Racism, the School Board, and Griffin

In today’s Progress, James Fernald provides an update on last night’s school board meeting, at which Superintendent Scottie Griffin resigned from her position.

After reading the piece, I’m inclined to agree with others who have said that things are going to get worse before they get better. There is great potential for this to get uglier than it has so far. The first red flag is that the 5-2 vote to accept Griffin’s resignation was almost, but not require, along racial lines — the two dissenting votes were cast by Muriel Wiggins and Bill Igbani, two of the three blackschool board members. Accurately or not, this provides the public impression that votes were cast for reasons of race. Igbani said, after the meeting, that he intends to leave the school board before too long — again, a red flag.

After the announcement came, Rev. R.A. Johnson — a strident supporter of Griffin and a harsh critic of those who have questioned Griffin’s qualifications and methods — declared: “Don’t think you can hire somebody black and that’s going to satisfy us.” This calls attention to the bind that the school board is in: if the next superintendent is black, there will be accusations of tokenism; if s/he is white, there will be further accusations of racism.

In the meantime, Dr. Griffin remains the superintendent until June 30, and it’s sure to be an uncomfortable two months.

In this week’s Hook, Courteney Stuart has further revelations about Griffin’s background, including that she’s held seven positions in the past decade, and left four of them midway through the school year, which is quite uncommon. It turns out that the school board knew nothing about her resume or her two legal cases, because they — rather appallingly — counted on the recruiting firm to take care of that. According to the board’s attorney, they may consider taking legal action against the search firm.

All of that may be beside the point, though — if her resignation is perceived to have been forced because of her race, the facts are unlikely to persuade those who see nothing more than institutional racism.

It’s not surprising that Igbani plans on leaving the school board. What’s surprising is that they’re not all planning on quitting.

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