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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Another failure in leadership

 The renaming of our schools is another failure of district leadership. 

For ten months, the process to change six of our schools named after confederate era figures has been going on. TEN MONTHS.  

Last June, after the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, the nation had a reawakening of interests in civil rights, and protests erupted all over the nation, not just because of the deaths but because of generational and systematic racism too. Duval Couty Public schools decided to join in, just in their own slow, disorganized, and painfully awkward way. 

I spoke at the first meeting where the name changes were proposed by Board Member Warren Jones. The gist of my speech was we couldn’t have schools named after people who never did anything questionable because we could never find anyone, but we could have schools that weren’t named after slavers, racists, and traitors. That and sometimes we revere historical figures despite their flaws, see our founding fathers, but confederates were revered because of their flaws.  

This was the beginning of June, and I was optimistic that those schools would open in the fall with new names, but that has been far from the case. 

After months of little or no action, it became obvious that the district did not want to do anything until after the vote on the half-cent sales tax. I believe it is because the district didn’t want to risk offending or alienating anyone in what they expected to be a close vote. We can debate that matter, whether it is okay to send African American kids to schools named after people who thought they were subhuman in order to protect the referendum or not. Still, the thing is the referendum passed in November, 5 months ago. 

If the name changing wasn’t to be done by the end of the summer, then surely by the end of 2020. Sadly again, the district showed no real urgency to fixing this manifest wrong, and as we got farther away from the summer, the moment that America was having was losing steam.      

So a few more months pass, and Public meetings start up in earnest, something that could have just as easily happened last summer or fall, and the racists come out of the woodwork, saying things like if Robert. E. Lee high school wasn’t mostly black they wouldn’t be having these problems, and Jesus was pro-slavery. Maybe I should be thankful it only took ten months for the Jesus was pro-slavery people to come out, but I am not. I am angry, angry at this ridiculously wrong and long process. We had more meetings for this than we did the referendum and angry for our children attending the schools, 4 of which are majority-minority and at the repeated failure of leadership at the district level. 

Had the district wanted to, they could have voted on that hot summer day last June to change the schools' name, but they didn’t. Here we are ten months later, with black and brown children going to schools named after slavers and traitors, not to perversely honor those heinous men, but as a message to African Americans that they have better keep in their place.  

The school referendum was a great idea, but the district not fighting to get the issue on the 2019 ballot is ultimately going to cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars. Changing the schools' name is a great and long-overdue idea, but it should have been completed within months, not within a year. These are just two examples of recently failed leadership from the district though I could name several others, and I, for one, think we deserve better. 

As the name-changing controversy drags on for the next two months, just remember it didn’t have to be this way.   

1 comment:

  1. Shoulda pulled a Curry & taken em down in the middle of the night when schools were closed due to the coco. Then we could've let a team of 3rd graders rename them. Finally watch as those people who bitch about whitewashing history get mad at a bunch of 3rd graders.