By Barney Blakeney
I knew when I decided to write the column about support for Charleston County School District Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait I was flying into flak. The hits came almost immediately. One guy said I’m no ally of Black folks regarding public education. Another guy said the message wasn’t clear and asked if I’d lost my GD mind. And they are my friends!
After more than 40 years writing these blasted stories, I’ve learned you can’t please ‘em all. Everybody won’t agree with you. But I’m not trying to win any popularity contest. I try to call ‘em like I see ‘em and keep it real. I’m unbought and unbossed. No one ever can say they’ve paid me to slant a story – although some of my harshest critics are well known for selling to the highest bidder.
When I wrote the story advocating support for the schools superintendent, that’s what I meant. Is Gerrita Postlewait the best thing since sliced bread? Hell no! But I don’t believe she’s some demon come to Charleston to screw over our kids either. I think she’s part of a system that’s designed to screw over our children. But hell, we’re all complicit in that system – knowingly or unknowingly! My greatest frustration is my belief that so many of us unknowingly facilitate the disenfranchisement of our children. A lot of us know what the hell is going on, but so many more haven’t got a clue.
I wrote the piece pretty much for the same reason I wrote the Todd Garrett/Burke High piece several months ago – as an eye-opener, a wake-up call. I hoped the pieces would spark some action that moves the needle forward for kids in Charleston County school system. Unfortunately, there been more criticizing Barney than figuring out and implementing ways to improve the school system. News flash – Criticizing Barney don’t move the needle forward for students in Charleston County School District. Our kids need a plan of action, not the criticism of some reporter.
I got mine! Ms. Deas, Mrs. Baker, Miss Garrett, Pop Moore, N.C. Williams and all those other teachers taught me to think. I can read, write and think! This ain’t about what Barney wrote. This must be about quality education for our kids!
It hurt when a guy I respect and have high hopes for as an advocate for our children said I’m no ally to Black kids’ public school education. I got into this game because I figured it is the role I can play in Black people’s struggle for equality and justice in this world. I started writing about the disparities in public education when that guy was running around in short pants playing hide and seek. I won the National Newspaper Publishers Association First Place award for Journalism in education before his 21st birthday. I’ve served in various capacities in public education because I realized a long time ago I can’t just write stories, I’ve got to put my hands on the plow. And guess what? Never made a DIME from any of it! This ain’t a job for me. This is my life!
I asked another trusted friend what he thought of the column. He asked if I’d lost my mind! Now this is my ‘go to’ guy in education. He’s a professional in the field and has all the information. I believe he calls it straight.
“I saw it. But I wasn’t clear on the message. I guess that’s what I thought,” he said then offered two scenarios – One possibility … Postelwait is doing a great job and deserves our support. Another possibility … Postelwait has not delivered the required results. It’s time for her to go. He asked, “If you could appoint the right/best people to the school board, who would you appoint?”
Noting the column sparked some interesting responses he said, “Most folks are not satisfied with the results we’re getting. Some want to be supportive of the board and superintendent in spite of that. So, if it was up to you, what would you do? Less than a third of Black 3rd thru 8th graders are meeting the standards in English, Reading and Math. The state says the goal is for 95 percent to meet the standard in English. We’re nowhere close. Here’s your chance to say how you’d fix it. This is isn’t just about some kids. It’s about the health and well-being of the entire community.”
I also got another response – a lady identifying herself as a member of a grassroots task force said, “I am a private citizen that just read your article. I am working with a grassroots task force to figure out the shuffle that is currently happening with the Mt. Pleasant schools and the restructuring of the magnet program. Your article has somewhat enlightened me that there may be a more political and larger issue for the shuffle.”
She also posed several questions:
1 – Why so much $$$ on these specific board members? Why? What makes them the perfect candidates for understanding the school system issues?
2 – What is the advantage of the privatization model of education for all kids?? The Public/Private model? Charter?
3 – Does Article 388 limit what we can achieve in the school system? Or does it help level the playing field for all schools?
4 – What was the one thing that changed your opinion of the superintendent? Your earlier articles were very questionable and now your feelings have changed.
5 – Do you think the current issues with the CCSD could unite Charleston if the right people were in the room working together?
From the responses I’ve received, maybe this column will go beyond the Garrett piece. At least it’s sparked more than the usual criticism.