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Seabrook Makes Plea To CCSD Board - Promote True Integration, Equality
8/6/2014 4:07:47 PM

Luther Seabrook
By Barney Blakeney

Former educator and administrator Luther W. Seabrook has not worked in public education for about two decades, has but he continues his advocacy for Black children in public schools. Last week he sat down with this reporter to make an urgent plea for our community to rise to the task of educating all children.

Seabrook retired from the New York City public school system and became a superintendent with the South Carolina Dept. of Education. After that he was an area superintendent for Charleston County School district. Seabrook has dedicated his life to the education of children. He has witnessed pseudo-integration in the public school system and says it is disingenuous at best, for a sitting member of Charleston County School Board to bemoan that true school integration does not exist in Charleston County.

“True integration begins with the school board. The policies and behavior of our county school board ensures that absolute power stays within the hands of the white population of Charleston County,” he said. Only three Blacks are among the nine-member Charleston County School Board. “No Black person can be elected to that board without passing the white litmus test,” he said.

The inherent racism that perpetuates school district policies is evidenced not by stated intent, but by their effect, Seabrook said. True integration has been circumvented by a board that planned and instituted special desegregated schools, he said.

In an attempt to outwit federal mandates, Buist Academy became the first example of the district’s effort to continue functioning as separate and unequal. Some Blacks were allowed to attend special schools, but as more seats were needed by white students, Black students were displaced, he said.

“Charleston County School Board has desegregated its previous all white schools and are complying with the ‘letter of the law’. But they make certain that no white school tips from white to Black. The effect is we are left with segregated, low performing schools and unwanted Black students.”

He contrasted the school district’s efforts to those of Charleston County Council which fought an extended legal battle to avoid converting to single member district voting which allowed Blacks greater participation in the elective process.

Seabrook said the school district’s policy that allows teachers to choose the schools where they teach further perpetuates inequality in the system.

“Teachers make learning happen. The effect of this policy is that the schools that are most challenged are too often staffed by teachers without options - students with the greatest needs are too often taught by a collection of teachers with the greatest needs.”

As part of the process that perpetuates these discriminatory policies, the district accepts the excuse that poverty is the greatest factor in the teaching/learning process. The school board and general public buys into this theory and approves the appropriation of funds to deal with the effects of poverty through the purchase of program after program and initiative after initiative designed to maintain what Seabrook calls “the status crow”.

“Those monies should be should be focused on school effectiveness and not the myths used by the administration to explain their continued failure,” he said. “The system has worked hard to maintain positions of privilege for the privileged. They have convinced many, Black and white alike, that poverty is the cause.

“We have desegregated schools. Charleston County believes it has complied with the letter of the law, but are we capable of better outcomes. Can Charleston County demonstrate an approach to quality integrated education that further honors our city?
“The power of expected excellence affects everyone involved in an integrated environment. Charleston County School board can, tomorrow, plan and implement a process of integration after desegregating the present system,” Seabrook said. “Change begins at the board level.”

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