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May 21st, 2014

Forum Addresses Racial Issues



Lillie Howard

I found the School Board Candidates’ Forum that was sponsored by the Newburgh/Highland Falls NAACP on May 15th to be very informative. Ten out of 14 candidates showed up which was very good. I had the opportunity to ask them four very important questions which basically addressed 1) the high drop-out rate of students of color whose numbers happen to be almost 75% of the school district 2) the low amount of teachers of color (80%White versus 12% Hispanic, 6% African-American,1% Asian) 3) the disproportionate numbers of referrals and suspensions of students of color 4) The low reading proficiency of our African-American boys. Basically, there were some very interesting answers to these questions and several of the candidates seemed to be in tune with my analysis of these problems.

The sad part of the whole evening was the seemingly misinformed candidate, Mr. David Rein. I should not have been surprised at his response to many of my questions due to the statements that he made in a local newspaper on May 15 which criticized the statements candidates Sheila Murphy and Runston (POP) Lewis made at the NAACP press conference on Tuesday, May 13. They criticized the Newburgh school district’s graduation and suspension rates of students of color. To that candidate Rein said, "I find it offensive to suggest that Black teachers and Black board members are the answer to Newburgh’s problems. The emphasis should be on hiring more quality teachers, regardless of race." WOW! Let’s reverse this picture to their being 80%African American teachers and 75% white students. WOW! I’m quite sure there would have been all sorts of complaints as to what would be needed to seriously address this.

I took a break from writing this article and decided to check my email. An interesting article caught my eyes which read "Today is the 60th anniversary of the historic "Brown versus Board of Education" Supreme Court Decision. This decision led to the desegregation of schools in the United States. Who would have imagined that the Candidate’s Forum was being held exactly 60 years from the day that this most Supreme Court Decision was handed down. WOW! And the person that this interview was being done with just happened to be NY State Education Commissioner John King, whom just happens to be African-American. WOW! Evidently he’s qualified!

In this interview Commissioner King stated that 60 years later minority and low-income students are still facing troubles in the nation’s educational systems and that the Common Core standards will help. His concentration was on NY state schools where he found that they had the highest levels of segregation in the nation. He said that our schools are not only segregated racially but also economically, and part of what he tried to focus on is the need to tackle this on multiple levels, to try to do everything that they can to promote social and economic integration while simultaneously insuring that all of our schools have high standards for teaching and learning. The segregation of schools is caused usually by an economic disparity because at this point it is illegal to segregate intentionally thanks to Brown v. Board of Education.

I predict that when this paper hits the street, candidates Sheila Murphy, Runston Lewis and George Bowles will have won the election. More than likely this NAACP Candidate’s forum was the only one that dealt with the issues that are directly affecting our children. Whether some like it or not, the discussion about race needs to be discussed across the board. This is Lillie’s Point of View!


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