I thought it would be, but it wasn't. People talked and blamed, but when given the opportunity and asked to step up and help----- they walked out......they walked away.......
Tonight at the board meeting we had about three dozen individuals in attendance, representing several different organizations, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, The American Civil Liberties Union, Nation of Islam, and the Escambia Youth Justice Coalition. Additionally we had the chairman of the Escambia County Commission, and a member of the Pensacola City Council present at the meeting, two locally elected leaders that are also African Americn. We had some students and also several pastors. Of this group, about a dozen spoke at the public forum.
The theme was familiar from the speakers; We were told that "We need more resources and programs, we need to reform the way we discipline students, and we need to do a better job of graduating a higher percentage of students, particularly African American males, we need more economic development projects in the black communities, we need to stop closing schools in the black communities, and we need
to do more to eliminate the "school to prison pipeline" "
It was also incorrectly stated by one of the speakers that we had been sued for discipline disparities in our school system, the differences between the percentages of black student and white student suspensions. That was fiction, we were never sued for this.
Civil Rights figure H.K. Matthews was present as well, and he spoke about high numbers of students being arrested at school and how he felt this fuels the "school to prison pipeline"
But nowhere in any of the speakers' prepared remarks did anyone mention individual personal responsibility as a big part of why many students end up being disciplined at school or arrested. No mention of that, just finger pointing and spewing of inaccurate information, heated rhetoric, and blame.
Superintendent Thomas did mention the initiative he pushed regarding civil citations, which the district has implemented and which has lowered the number of arrests on campus. I mentioned that we had built a state of the art, $18 Million Dollar School that serves a school population that is 95% African American. Patty Hightower explained that Linda Moultrie, our chair for this year, established a task force to eliminate the "achievement gap" and address some of the other issues. It was also mentioned that the board had eliminated "Zero Tolerance" discipline policies.
"We are working, but many of these issues come to us from the community" the superintendent stated.
At that point, I took the opportunity to point out to the large group that we needed more mentors to step up, and that all 5 board members and the superintendent actively mentor. Luckily for us all, the district's community mentor coordinator was there, and I identified her and implored the audience to sign up to mentor. I thought this was a perfect opportunity to recruit more community members to mentor!
Sadly it wasn't though....
Of all the speakers and others that came to the meeting, pointing fingers and asking for more assistance for the community, only ONE (1) person bothered to sign op with our mentor coordinator. How sad that everyone wants to show up, get in front of the cameras and point fingers at us, but none of these dozens of folks could be bothered to sign up and mentor kids and help to be part of the solution. Sad.
I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.