By Beverly Gadson-Birch
National Action Network, Prestige Preparatory Academy students and parents, and other community stakeholders brought the March 18 Charleston County School Board meeting to a halt. For years, the Board has ignored the wishes of the Black community and denigrated them while creating magnets and mostly white charter schools to circumvent true integration.
The meeting ended abruptly when Elder Johnson, State President of National Action Network, defied the Board’s request to be seated along with the children. Once members of the Board left, with the exception of board members Chris Collins and Kevin Hollingshead, the assemblage continued with public comments on disparities in the creation and sustainability of Prestige, an all-boys schools, in comparison to other majority white charters, inequity in school funding, P-Card for Board members and additional funding for Meeting Street Elementary at Brentwood.
The Board continues to make choices that have not been in the best interests of minority children, teachers and professional staff. The Board continues to divide the black community by handing out pittance and thinking that’s good enough for black children and educators. The Willie Lynch Syndrome (ways to control slaves) divisive philosophy lives on. Willie Lynch, a slaveowner, shared with other slaveowners what he referred to as a fail-proof method of controlling slaves. He did so by sowing distrust between his slaves. Lynch’s philosophy lives on in the minds folks are refuse to allow Blacks a seat at the table. The Board has sowed bad seeds and distrust among community groups.
The Board chooses which communities we live in and which schools we attend by drawing district lines. They choose names for minority schools, one example being Lowcountry Tech. The program was designed by members of the Interdenominational Ministers Alliance and was the catalyst for all the other newly existing or proposed tech schools.
The Board chooses which colleges black children attend based on low SAT and ACT scores only to find out that white privileged parents have been buying their way into prestigious colleges and universities and having their children’s test scores altered, even stooping as low as to photoshop their children’s heads onto athlete’s bodies to get them into competitive athletic programs. Black parents and children have always had to play by the rules even after getting off to a late start. They have had to work hard at everything they do only to have the rug pulled out from under them.
After years of civility, parents attending the meeting had reached their boiling point. They protested against the Board’s failure to adequately fund schools, support certain charter schools and to respect their input into decisions that impact their children’s lives. Parents voiced concerns over their children being left behind in segregated schools and how integration has hurt more than helped black students.
The CCSD Lottery for student admission into Choice Schools needs to be overhauled or abandoned. It doesn’t work!! Academic Magnet has over 650 students and only 16% are minority and most of those students are Asian. Buist Academy has approximately 475 students and 19% are minorities, Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, etc. The district has not done a good job of educating the “been here”; instead, they have done an excellent job of educating the “come here.”
The parents are saying “no more will we tolerate” the Board’s intolerance. They vowed to halt future meetings until the Board hear their concerns and move towards implementing schools that are inclusive of all students.
Prestige parents want the school to remain open. The school does not need to remain open in its present state. If we are going to serve boys, let’s serve them in a nice facility with the proper funding, staff and support as afforded other charter schools.
And, to add insult to injury, a Board member who abandoned the meeting and one who is largely responsible for the great divide within the system, said “The Board and District are committed to working with any group who wishes to constructively pursue solutions.” So, when did this “willingness” occur? It hasn’t happened in the past and I hold out very little hope for the future.
We cannot wait another 50 years for CCSD to correct their racial disparities that has kept minority students performing below grade levels—changes must begin NOW!!