City Schools and Cries of Racism

Recent concerns about the Charlottesville School Board and new superintendent Scottie Griffin have taken on an oddly racist tone in the last couple of months. Parents and teachers testify that schools are suffering under the current board and the new superintendent, and an interesting trio has sprung up to defend the black, female superintendent: Reverend Alvin Edwards, Dean Rick Turner, and Councilor Kendra Hamilton, all of whom are high-profile black members of the community. Said Turner, at a September school board meeting, “People say they can’t accept her style, but they can’t accept the color of her skin.” At that meeting, community activist Joy pointedly remarked on the correlation between who applauded for speakers and the color of the speaker’s skin. Then, at last night’s meeting, only black parents and community leaders spoke in favor of Griffin, while only whites spoke in favor of change at Monday’s City Council meeting, WINA reports. Is this a problem of racism disguised as a practical problem, or is this a practical problem that some are trying to disguise as a racial problem?

11 thoughts on “City Schools and Cries of Racism”

  1. I’m not familiar with the particular events of the school board, but I can say this much. Griffin has been a guest of honor and speaker at the Charlottesville Rotary Club (of which I’m a member) and she has been well received by the all. While it may be natural for division on issues of policy, I’m concerned that the article describes Charlottesville as unreceptive to her leadership. On the contrary, I’ve witnessed the endorsement and support from community leaders for Griffin, black and white persons alike.

  2. Local issues around here always seem to become racial issues, primarily because of the makeup of Cville and the fact there are some who make things racial issues–case in point, the attack on white UVA students by black CHS students.

    It becomes exceedingly difficult to criticize someone like Griffin on substantial issues without people like Turner denouncing you as a racist. We need to get beyond Charlottesville’s past, and see to it that people of all races work together to make our city better.

  3. What are the specifics of the problems? I have read about generalities. Nothing else.

    plus "People say they can’t accept her style, but they can’t accept the color of her skin." ……..

    The above sentence makes no sense to me. Which is it?

  4. plus "People say they can’t accept her style, but they can’t accept the color of her skin." ……..

    After reading this several times it make sense. My first conclusion was obviously erroneous.

  5. Specifically, at the School Board meeting on Thursday night Turner accused the parents who went to the City Council meeting of “hiding behind their white sheets and their rednecks”.

    It has become impossible to criticize or even question the policies being implemented without being called a racist. I think that much of what Dr. Griffin has implemented is long overdue, but I think she’s created some of the parent problems herself due to her managerial style. When she was hired she pointed out that she planned to do what she needed to do AND communicate with parents. So far all she’s done as far as communicating with parents is to not communicate with parents. And when one group of parents publicly complained, another group of parents and community members immediately made it a racial issue.

    At the risk of sounding flippant, this problem is not nearly as black and white as many segments of the community are suggesting.

  6. Specifically, at the School Board meeting on Thursday night Turner accused the parents who went to the City Council meeting of “hiding behind their white sheets and their rednecks”.

    Wow. I think that people are far too quick to criticize Turner, and I’ve often defended him, but these types of comments from him are altogether indefensible.

  7. Any person with common sense will agree that Dr. Griffin is not above criticism. The black community is reacting to the extreme hypocrisy of the critics. Where were all of these activists for the last twenty years as the achievement gap widened? Why didn’t they go to the school board or to city council and demand the superintendents during that time period be held accountable for the failure of city schools? Why weren’ t those superintendents taken to task for the flight that has taken place in city schools? They were given the chance to do their job. It has been three months and Dr. Griffin has not been given that same chance. It not a new phenomenon that white people are not used to nor comfortable with accepting guidance and being under blacks in authority. If white children where on the other end of the acheivement gap and Dr. Griffin was proactively addressing the problem as she is attempting to do now, these same critics would applaud her efforts.

  8. It is my impression that for years Charlottesville High has been a divided school with two separate student bodies. Generally speaking the smaller one is made up of kids in the band, orchestra and the string ensemble who take A P and honors classes and are all going to good colleges. Their parents have been happy with the school because their kids are doing quite well. They are also mostly, though not entirely, white. The other student body, the larger one, is made up of kids taking general classes who will get general diplomas and either won’t go to college or might go to PVCC. Most of the black kids are in this group along with plenty of white kids. I think that most of the parents have accepted this division in the past for various reasons linked to their own social position and education. Some (mostly educated and with good incomes) have children in the smaller student body and are happy with the schools performance, others with less education and lower incomes, are full of cynical apathy and have no confidence in education. This is a generalization and there are exceptions.

    There is probably some truth in the accusations of white racism. It’s the condescending, "soft rascism" that pitys the "poor little black children" while slandering the poor white kids as "trailer trash". It’s not the KKK or redneck intolerance but it’s still bad. It may be difficult for the practioners to acknowledge their racism because they are overwhelmed by their belief in their own good intentions.

    The new superintendent has touched a nerve by adopting a reading instruction program that uses traditional techniques, phonics and classical literature, instead of the worthless "whole language" method. Her use of testing has also angered some parents who think all testing automatically means "rote memorization" (then define all memorization as "rote memorization ") and "teaching to the test".

  9. Her use of testing has also angered some parents who think all testing automatically means “rote memorization” (then define all memorization as “rote memorization “) and “teaching to the test”.

    Unless I misunderstand you, that’s the opposite of the complaint of the parents; if I may obnoxiously quote myself:

    Former School Board Chairwoman Mary Susan Payne, Curry professor Walt Heinecke and former Burnley-Moran PTO presidents Karl and Jenny Ackerman were among those who testified that schools have come to spend all of their time on preparing students for standardized testing — the Standards of Learning and No Child Left Behind and changed their focus to the hiring of administrators, rather than teachers. Jenny Ackerman read a letter from an anonymous teacher, in which the teacher wrote that morale is at an all-time low, and that they are “being instructed to teach to the test, and that is not something I am willing to do.”

    Of course, the existence of the SOLs and No Child Left Behind are hardly the superintendent’s fault.

  10. I think you misuderstood me. I am saying that some people don’t like testing because they say it automatically leads to "teaching to the test", a claim bolstered by the anonymous teachers allegations. I don’t know about the Flanagan tests but the current SOL tests aren’t available so they can’t teach the tests. Last years SOL tests are, but they change.

    I am skeptical of one anonymous teachers accusation. Teaching to the test implies that the answers to specific questions are being taught. It may be that the teacher is actually being told to teach the material that is being tested.

  11. Dr. Griffin had not yet been hired when the district chose to adopt the Open Court reading program. While it is true that there are those who oppose the program, I don’t think this is their main complaint with the superintendent. This program is not great for those students who are reading more than 2-3 grade levels above everyone else, but it is a valuable program for a large portion of the school population. I think each school will need flexibility when dealing with students who are well ahead of their peers.

    I believe that many of the parents’ initial concerns about the testing had to do with the large amount of instructional time that was devoted to testing at the beginning of the year. In my opinion, this testing was most needed at the elementary level, and that is from where many of the complaints are coming. These tests aren’t great, but in many cases they are better than nothing – which is what was in place in some of the schools. School administration, teachers and Central Office administration should work with the Flanagan test writers to deliver a higher quality product, but we should not abandon this approach before we see if it truly benefits the students.

    As a teacher whose classroom was disrupted by the testing, I think it was timed badly, but I also believe these tests are giving us much needed data about our students. I know that at my school we have made changes in our delivery of curriculum to various groups of students based on the Flanagan tests and long-established testing procedures in place at my school.

    As for teaching to the test, what we teach students is dictated by the state of Virginia and that information is tested every spring. In that respect, in the loosest terms, we are teaching to the test, but we are really teaching the standards required by the state. With students who know much of this information before they get to us, we add to the curriculum. For the students who arrive on our doorsteps without the required prerequisite knowledge we add to the curriculum.

    Much as Waldo has pointed out, NCLB and the SOLs are not this superintendent’s fault. We should not, however, abandon our high achieving students simply because they come to our classrooms so far ahead of other students. We must find a way to serve all of our students.

    Parents who question the policies of the new superintendent are first and foremost concerned about the education their children are receiving. They are not racists. The parents who are questioning the motives of the questioning parents are first and foremost concerned about the education their children are receiving. That is what we need to remember. In the end, both groups want what is best for their children.

    What this school district does not need is Dean Turner making the type of blatantly inflammatory comments that he made at the School Board meeting on Thursday.

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