Written by: Tonyaa Weathersbee
The beginning of school should be a time of hope and promise for children. For African-American children, it should be the step toward that better life that so many of them experience only through what they see on television, infilms, or in books.
But for far too many black children in Pinellas County, school doesn’t mean stepping towards success as much as it means being stuck in a quagmire of failure.
In its Pulitzer Prize -winning series, “Failure Factories,” The Tampa Bay Times uncovered how five schools in the predominantly black areas of the county deteriorated, in the course of eight years, into the worse schools in the state.
This happened largely through abandonment, lies and neglect – three things that black folks are all too familiar with.
According to the series, the abandonment came when the Pinellas School Board turned its back on integration in 2007. Then came the lies; the board never came through with promises of resources and money to make up for the access to resources and money that those schools lost by no longer having access to white parents with money and connections.
Then the neglect. After black children at Campbell Park, Fairmount Park, Lakewood, Maximo and Melrose elementary schools began to fail at obscene rates, they did nothing.
Now those schools are, according to the state Education Department, among the worse in the state. Melrose has the lowest standardized test scores of all the elementary schools in Florida, followed by Fairmount Park. Maximo is ranked the 10th worse, while Lakewood came in at 12th and Campbell Park came in at 15th.
And what this all reveals are uncomfortable truths that black people have had to deal with for ages; the main one being that to be black means to become invisible to those who have the power to make decisions that govern our lives.
The invisibility began when, in 2007, many black parents apparently warned board members that the schools would suffer if they ended integration. At that time, those five schools scored no lower than a C on the standardized tests.
Tonyaa J. Weathersbee is a multiple award-winning columnist and multimedia journalist in Jacksonville, Fla. To learn more about her and her work, go to www.tonyaajweathersbee.com or www.facebook.com/tonyaajweathersbee. Or follow her @tonyaajw.
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