Thursday, October 29, 2009

For the concerns of Black parents

There was a time when college was not the rule but the acceptation for all citizens in the United States. What does this mean? This means that if you were one of the fortunate to be able to survive without tilling the fields or manufacturing goods then you might have had the opportunity to attend a college. Not, of course, if you were African American. Taken from Edwin Grant Dexter’s History of Education in the United States, from 1776 to 1900, the US population grew 30 times larger (from 2.5 million), the number of institutions of higher education increased 20 times (from 13), the number of instructors 170 times (from ~100) and the number of students grew 47 times (from ~2000). In that same time the revenues and properties of educational institutions increased 200 TIMES (from ~$1,000,000). All of this growth was spearheaded by private donations, government subsidies and imported wealth. Throughout all this time and growth, very little effort was put forth to provide for the education of African American citizens thus creating a population and a culture of people today of which the majority do not consider education as valuable and a means to success. These African Americans are made to function in a society that increasingly requires a college education to succeed and that sees higher education an investment in the future of our country. Not until 1862 and the Morrill Act were there more than three colleges established for the formal education of African American men and women. Cheyney and Lincoln Universities in Pennsylvania and Wilberforce College in Ohio were established in 1837, 1854 and 1856 respectively. There are 105 Historically Black Colleges and Universities and since the Higher Education Act of 1965 an additional 75 predominately Black institutions in this country. Given the inadequate start and stagnant growth you can see there is no time to waste.

As an educator I value what I have to teach but I value more my student’s ability to grasp the value of and responsibility to higher education. This is not a place to play! Singing songs, dancing, carousing with new and interesting people at our institutions has its place in college life. However, there has to be a consciousness from time to time of the objectives and goals that have been set in the educational process. High school students fail to realize that in choosing a college, a major, a professional objective you have set in motion a path to timely success or prolonged aggravation on that road to success. Regardless of the path you chose, you can succeed, but at what cost? Colleges, majors and professional goals that are very challenging will inhibit your success just as those that are not so challenging will leave you unprepared. Appropriate counseling should be sought and heard in order to help you determine your goals if they are unclear. You must have longterm goals and short term objectives. A journey with no established end will feel like an endless journey.

If you are entering high school know that high school has now become the new college. Grasping ones talents and interests at an earlier and earlier age has fueling the need for students to mature quickly or at least be mindful of their need to seek guidance for their future. If you’re in high school this means that you will need to make an effort with support to understand your gifts and talents, your career objectives and goals and to make a plan. This is much too young to make an accurate self-assessment in my opinion but this is the society we live in. Students must not isolate themselves from the world as teenagers are so prone to do. Networks of support must be deliberately established early on for guidance and direction. Why should you go to college? There is little choice. We still have a lot of catching up to do.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A kinder gentler Attorney

The meeting of the Black Parents of Jefferson Parish Public Schools committee at Mt. Herman Baptist Church on Wednesday, October 7th at 6 pm went on despite the torrential rain that delayed its start. Mr. Gideon Carter arrived along with members of the committee, members of the Jeremiah Group, The JPPS Task Force, Pastor Terry Lewis of Providence Baptist Church, concerned parents, community leaders and attorney Mr. Alvin Chambliss. Dr. Juantina Johnson called the meeting to order and began by stating the reasons for the committee and its objective to engage Mr. Carter in a discussion with parents of particular areas that the JPPS desegregation plan and compliance office should address, where the plan is weakest and where it has been ineffective in its execution.

Mr. Carter explained his responsibility to the black parents, staff and teachers of Jefferson Parish public schools (JPPS) whom he represents along with Lena Dandridge and others in the pseudo-class action desegregation lawsuit file against JPPS in 1972. This consent order was approved by Judge Kurt Englehardt in May of 2008 in order for the JPPS system to become unitary over a 3 year planned desegregation of schools, staff, teachers, curriculum and students. Parents at the meeting were able to express to Mr. Carter specific issues with respect to student assignments, teacher assignments, discipline and performance expectations that have so far not been complaint to the court ordered desegregation. Additionally, regular monthly oversight reports are to be reviewed by himself and the superintendent and then be publicized on the JPPS website. These have not been up to day and available in a timely manner.

Mr. Carter was careful in assuring those present that the "Compliance Office" headed by Mr. James Howard was in place to address our particular concerns and provide the reports. He can be reached at 504-365-5312. Mr. Carter seemed to be genuinely disappointed with progress in this second year of the 3 year consent order but insisted that the process will take time. Unlike meetings in the past Mr. Carter conceded to many points that were made concerning the systemic resistance to changes in the school system that were due to the historical social behavior within the parish. He then pointed out that changing attitudes within the communities and parish was well beyond his legal expertise.

We applauded the patience and sympathy Mr. Carter showed in the several hours spent with us at this meeting. He appeared to note our concerns and expressed his willingness to meet again with parents in closed sessions at any of the public meetings to be announced soon by the JPPS Task Force both on the Westbank and Eastbank.

After Mr. Carter departed, Mr. Alvin Chambliss spoke to the group and injected a new and exciting perspective to the overarching objective of the consent order. Mr. Chambiss as you should read is a longstanding and dynamic advocate for education and civil rights and the combination of these two throughout the country. We hope to hear more from Mr. Chambliss in support of JPPS becoming unitary while enabling the children of the Black Parents of Jefferson Parish to have access to exceptional educational support now and to eliminate the continued disenfranchisement of the black community within the Jefferson Parish infrastructure in the future.