Montana Catholic Schools Weekly

November 16, 2015

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace

Last month I read the powerful book "The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace" by Jeff Hobbs. Robert Peace was 30 years old when he was murdered in 2011. Peace was a marijuana dealer in Newark killed by a rival drug pusher. But Peace was much more than a drug dealer. People focus on his status as an African-American straight-A Yale graduate in molecular biophysics and biochemistry who grew up on the mean streets of Newark, New Jersey—regarded as the most dangerous city in America in the 90s. But he was also a graduate of St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark and later taught and coached there.

Hobbs summarized the purpose of St. Benedict’s:

At St. Benedict’s, academics represented only a fraction of the faculty’s responsibility. Test scores were in many ways secondary to the task of instilling confidence in kids not promised to believe in themselves and confronting emotional issues resulting from the loss of a parent, usually a father…The expansive counseling system was a fundamental part of the curriculum, as well as the teacher rotation—without overtime pay—that kept the school’s doors open on weekends to students seeking a quiet place to work away from harried homes. (103)

His life illustrates the tremendous impact that poverty and its accompanying trauma can have on a person. Peace’s father was sent to prison when Peace was only 7 years old, convicted of murdering two women in the same apartment building. His father later died in prison. Peace’s mother worked as a cook and was dedicated to his education, working long hours to send him to Catholic school.

At a young age, Peace found a way to make extra money selling drugs on the side. Incredibly, he was able to maintain high grades and excel as a water polo player at high school and at Yale while heavily using and selling marijuana. While at Yale, he built up a strong drug distribution network which allowed him to clear over $200k in profit in his four years. After graduation, he dabbled in many different schemes to make money while maintaining his drug dealing. He was able to travel the world courtesy of his profits. Hobbs portrays him as brilliant, hard-working, and entrepreneurial. Perhaps his most successful attribute was being able to compartmentalize his life.

But he was never able to shake the shackles of his past. The trauma of his past (violence, crime, dysfunctional family, abuse) contributed to his fractured life—never able to make authentic connections, never able to break away from crime. By all accounts, Peace’s life was a failure. Why? How could this have been prevented? Did his Catholic school environment fail him? His family? Or can you view this as simply a moral failure by an individual?

Hobbs doesn’t answer this question. But it’s a challenge to all educators to understand the impact that trauma has on our students and how we can confront and minister to the challenges of trauma.

Dr. Tim Uhl, Superintendent

The Week Ahead

Mon: office (Helena)

Tues: Sacred Heart (Miles City) meetings

Wed: Regional Principal Meeting (Billings); BCS School Board

Thurs: Billings Catholic School meeting; Butte CS Advisory Council

Fri: office (Helena)

This week: 924 miles

Last week: 781 miles

2015-16: 9.9398 driving miles/ 5,184 air miles

Montana Catholic Schools

Serving 3800+ students in 24 Catholic schools across the Treasure State

For Principals

1. Our final regional principal meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at the Billings Catholic School office 10-2.

2. A google form will be going out to all teachers and principals later today to gather feedback regarding the New Teacher Retreat and the Marian class.

4. Reminder to all DOH principals to get all your employees signed up for the new health plan.

5. This is a good time to update your registration materials.

6. We are looking at a January 17th meeting for high school principals. This is the day before the MHSA convention in Billings.

7. On Thursday Nov 19th, we've scheduled a teleconference with our MAP representative from NWEA. Megan Sinnott will be available to answer any of your questions regarding interpreting data, using reports, etc. Here is the webinar url: Call in information: 888-827-6039 Passcode: 54638152#

American Catholic News

Leadership Links

Teaching & Learning

Servant Leader of the Week: Br. Dale Mooney, FSC.

Br. Dale is currently serving as the President/Principal of De La Salle Blackfeet School in Browning. In its 15th year, DLSBS is the only Christian Brothers' ministry in Montana and is the destination of immersion groups from Christian Brothers schools across the country. DLSBS serves approximately 70 students in grades 4-8. Br. Dale is in his 4th year of service at DLSBS and provides spiritual and educational leadership to a faculty made up primarily of volunteers.
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