Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Recently, the Wake County (NC) School District made national headlines for their decision to discontinue a diversity program that allowed for school placement based on socioeconomic status. The uproar resulted in the arrest of protestors at a recent School Board meeting, most notably the President of the state NAACP chapter, Rev William Barber (pictured above). In a speech to the Board during the most recent June 15 meeting, Board chair Ron Margiotta said the following in a speech to the members:

"As a Board, we have received some criticism, mostly from those who would prefer to remain in the

past. We have been unfairly criticized, many roadblocks have been erected to distract us from our

work. However, we remain steadfast in our beliefs and undeterred in moving forward; very decisively

with our goals. Our goals are lofty and worthwhile, however, change will not come quickly or easily."

(Wake Co. Board of Ed Minutes 6.15.10)

Let me quickly lay out why this is just an awful statement. I applaud the protestors at the meeting for not rioting after hearing such arrogance.


For those who don't know, I'm the son of career educators in the School District of Philadelphia. I've watched my parents go through the entire public school ringer, and have also had my own experiences in public school and working with public school administrators. On top of this backdrop, I'm a grad student in Urban Education and most importantly a parent who thinks that given the taxes I pay, I should have MANY quality PUBLIC education choices at my disposal. And more ideally, ALL people should have quality public education choices no matter their bank account status.


Wake County is made up of twelve cities, most notably state capital, Raleigh, and growing metro center, Cary. The county consists of all most 900k residents according to the most recent census numbers. The median family income ranges from $110k in Cary to as little as $44k in Zebulon.


I did some lunchtime research (defined as web surfing while eating lunch) on the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS), and some interesting trends quickly became clear. The big buzz phrase in public education these days is ADEQUATE YEARLY PROGRESS (AYP) for short due to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act signed into law in 2002. So whether you like it or not, AYP is the measuring stick against which schools are judged these days. Of the 51 elementary schools that made 100% of their AYP goals last year, 66% were located in TWO of the cities of Wake Co., they were RALEIGH, the state capital, and CARY, the most affluent city in the county. Five of the cities in the county only had ONE school meet all of their AYP goals. I think it's no coincidence that the cities with the fewest number of "quality" schools were the poorest, and had the highest rates of unemployment. I could go on and talk about how only 8% of the high schools made AYP goals, but I think you get the picture. Board member, John Tedesco, has been on TV talking about how the program was rescinded because it was not working for the poorest students in the county, but you would also recognize that there are other disparities that must be addressed so that ALL students have access to a quality education.


Board Chair Margiotta is trying to sell folks on the idea that eliminating the current school choice program is not a move to "Create high-poverty or low performing schools", but that's laughable because that was already happening, and now there will not even be the same effort to stem that trend. Without the diversity program, families who are able will pick up and move to areas where the highly-resourced schools are concentrated, leaving the already struggling cities to wilt even further without their tax dollars. My four years spent at the mighty Central HS, a Philly magnet school, certainly played a part in preparing me to work where I work, live where I live, and develop relationships with folks of various backgrounds. If public school gatekeepers continue to be allowed to make moves that institutionalize socioeconomic and racial strata, then THEY are the ones who are continuing to harken back to the past NOT the protestors who shout at the top of their lungs that they want something different.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Recent Lessons and Observations: Working, NAACP, Biz of Sports

You never know who's watching you...
I recently had to walk the plank (at knifepoint) at my previous place of employment in what can best be analogized as a Stan Van Gundy/Pat Riley situation minus the press conference where I talk about spending more time with my family. The ordeal was a clear reminder of a lecture John C. Carroll laid on me long ago. "You can show your ass if you want to," he said, "but you better be clear about what you're doing because you never know who's watching you." Had I been one known to go around acting like a jerk at every turn, then I would have never gotten another job so close to home as quickly as I did. Shout out to Pops for hammering home a lesson as only he could.

Get off the mat NAACP
The NAACP has a chance to be revive it's image as an organization interested in doing more for the community than putting on a solid awards show. It has been a long time since the group has been seen as a leader in advocating for the human rights of those who have traditionally been denied rights and opportunities for advancement. Current leader, Ben Jealous strikes me as someone who is both aware of the history, but more importantly has a plan on how to be viable in today's more nuanced racial landscape. He just got a fire baptism on how nuanced the political game can be in this era, but he can't let the egg white stay on his face and keep him from the mission of advocacy on a number of fronts. One of the key initiatives should be domestic job creation. The statistics around unemployed men of color in many urban centers is staggering and it will be difficult to get people out to vote in these all important November elections if they are not working. Let's get to work Mr Jealous, I'm ready to ride...

Hood Rich Ain't Wealthy
It will be interesting to see how athletes in both the NBA and NFL in particular will strategize to navigate through upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations. I was one who applauded how James, Wade, and Bosh leveraged their free agency against the owners, I'm hopeful that the rest of the league has planned properly so that they can have leverage against owners who claim to be losing money yet continue to hand out enigmatic max contracts to overrated players. Athletes across both the NBA and NFL have long been been painted as mindless worker bees with weak unions because of their hyper-consumer mindsets. Analysts like Chris Collinsworth are already estimating that as much as 25% of NFL players will go broke with any kind of extended work stoppage. A sad thought, but here's to hoping that players have realized that amassing wealth is a game of chess, not checkers.