As a Black man and as a pastor leading a diverse congregation, I’m angry. Really angry, and that’s unusual for me. I’m a patient man, but my patience has run out with the administration and the school board in Seattle Public Schools.
District leaders may be taking steps to improve climate and academic outcomes for Black students, but their efforts are incremental, piecemeal, and most importantly–too slow. It’s past time for urgent action on a large scale. Now.
In the 2010 teachers contract, the district and the union agreed to create a committee on closing the achievement gap. Three years later, despite the rhetoric, the committee has not been formed.
Meanwhile, the federal Department of Education is investigating disparities in discipline, which trouble me greatly. The Seattle Times article on the subject raised my blood pressure, especially the quote from ACLU spokesman Doug Honig who said, “In effect, the suspension or expulsion can put them so far behind in schoolwork that it becomes an educational death sentence.” He’s right and I’m eager to know Superintendent Banda plans to mobilize his leadership team to do better. That effort should be public, open, transparent, and immediate. So far, I’ve heard about a couple committees meeting semi-privately, but that’s not enough.
School board members and administrators readily say they took a look at discipline numbers about two years ago and knew then there was a problem. People with kids in school in Seattle have known there was a problem for decades. It’s time to solve the problem. Now.