School System Moving Towards "Separate But Unequal Schools". Op-Ed
For the last ten(10) years through op-ed's graciously published by the Florida Sentinel when I submitted them and over a period of 5.5 years as a local radio station community affairs host I've painstakingly sound the alarm in our community that sooner or later "urban schools" ie. generally, as predominantly black schools, would face the day of unprecedented closures and mergers. The result would be less of our kids staying near home, more busing and less quality balance of education and sincere community connections. Headline of February 15 in the major local newspaper " Hillsborough eyes closing, merging schools to help fix budget woes." The School Board Administration talks about under-enrolled schools meaning 30% and above to close or merge. May I remind my fellow citizens the district has been talking about redistricting and or rezoning for the last 15 years and as much as it was needed back then, nothing of significance countywide was completed. Today the administration says we can merge, close down and even out right consider some schools to be offered up for surplus property to be sold. Do you remember all the uproar about the closing down of B.T. Washington, located in Ybor City - Tampa Park area. Don't think for a minute that's not one of the urban schools to review. How about the under enrollment at Just and nearby Dunbar Elementary. What's the true plan for Stewart Middle Magnet which really needs to be rebuilt at the present location. A reminder that the previous city administration was exposed for trying to engineer a backroom deal to sell Just, Stewart and Blake and the city then lied about it up to the end until they finally admitted the truth. Not one black elected official, anointed community leader or even legislator at the time said nothing after the devious plan. I wonder why? Currently, the new Meacham site is a community garden yet, with B.T.Washington nearby, nobody in our community previous or presently, including selected school board members for District 5 has said nothing about what is under the table discussions of both sites. Why haven't the other school board members in the county stepped up as they too have black voters in their respective district etc.
Should the black community continue to ignore what's happening to our urban or inner city schools we're gonna find our kids being bus further away from home, lack of community - school positive connection and the list goes on and on to the future demise of a positive community. Ask yourself why our even new school board members and I mean all of them continue to act like nothing is going down. To some extent based on my own 50 years of observing and documenting school board decisions I'm "PLEADING" don't sit and remain quiet. Finally, regardless of the misdirection of the school system, even prior to the new superintendent arrival, those three schools on the river are still in play and just hope that the Tampa Housing Authority and the current Mayor Jane Castor step forward in truth and transparency what is their position(s) now and reveal any past discussions with anybody regarding the schools on the river. You might not have liked the late President Ronald Reagan but what he said back then during his time in office still holds true today and that is "TRUST BUT VERIFY."
Robert Pete Edwards
Concern Community Advocate