Have a Say in Deciding Who will Lead Challenging Fayette Schools

By Rev. L. Clark Williams

As a Lexington native, and a child of the 1970s and 1980s, I grew up in an era in which my early elementary school experiences in the Fayette County Public Schools taught me that racism and inequities were very much alive and, some might say, well.

In kindergarten at Southern, I was called the “n-word” by a sixth-grade student in a restroom just before he slammed my head against a urinal. And, as if that wasn’t enough, despite witnesses and my ability to identify the sixth-grader who attacked me, no action was ever taken against that student.

In first grade, at Garden Springs, upon arriving to school late due to the tardiness of my school bus, I was rushed through sections of a standardized test and subsequently placed in a “low” reading group in which the teacher, who had been in the classroom since the 1950s, refused to teach the curriculum and seemed insistent upon watching my reading group drift further and further behind.

But, thank God, I have parents who were educators. If not for them, those kinds of stories would have likely plagued me throughout my K-12 education. Instead, I was blessed to graduate with honors, and went on to earn several college degrees. Though, I cannot help but wonder what might have been, for me as a black male student, if I had not had a parental support system that most of my peers, black and white, did not have.

Still, I will never forget the massive altercation between black and white students that took place my junior year at Tates Creek. By all accounts, both groups clearly seemed to be at fault. Yet, I watched as a police wagon pulled up and only black males were handcuffed and arrested. Today, I would like to think that the dynamics have shifted and that my negative encounters have long been eradicated from the student experience for all children in Fayette County Public Schools.

Unfortunately, as I look at the numbers in terms of college and career readiness, some of the overt inequities may have been improved upon, but the end results apparently have not changed for African-American and Hispanic students and for students receiving free or reduced-cost lunch.

According to the 2014 FCPS Equity Scorecard, the percentages of African-American students, Hispanic students and students on free and reduced-cost lunch who were college and/or career ready upon graduation in 2013 were 31.9 percent, 31.9 percent and 32.7 percent, respectively.

Clearly, the question becomes, “If our young people are not leaving FCPS college and/or career ready, then what do they leave ready for?”

That is why the current search for a superintendent is so critical. Many in the community have stated, and the school board has agreed that the next superintendent must possess a proven track record of improving achievement for all students in an urban environment.

Therefore, the public forums with the finalists at Norsworthy Auditorium at 6 p.m. Wednesday and Friday are imperative. The community cannot sit idly by, while this vital decision is being made by our school board.

Once the best candidate is in place, our work as a community must truly begin, by supporting the work of the superintendent as he or she shapes the school system into a place in which all students can realize the successes they are capable of achieving.

The future of our children and, therefore, the future of our community depends upon it.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/opinion/op-ed/article44606445.html#storylink=cpy

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