.

TK : …I know a lot of places in the country, lawmakers have been trying to weigh in on what teachers can teach, such as banning critical race theory or banning being able to teach LGBTQ issues.

Dr. Kenner : I’m going to be really, really disrespectful. That sh*t is ridiculous. And you can print that. I don’t think a lawmaker should have the right to ban anything. I think that it should be up to schools and the school districts and the teachers in terms of what we’re teaching. I thank that with gay rights, we have an obligation to teach that. We have an obligation to teach about different ethnic groups. Why not? You know, what are we afraid of?

CP : … Our school was one of the first schools in Chicago that had a Pride Club. What was it like when that was founded here?

Dr. Kenner : It was horrible. Oh, man, it was horrible in the sense that my mind was closed as a new principal in 1996…I confiscated the newspaper because a student came out in the newspaper and at that point nobody was coming out… The next morning I said, “Joyce, what are you doing?” You are the principal of everybody. So I got the students to gather down in 104 and I said, I’m sorry. I’m sorry…I made a mistake…I had to learn as a new principal and as a person. These are all my children. I don’t care if they’re gay or green or Black or white or whatever.

ABG : What are some of your greatest achievements as principal?

Dr. Kenner : … I think in general, the greatest achievement that I believe is that I was able to merge the academics and the extracurricular together to equal a whole student.

TK : How do you want to be remembered as principal?

Dr. Kenner : As somebody who cared about our students…[tears up] We’ll just leave it at that.