There’s something that you need to know about my city. Everyone is afraid of our public schools. I look to my neighbors to my right and to my left and behind me and in front of me and they all send their kids to private schools or out of their zone. Because my husband and I send our kids to the school to which we’re zoned, we’re often looked at in amazement, bewilderment actually, that we’d make such a political statement. But, really, we just don’t make enough money to send them anywhere else and we’re not that afraid of them being a minority. And what’s most amazing to me is that everyone complains about the schools. Everyone. Everyone is afraid of them and talks so very badly about them. Our whole region talks bad about them. Family’s won’t move here because of them. Young people leave because of them. Our poorest residents stay poor because of them. And it’s such a shame. I see the falling ceiling tiles in my sons’ auditorium and I think that it’s such a shame. I see school after school losing accreditation year after year and I think that it’s such a shame. What can we do? The most powerful and privileged people in our city send their children to private schools or out of their zone. City council members and school board members, too. Isn’t that such a shame? They see the schools in their neighborhoods falling apart and instead of advocating for them, funneling resources to them, volunteering at them, supporting them, giving them a voice, they instead send their children to another school across town. With the other white kids. It’s a shame, isn’t it?
Yesterday, Norfolk, for the first time ever, had the opportunity to vote for 2 new school board members. Actually, we voted 2 years ago to get the opportunity to now vote for a new school board. If that makes sense. But we didn’t. Today we woke up with the same school board. A school board in charge of crumbling, segregated schools that are losing accreditation. But don’t worry. Our board member’s children are at good schools. Schools that most of our city’s residents can’t afford or don’t have the connections to get into. They sit in schools where violence is not tolerated. Where mold doesn’t choke their lungs. Where teachers are not nearly as drained. Who are fully accredited. Isn’t that such a shame? And is this me being a sore loser? Maybe. Or, maybe I’m just sore that our city lost. That we chose the status quo. That everyone will just keep on sending their kids across town instead of supporting our neighborhoods and our children and yet still complain complain about our schools.
Yesterday, our city spoke pretty loud and clear that it was ready for change, that we don’t want the status quo. We voted out Barclay Winn in city council, a 16 year incumbent who represented a lot about our city that we are tired of. Good old boy, payed off politics. And we voted for Kenny Alexander, an outside politician who represents much of the same. This will be so good for our city. New leadership. New ideas. Moving forward. Change. But as I worked the polls yesterday supporting Carter Smith for school board, I noticed that not many people had considered a candidate for school board. Everyone had their head held high and they knew that they wanted to vote for new city leadership, perhaps forgetting that this time we got to vote for our school board. No more insider dealing. No more council anointed favorites.
And I’m just like, damn, people! We had our chance! We could and should have voted to change all of that for our schools. To at least begin making changes in our city and to our schools towards more transparency and safety. So, if I know that you voted for Noelle Gabrielle and you still send your kids to private schools or out of your zone because you’re afraid of your public school, I might just tell you, well damn! How about next time voting for someone who wants to change that? Someone who doesn’t just send her kids out of her district and ignores the school in her neighborhood. Someone who can handle our school system’s budget. Someone who has leadership skills that are better than blaming the others that are around her. Because, I’ll tell ya, the cognitive dissonance in our city is astounding. How can you in one breath complain and criticize our schools, to send your children out of district, and still vote for the status quo? It makes no sense. So next time, if you please, look at the problems in our city square on and vote with a little bit of sense instead of for candidates who talk in circles, can give no answers and who do not trust the very school system that they serve.
I will close with saying that Carter Smith ran an extremely good campaign. It was smart, positive, ran on actual ISSUES and not his profession, and above all, it addressed the dire straights and condition that our school district is in. I’m very, very proud of his campaign. I got to know him a little bit more over the last few weeks and have been very encouraged by his humility and compassion. He really would have made an excellent leader on our school board. Thank you, Mr. Smith.
I’d also like to close with saying that I don’t want to shame parents who send their children to private schools. I believe very strongly that we deserve the right to send our children wherever we want. However, we cannot deny that many, many people, if not most, send their children out of district and to private schools in our city out of FEAR. And that simply is not okay. We must do better.