NAACP Calls for More School Involvement

UVa Dean Rick Turner, head of the local chapter of the NAACP, has called for increased involvement on the part of black families in the Charlottesville schools. Not willing to stop there, though, he went on to claim that the problem is “a slave-like mentality on the part of too many black people,” that teachers are racist, and that Mayor David Brown should resign for meeting with school principals without Superintendent Scottie Griffin present. That ought to settle the whole matter, eh? The increasingly-busy James Fernald has the story in today’s Progress.

23 thoughts on “NAACP Calls for More School Involvement”

  1. On what basis does Rick Turner make the accusation of racism from Charlottesville teachers? I have taught at CHS for many years, and have never seen Rick Turner at our school observing or volunteering. His own children graduated from CHS a decade ago. It is beyond insulting to have Mr. Turner publicly lob accusations at us from afar. Does he think our African American teachers are also racist? Has it ever occured to him that his views are the ones that are skewed? And why has it taken so many months for any school board member to finally stand up for us at a public meeting?

    Dean Turner is correct on one point: we do need more involvement from parents of kids who struggle in school. In my opinion as a veteran teacher, this is the key to academic success: parents who care and believe in their children, parents who are involved, parents who volunteer in the schools, parents who monitor their children’s homework, and parents who are present and available to their children.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree with your observation that Rick Turner has not likely not conducted many observations in Charlottesville schools. Being part of the African-American community in Charlottesville, he is most likely privy to conversations in which he hears of discrimination in the schools. Some of these anecdotes are true, I’m sure, while others are not.

    I also agree with your remarks that Mr. Turner is appropriate in calling for increased parent involvement of African-Americans. Parent involvement is a large predictor of success for any child, and unfortunately is influenced by socio-economic status. Efforts to increase involvement of parents from lower socio-economic backgrounds are well-founded.

    It seems the issue most take with Mr. Turner is not so much the nature of his comments but the way in which he makes them. Few would argue against parent involvement or a call to ensure that our schools are conscience of the effects of race in education. However, he seems to exagerate issues and take a confrontational approach that loses support for his concerns rather than gaining support. Like an oppositional child’s relationship with his or her parent, it seems many people in Charlottesville automatically dismiss Rick Turner’s comments in large part because they come from him. Further division is not the answer.

    Finally, while Mr. Turner may draw public attention to issues in Charlottesville such as African-American parent involvement and alleged pizza delivery biases, no deep-rooted issues have ever been solved only by delivering confrontational, accusatory harangues. Social change is an important yet slow process that involves systematic, carefully planned efforts by groups of individuals. His public comments do not seem to be part of any such efforts.

  3. As a student in Charlottesville City Schools, I call on Rick Turner to come visit our schools and come back with hard evidence of teachers being racist. He doesn’t even have anything to do with the Charlottesville City School System! How dare he compare the state of our schools to slavery! If anyone is enslaved, it’s the teachers for having to be under the totalitarian direction of Scottie Griffin. I agree with his statement that parents need to get more involved, which is one of the major downfalls of our educational system.

  4. I must say I disagree with your assesment of Scottie Griffin. Granted I am not a student of any Charlottesville school and I live in "the county" but I thought the reason they hired her was because they were having problems with their school system. At just about every meeting her ideas have been struck down by parents or the council. My question is: if there way hasnt worked so far why are they so against trying something new? Sorry to say but the Charlottesville school system is no prize piece. The achievement gap could not be any wider. Although many parents have the idea that they know more about their kid then Scottie Griffin what they fail to realize is that she knows A LOT more about how to run a successful school system something that Charlottesville has failed at.

  5. Now, I’m not saying that our school system is the greatest in the world. I know it’s in ruins at the moment, but Griffin coming in and trying to run the entire system by herself doesn’t work. Rebuilding our schools needs to be a team effort, not the effort of one woman. Without the help of teachers, parents, and students, Griffin will never be able to do anything for our school system.

  6. I have no experience in administering school systems; however, based upon considerable experience in other management positions, I believe, in this case, there are too many people trying to run the school system.

    Someone needs to have the authority to jerk around a few people and get this gang of gypsies on track.

    There are times for "nicey-nice" and " let`s all get along", and "*****-foot" around, but this is well beyond that.

  7. To Ryo Road:

    Check your facts. Have you seen Dr. Griffin’s resume? She has held 9 jobs in the past 10 years. She SAYS she has a track record of closing the achievement gap, but how can one claim credit for any gains within a school division in such a short period of time? And why has she moved from job to job so frequently? Do you think it’s possible that what parents and teachers have been saying for months could possibly be true–that Dr. Griffin is a bully, that she yells, manipulates, threatens, and abuses her staff? When that information first became known publicly (within the first few months of Dr. Griffin’s arrival) the parents who complained were labeled racist. I have witnessed the punitive, abusive behavior from Dr. Griffin. She does not have the skills necessary to lead this (or any) school division, plain and simple. Please read Dr. Laura Purnell’s letter (on the cvillenews homepage.) Dr. Purnell is dead right in her assessment of the Dr. Griffin’s tenure. Dr. Griffin does not visit the schools, she does not make decisions based on valid information, and she does not talk with staff–she talks at them.

    The biggest challenge in the Charlottesville City Schools by far is the high percentage of students we serve who are impoverished–about 50 percent of our population is on the federal free or reduced price lunch program. The achievement gap is NOT about race; it’s about socioeconomic status and the lack of parental involvement that comes along with it. We have a strong teaching staff in the CCS, and we work with an extremely diverse population. We teach in Charlottesville because we want to; how dare Rick Turner call us racist when we are the ones working our butts off every day to help kids of all colors? We teach the kids we are sent. When kids come to kindergarten without knowing their letters and colors, they start out at a disadvantage. When parents don’t read to their kids at home, those kids don’t develop language and reading skills as quickly as their peers. A high percentage of the kids in the CCS live with someone other than their parent, or they live with one parent who is working two jobs to make ends meet and is rarely at home to supervise their children. Many kids spend their after school hours babysitting younger siblings, rather than doing homework or attending after school enrichment programs. I am so tired of teachers and schools being blamed for kids not passing the SOLs. We are being asked to solve society’s deepest social issues. And remember, we have been extremely successful with most of our students. Our arts and AP programs are amazing, and more than 10 percent of our students at CHS pay tuition to attend our school.

    Our teaching staff may change rather drastically if we are not soon given hope that the school board supports us and is willing to admit that they made a huge mistake in hiring Dr. Griffin. Had the board conducted any research on their own, rather than taking the word of a consultant, they may have learned from Dr. Griffin’s former co-workers in Prince George’s County that she is infamous for threatening lawsuits any time someone crosses her. This antagonistic attitude has no place in public education. We need a superintendent who leads by example, who has an excellent (VERIFIED) track record, who not only has good ideas but also has the skills to communicate them. We need someone who can engage ALL parents, because they are the biggest factor in academic success. We need a superintendent with vision and integrity. And we need her (or him) fast.

  8. I agree completely………………… One fact you didn’t mention is that Dr. G. comes from 3 of the worst school districts in the country. Her last one, New Orleans, I understand recently had several of its administrators undergo indictments for vendor kickbacks. That same vendor "I can learn" in fact is one she has looked at for our schools. But, let’s all just give her a chance and blindly trust her even with all the info. we now have because we want to stay positive and heaven forbid we are seen as over involved parents who care what is happening to our kids. The moral of this story is your d…… if you care and d……. if you don’t.

  9. There was no "achievement gap" in 1954 when the Supreme Court ordered an end to segregated schools. At that time, blacks and poor kids were just as smart as other kids. If this were not true, why allow black and poor kids to attend public school at all?

    In the ’50s, Jefferson School on Vinegar Hill was a shining example of how blacks, mostly poor, could achieve academic excellence. The gap was not in learning, but in opportunity and access.

    The institution of Jefferson School, 1865-2002, will always be proof that the "achievement gap" in city schools is manufactured. Are today’s teachers racist? Or are the policies of the school bureaucracy racist? Has the integrated school system institutionalized racism?

    You bet! Remember last spring when mayor David Brown ran for City Council, he said, by coaching low-income kids he has seen discrimination that he might not have otherwise been aware of?

    Remember when Kendra Hamilton said, it’s a disgrace that we have only one African-American landmark? Then last month called for more urban renewal?

    Remember, in March of 2000, a student set himself on fire in front of Albemarle High School and it was swept under the rug? Remember the last time you walked down hallway of your school?

    As long as we use confidentiality in schools as the foundation for secrecy, and as long as we ignore every grievance of every self-described victim, schools will just keep on getting worse while we spend more and more money.

    It’s been 23 years since I graduated from CHS. If I ever have children or find myself in the circumstance of being a child’s guardian, they will not attend an unsafe school. Therefore they will not attend any Charlottesville public school. And I continue to hear first-hand horror stories about the schools.

  10. My apologies for all of the asterisks on pússy-foot. It’s the ridiculous automated censoring mechanism built into this software; I’ve had no luck disabling it. (Hence the acute accent in “pússy.”) I’ll be very happy when I switch over to a new platform.

  11. Amen to both of the previous posts. And, by the way, if you think for a minute that the school board is responsive, forget it. Ms. Smith’s behavior at the most recent school board meeting was reprehensible–allowing Turner and his ilk to go on for ten minutes at a time, while chiding a teacher, (only after Dr. Griffin nudged her, because we know who is really controlling Dede Smith) to limit his remarks to the school board and not the general public, while allowing CHS government students to listen to Turner telling them they are part of a KKK conspiracy without saying a word (by the way she has sent her own child away this school year) – I am dismayed by this leadership (or complete lack therof – she needs to go fast!).

    And then, for Byron Brown to go on the news the next night and tout the minority hiring program as if the entire system is not in major league dysfunction is amamaazing, to say nothing of extraordinary change of face for someone who actually sounded as if he had some reasonable questions for our ill-fated and incompetent supervisor. And then for Dede Smith and Dr. Igbani’s ill-fated and purposeless news summary the night after the school board meeting trying to scare the entire Charlottesville constituency into thinking that only Dr. Griffin can solve the AYP issues, when, in fact, she and Harley Miles will twist the data to suit their results, possibly be in it up to their necks in vendor kickb-backs and data manipulation – sure we will see some kind of narrowing of the achievement margins, but don’t for a minute believe it. Iris Metts (Griffin’s former superior in Prince George’s County) pulled that , and it was discovered after two years that the data was completely flawed (dont’ think tha tGriffin did not learn from a master) – I mean really.

    It is time for all parents, white, African-American, etc. to say "no more." We have a big problem with AYP, and we need someone who really can fix it. Get rid of this reprehensible woman!

    Get rid of Dede Smith. Let’s find another superinetendent and let’s make certain we go out of our way to find an African-American superintendent, becuase most of us know that race has nothing to do with ability, and prove that we are not racist and that we do desperately care about the future of our city school students, every single one of them. Dede Smith is so mired down in this, she cannot see the forest for the trees, and furthermore, she thinsk she has all the answers, when inf act, she knows mothing – time to say good-bye.

  12. Once again, Dean Rick Turner helps clarify the social issues of the day.

    Clearly we have an inherently racist society. By any measure you wish to consider, whites have more privelege than do non-whites, men have more privelege than do women and the rich have far more privelege than do the less rich or the poor. This is a deep rooted problem that needs to be more fully addressed and attended to in our city, country and, in fact globally. Rick Turner isn’t doing very much to help people recognize this systemic issue. Why? Because he mistakes a system for some of its parts.

    Because teachers work in schools and because there is indeed an achievment gap and because more white students (who, by the way, tend to be from more wealthy families) do better by the measures we use in schools than black students, teachers must be racist.

    I teach UVA first years how to write arguments. If one of them showed me that I’d ask how they intend to prove that the one follows the other. I’d love to hear the answer.

    Not all teachers are racist. Certainly some are…some knowingly and some unknowingly. But to use the broad stroke to paint them all is no better than characterizing all people of any profession, race, gender or any other group you wish to choose as being one thing.

    I can’t speak to the "slave-like mentality" of black people…and I can see how that sort of statement could arise from frustration at the lack of parental involvement in schools generally, especially if one happens to be black and is particularly concerned with the involvement of black parents.

    Dean Turner has some very valuable ideas and a pulpit from which to espouse them. I wish he’d take on the mantle of a leader rather than simply inciting anger and misunderstanding. The goals he has seem laudible at bottom…but his methods will preclude many people from seeing them.

  13. Did we have standardized tests in the 1950’s? What do you mean "allow" students to go to school; doesn’t the constitution say that all citizens have a right to an education? And do you think that the culture and the American family structure is the same now as in the 1950’s?

  14. My opinions are extremely skewed I admit. In my view the city has a history of realizing a problem but never taking any concrete steps to solve them. It seems like most issues come up in the city and argued and debated for years without anything coming out of it.

    As I said before I dont live in the city so I cant make accurate judgements. This whole thing reminds me of a movie I have seen several times. Its a movie called "Lean on Me" with Morghan Freedman. Basically a millitary like principal comes to take over a school that is in ruins. His harsh plans and staunch approach to everything resulted in heavy resentment and opposition from parents, teachers, and staff. From what I have heard in the last few weeks all I have seen is parents and staff shoting down every single recommendation offered by Griffin without offering an alternanitive. I just say if you dont like the idea fine but for god sakes dont argue just to argue come up with alternatives to the ones on the table.

  15. I have gone to the meetings, talked to the teachers and experienced a bit of the problems with the new super. personally. Then I read the Progress or see channel 29 and realize how poorly they report what really happens. That is probably where you are getting your facts which is how I would be too if I was in your shoes and not more directly involved. What that has taught me is I am not sure the news I get from those or any other sources really is the full or true picture on any subject, not just this one. The biggest problem I see is the board hasn’t really listened to any of the concerns expressed and responded to them. As Blake Caravati said, you can’t have something come to light like Dr. Purnell’s letter and then just ,poof, wish it away. They need to respond to the concerns and questions of the public. That is leadership.

  16. I’m going to agree with chatter. I have only missed a few meetings since the school year began and what gets reported and what actually happens are not always the same thing. Turner’s inflammatory remarks (and those of others who are equally inflammatory) do not get reported on the news.

    Now, to move on to the substance of your comment that parents and staff are shooting down every recommendation without offering an alternative. That is not true. Principals offered recommendations before the first budget was unveiled. To the best of my knowledge, none of the principal’s recommendations made it to the budget. Dr. Griffin was overheard at the first budget forum telling someone that she "was going to get exactly what she wants." She is not interested in hearing alternatives, she is interested in her way or the highway.

    At my school we had a system in place for using data to guide instruction. This system was in place for years before the Flanagan tests were forced on us. The pity is, our school had already been using the Flanagan tests – but we’d been given the autonomy to use them as we saw fit, and better still, the autonomy to throw out questions that were badly written or factually incorrect. No one from central office bothered to ask around to find out what some schools were doing well before deciding on the one-size fits all approach. Every school in our division needs improvement. I don’t think you’d find a principal, teacher, instructional assistant, secretary, custodian or cafeteria worker who doesn’t know we have problems in our division.

    If Rick Turner can follow through on Friday night’s meeting and get African-American parents, and the parents of other low socio-economic students into our schools, I will be sincerely grateful. Too often we have trouble getting parents in to discuss our concerns until it turns into a problem that requires administrative intervention.

    Many teachers give 110% every day to their students, but we cannot effectively do our jobs without parental support. If we can get increased parental involvement out of this sideshow, it will almost have been worth it.

  17. If education were a right, it would not be compulsory. If I have a right to free speech, I also have a right not to speak. In 1922, Virginia passed a new law that children age 8-14 be schooled (public, private, home school).

    Does anyone have a right that someone else perform a service for them for free, such as teaching? Do you have a right to take money from me to baby sit your children? The U.S. Constitution makes no mention of education.

    Part of the effort to improve education is to dispell the myth that uttering the word "education" means you’re exempted from all other rules of society and common sense. Education does not justify putting kids in an unsafe environment.

    "Education ought not be through coercion", Jan 14 2002, Letter in Daily Progress

    "I have enjoyed the education debate in The Daily Progress letters forum. A 1982 graduate of Charlottesville High School, I would like to add my two cents.

    The one thing that would revolutionize education is to legalize truancy; in other words, have no legal consequence for not going to school. The economic consequences should be sufficient motivation.

    Making school voluntary would reaffirm freedom. Our forefathers thought freedom meant that no one, including government, may require anyone be present anywhere for any reason except through a written court order specifically naming the individual whose liberty is curtailed. The two exceptions are parental control over children and military conscription.

    If education were truly important, its compulsion would not be necessary. Food is more important but there’s no law to eat. Shelter is more important but being homeless is legal. College is voluntary but somehow enrollment is at an all-time high. Can you imagine Patrick Henry saying, "Give me education or give me death?"

    Educational requirements serve to set aside the high-paying jobs for those who can afford a higher education. No amount of self-study, hard work, ability or accomplishment will qualify you for a job if you don’t have the degree. Old-timers used to ask, "Why don’t you get a job at the ground floor and work your way to the top?" They quit asking because that kind of upward mobility is no longer permitted.

    I have a dream that some day I’ll get the best job because I am the best, not necessarily the best educated."

  18. You are so right, CVILLE Yankee, it REALLY bothers me that Turner is quoted constantly (which gives him undo attention), but only in part. When I told somebody his "KKK and new lynching" comment they told me I was exaggerating because no SANE person would say that. I challenge the Progress and NBC 29 to not quote him unless they show him in his reality. I don’t argue with anybody that our schools have problems. We have many issues to look at, but collaboration is the key. No one person, (Ms. Smith or Dr. G) is the full package. Not to sound trite, but it really does take a village.

  19. While I agree with most of the things you say, I don’t agree with the statement "…let’s make certain we go out of our way to find an African-American superintendent, becuase most of us know that race has nothing to do with ability, and prove that we are not racist…" We shouldn’t just look for a black superintendent. The person that has the most experience, the best attitude, and the best reputation should be chosen, whether white or black. To say that we need to go out of our way to find an African-American superintendent is stupid and naive.

  20. "To say that we need to go out of our way to find an African-American superintendent is stupid and naive. "

    That’s a little harsh. I think CityMom was probably thinking that the only way to shut up a Rick Turner would be to hire a good black superintendent that we can actually support. If Griffin were removed and a white superintendent were hired, that would play right into the hands of those who say all the opposition to Griffin is based on her race.

    And I agree with CityMom on this point. Like it or not, Turner has stirred up feelings and suspicions and resentments that are REAL, even if ill-founded. Those feelings have consequences–we can’t just dismiss the ill-will coming from significant portions of the community by saying "but that’s irrational." In the same way that Turner alienates important constituents when he calls opposition to Griffin racist, to hire a white superintendent following Griffin would further alienate an already alienated chunk of the community. The divisiveness would continue and would threaten any new superintendent’s chances for success.

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