Thurs. School Board Meeting Racially-Charged

Thursday night’s school board meeting sounds like it was pretty tense. In yesterday’s Progress, James Fernald wrote:

A split in the crowd of more than 150 at the meeting was evident as most speakers either showed support for Superintendent Scottie Griffin or criticized her.

Mark Krebs, a former School Board member, asked the board to consider removing the superintendent.

“This is a superintendent who has made her race an excuse for her incompetence,” Krebs said. “Do these comments make me racist?” Many in the audience shouted over his “no” with an emphatic “yes.”


M. Rick Turner, dean of African-American Affairs at the University of Virginia and president of the local chapter of the NAACP, again at Thursday’s meeting accused members of the City Council and School Board of being racist.

“This insidious form of racism and corruption has taken us far away from solving the achievement gap,” Turner said. “A modern-day lynching is happening right before our eyes.”

Hey, don’t hold back, Dean Turner — tell us how you really feel. member “Upset” has his/her own account of the meeting, describing what went on.

To pack all of the school board/Griffin news into one post, Courteney Stuart has a piece about Griffin in this week’s issue of The Hook, while Cathy Harding has a big ol’ story about the state of Charlottesville schools and where the current situation fits into the long-term narrative.

10 thoughts on “Thurs. School Board Meeting Racially-Charged”

  1. I do not pretend to be an expert on the Cville School System but in reading the two articles cited above, two comments prompted me to try to analyze them. The first:

    “We have to have a civic conversation and understand who people are,” says school board member Van Yahres. “Low-income parents have to understand when middle-income parents question the schools, they’re not racist. Middle-class parents need to know low-income parents feel the schools have been failing them.”

    This statement assumes income levels determine race of the parents. This indeed may be the case in many instances but certainly not in all and to make this assumption indicates, to me, a state of mind which is not helpful. I hope I am not misreading it, but, “there it is”.

    The second comment is:

    ” Andy Block and Angela Ciolfi agree. He runs Legal Aid’s Just Children, a child-advocacy project that in the past three years has looked at public education, and she is the staff attorney. “If kids are coming to school behind because their families don’t have a lot of education,” Block says, “the way things are now, and until we close the gap…it’s going to get uglier and uglier for children as they get older.” What he means is that once denied a full SOL-certified diploma, a kid has seriously diminished options ahead of him—jobs, enlisting in the military and so on. “If you don’t have a high school diploma you end up contributing less and costing more,” Block says.

    A couple of things here. I don`t believe a serviceman is contributing less. Perhaps costing more in the event long term care is required as a result of that service – yes – but I can forgive that.

    Block may not know – obviously he doesn`t – that educational requirements to succeed in military careers are stricter than he may assume. I recall, from many years ago, when I did my small bit, the goal was for all commissioned personnel to have fours years of college and senior non-commissioned officers two years. From what I have recently read the goal (perhaps required) is four years for both. In any case to denigrate military service, as I think the statement does, is at best ill advised. Further , Service Schools are some of the best in the world and open to all personnel with aptitude for them dependent upon the needs of the Service.

    A little off the point. Anyone who has experienced DOD run schools for children of service personnel, especially overseas, will find the fondly termed “military brats” are disciplined, very well behaved, and the parents fully involved in the system. Too bad these traits cannot always be found in civilian schools (realizing of course the environment is different)

    By the way, Block, a local school is named after a former School Board member – a career serviceman.

  2. Just a caution before jumping on Block: note that the only material actually in quotes is the part that reads “If kids are coming to school behind….it’s going to get uglier and uglier…older.” The part to which you are objecting–the part that equates “enlisting in the military” with “seriously diminished options”–is inserted without quotation marks. it’s quite possible that the part is the reporter, not Block, trying to explain what Block meant. Reporters do this. There’s no evidence that Block himself literally said anything about military service at all.

    I think it’s hard to argue with what we KNOW he said from the article–that not getting a high school diploma generally bodes ill for young people. That seems to be the really salient point here.

  3. “Reporters do this”

    Well Cecil, not to start a a big discussion on this, I seldom if ever, read a GOOD reporter explaining what is meant. A GOOD reporter will ask for clarification, extension of remarks, some explanation of what is meant rather than inserting themselves into an interview as the front man for an interviewee. I will admit some of the reporting requires a lot of explanation.

    Maybe I should have recognized it as a joint statement (BG).

    Let me go a bit further Cecil. I think it is proper to publicize the opinion a High School diploma is of great help in obtaining employment. It is definitely not the answer to every child`s needs.

  4. Continued (hit the wrong button)

    “If you don’t have a high school diploma you end up contributing less and costing more,”

    Many kids, who for whatever reason, couldn`t “cut it” in high school and went on to make their way via CATEC and other various learning experiences (apprentices, small business, etc) don`t need to be told they contribute less and cost more. I mean the positive – “get a HS education, it will help you” rather than you are a detriment to the community.” I am trying to say” accentuate the positive'”.

    I have had, and enjoyed it very much, a certain amount of experience with youngsters and they taught me, bless them, be positive – don`t run me down.

    If I have misunderstood Block, so be it, or perhaps the reporter, so be it, or both, so be it. It is obvious one could.

    I have gone on too much here but I didn`t like what I read or thought I read and I have a soft spot for youngsters who are somewhat off the beaten path !

  5. Without biting on the question of reporting and the use of quoted material, I’d observe:

    – CATEC does award HS diplomas, and other types of certification and probably better equips their recipients in economic terms than students graduating from CHS, in cases where they do not go on to post-secondary education.

    – Nobody questions the larger social value of jobs across the earning spectrum. It would be nice if people could make observations about the earning power, without there being an attempt to twist race/gender/class neutral obersvations into attacks. Neither VanYahres nor Block suggested these issues were race issues: “socio-economic status” is not ‘code’ for ‘black’. These issues affect just as many or more low income whites (and hispanics) as blacks, in exactly the same way. A study of demographics and school acheivement in the CCPS will reveal this is true in Charlottesville as well.

    Cornelius: it looks you’ve got a serious chip on your shoulder. This has been consistent throughout the majority of your posts. I don’t know you personally, only what I read on this forum. None of the statements by VanYahres or Block appear to be code for attacks or put-downs of minorities. They are accurate and appropriate observations about what happens to students who, regardless of their race, do not earn SOL certified HS diplomas:

    – Until the recent recruiting crunch, the military was not an option for those students! Nobody was insulting servicemen! Block was noting that the service, a fine option to: earn money, get medical insurance, earn retirement benefits, earn college tuition, etc. for citizens (and now non-citizens), was not available to students without HS diplomas!

    – Many employers require high school diplomas, even for entry-level minimum-wage jobs. When you contemplate the job market in this country, where increasing numbers college educated students are going into the traditionally “blue collar” job market, the environment for workers with fewer academic credentials is getting tougher, especially for jobs moving up the ladder.

    It seems to me that either:

    – you can’t read the article with enough comprehension to really understand what’s being said (the article is written on a 6th-grade level).


    – you just don’t want to confront the real issues! Block and VanYahres appear to be attempting to address the situation in a positive fashion, that acknowledges the real issues and offers some ideas about finding our way past the current impasse.

    It seems like you’re looking for something to get angry at – otherwise your comments are quite well reasoned and positive. Please accept my apologies if that’s not the case.



  6. Well, I suppose I should offer thanks for your assessment of my level of reading comprehension. What your assessment is worth is another question.

    Now my comments were based upon what I read and the nearest I will come to another conclusion is to say – all in all – the whole smear was ambiguous.

    I will willingly state I have serious questions concerning the provisions made to guide certain young people to successful careers. Your comment, quoted here is closer to my thinking than the position taken of “One must earn a High School diploma or else………………..”

    “CATEC does award HS diplomas, and other types of certification and probably better equips their recipients in economic terms than students graduating from CHS, in cases where they do not go on to post-secondary education.”

    The other types of certification are those I referenced. These are for the kids who for many reasons don’t see HS diplomas as something they need. I personally believe education, continuing throughout a lifetime, is a wonderful thing. I do, however, have enough common sense to know it is not for everybody and I think it does little good to lump all those without a HS diploma as in some way less effective citizens. There are better ways to state the need for completion of HS. There are also some standout kids who have no patience with High School and I will champion them every time. Certainly there is a mixed bag of results but again “positive not negative approach” to counsel.

    “socio-economic status” is not ‘code’ for ‘black’

    I think you are citing this statement:

    “Low-income parents have to understand when middle-income parents question the schools, they’re not racist. Middle-class parents need to know low-income parents feel the schools have been failing them.”

    I didn`t say it was code for anything. When I read the above – regardless of your opinion of my comprehension level – it places race in the equation of income. That doesn`t mean I think the speaker is racist, far, far, from it, especially in this case as the speaker, in my view is a “stand up person” whom I respect.” It is, however, though what I read.

    Now as far as my posts are concerned. Yes, I am an underdog
    rooter almost every time. This is prompted by the unfortunate attitude of “there is only one way to do things” held by so many in positions of authority. I abhor arrogance.

    I have , in general, a reasonably good opinion of the press for a city as small as Charlottesville. I do get excited when sloppiness slips into the picture, especially when one is writing for mass reproduction and distribution.

    I won`t sink to a level of making myself a judge of your outlook, by your posts, except to say I believe they are, in some ways, verbose to a fault. Much as this one is, I guess.

    I make no apologies to anyone because I merely stated the facts as I see them. I will continue on that path.

    This board, I understand, is for discussion of issues with opinions from all quarters which enrich the value. My opinion, as yours, is of equal value to the whole.

  7. I was responding to your original post. Perhaps I am the one with a reading comprehension problem; perhaps I misunderstood what you were saying. There were only two general points or responses

    Your first response to VanYahres was:

    “This statement assumes income levels determine race of the parents.”

    Your primary response to Block’s comments/general argument about the economic status of non-HS diploma holders was:

    “A couple of things here. I don`t believe a serviceman is contributing less.”

    I responded to those two statements. I’ve said what I thought about your orginal comments; I don’t see anything in your response that really alters that perception. I think your comments and my comments can stand for themselves; others can read and decide for themselves (if they care).

    My apologies for the verbosity: sometimes nuance and precision require a lot of ten-cent words and careful phrasing.


  8. I am pleased to note you have ceased your personal attacks.

    My response was not intended to alter your perception. It is what it is.

    In my view, all this is insignificant in the grand scheme of things, as one blob of atoms remarked to another blob, as they floated through the cosmos, and I shall accord it that magnitude of concern.

    I hope your day is productive and certainly more productive than we have spent on this exchange………………..

  9. The funny thing about the C-ville piece is that as anyone who attends a school board meeting knows, it’s typically the author of that piece who makes the most, and louded, derisive comments regarding the new superintendent. Not real big on distancing one’s self from the story over at C-ville, apparently.

  10. I don’t question the value of jobs requiring only a high school diploma in our economy. I would like to see individuals move into those jobs based on choice, however, not because there is nothing else offered to them. Race and income may or may not be major determinants of whether an individual gets hired for a job. However, race and income do play a role in the educational and social development of a child throughout childhood. This leads an individual to be more or less prepared to have a wide variety of choices when it comes time to enter the job market or pursue higher education.

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