For 28 consecutive weeks, City School board president Bill Willson says there has been no contention on the board. He says that signals there is a spirit of cooperation on the board. We tend to disagree because if contention means disagreement; then there is much about the delivery of public education in the city system that should have been contested but was swept under the rug.
Willson made his claim last week at a forum sponsored by a Southside group and he makes it a point of pride that no one vigorously debates any of the school board’s policies or directives.
He painted a rosy picture of the school district, but facing an African-American audience, didn’t address at all, major contentious concerns of our community.
The things he mentioned are true: Wossman is a former D school that is now a B school. Wossman’s principal is principal of the year state wide. New facilities have been built at Carroll, Wossman and Barkdull Faulk and a recent poll showed the district is among the ten safest school districts in the state.
No one opposes progress and accomplishments, the contention is about our problems. Those who speak truth to power will be viewed as contentious. Those who keep quiet are praised.
The way the board has avoided contention is NOT to discuss, conduct hearings or meetings about serious problems as it relates to education in South Monroe.
The approval of a $16 million construction project for a new MLK middle school that will be located in a flood zone is a point of contention. There has been no contention about it because board members seeking re-election voted against the wishes of their districts and don’t want to talk about it until after the November elections.
It’s a major point of contention in our community, but the board has agreed to give it the silent treatment. The Parkview residents led by Parkview homeowners have been complaining for over two years, but the board refuses to address their complaints in open meetings.
Although resident complained that they were being ignored; the board avoided any contention by refusing to talk about the subject in open meetings.
The board’s request for the removal of court orders that protected blacks from discrimination is a point of contention in our community. Over 1,000 individuals and groups signed letters and petitions opposing the board’s action, but it never conducted a hearing, community meeting or asked for input on major action that will hurt the Black community for generations to come.
It was never discussed in board meetings. In fact, when members of the NAACP came to the board to ask to talk about the subject they were publicly, humiliated by then board President Rodney McFarland as Willson and other board members watched and allowed it to happen.
There was no contention on the subject because the board never talked about it.
When the board voted to close Excellence Academy last year there was no contention on the board. In fact, the board never conducted neighborhood hearings, meetings with parents or community leaders before it voted to eliminate 27 jobs and shut down a school in which it invested $10 million; without contention.
The board only heard from the school itself after it was ordered to do so by the Federal Courts; then without any conversation or community input it voted to shutter the school. (Willson and Berry were not a part of that vote).
The board’s endorsement of the “Career Diploma” that has resulted in an increasing number of African-American students receiving worthless high school diplomas is a growing concern of many in our community as they learn that students who receive career diplomas can’t use them to go to college in later years without returning to the community college first.
It affects mostly African-Americans, but there is no contention or disagreement by the present incumbent board members.
There was no contention because the issue was never brought up or talked about.
To us, Willson’s statement is equivalent to the slave master announcing “For 28 weeks none of our slaves have resisted. They are peaceable. They haven’t protested what we are doing for six months. They like what we are doing to them.”
To us, the lack of vigorous opposition to policies and practices that hurt our community is not a sign of cooperation, but co-optation.
If you are white, that’s great. If you are black, it’s nothing to brag about.