Carl W. Kenney II is an award winning columnist and novelist. He is committed to engaging readers into a meaningful discussion related to matters that impact faith and society. He grapples with pondering the impact faith has on public space while seeking to understand how public space both hinders and enhances the walk of faith.
Monday, July 1, 2013
The Durham Public School Board's decision not to approve all-boys academy viewed as disrespectful by those who served on task force
In voting down a proposal to develop an all-male
academy, the Durham Board of Education may find it difficult to restore trust
among those who worked hard to create the plan.
Race relations in Durham have taken a step in the
The motion failed in a 3-3 vote. Board members voted
to take the issue back to committee to be reviewed at the August meeting.Although the proposal is not dead in the
water, what remains is the tarnishing of relationship between white board
members and core black leaders who worked on the proposal.
It’s critical that hard work go into restoring trust,
or the Durham Public School system could face serious consequences going
forward. At the root of the divide is the perception that Board Chairwoman
Heidi Carter, Leigh Bordley and Natalie Byer, the three white board members in opposition
to the all-boys academy, are incapable of hearing what the black community
Even more troubling is the sense that members of the
special task force entrusted to develop a strategy for the all-boys academy
aren’t being respected.Members of the task
force represent some of the most esteemed leaders in Durham.They were given the task of investigated the
feasibility of the all-boys academy.
17 people served on the task force.They represented a wide range of interest and
brought considerable knowledge and expertise to the process.Members included Farad Ali, former member of
the city council and vice-president of the Minority Business Development
Agency, Superior Court Judge Elaine Bushfan, Bill Ingram, president at Durham
Technical Community College, Michael Palmer, coordinator at Self-Help Credit
Union, Leslie Winner, executive director at Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, Phail
Wynn, of Duke University, to name just a few.
The impressive assemblage of task force members adds
to the infuriation caused by the school board’s inability to move forward.Board members undermined the hard work task
force members volunteered after moving on a recommendation outlined in the
school system’s strategic plan.The task
force was not assigned the responsibility of determining the merit of an
all-boys academy, but to investigate the best way to facilitate what had been
approved within the school’s planning process.
Failing to vote on a proposal that was already
approved as part of the strategic plan leaves members of the task force, and
members of the black community, soured by a lack of perceived integrity related
to Durham Public School’s Strategic Plan.Members are left frustrated and confused regarding the rationale for
their serving on the task force.This
could undermine long term relationships between DPS and community leaders asked
to collaborate with the school system.
Many who served on the task force have significant ties
to the population the all-boys academy is aimed at supporting.Their work lends a perspective that adds
credibility to the process.By failing
to support the recommendations of the task force, board members have refuted
their expertise by suggesting the proposal isn’t in the best interest of DPS.
Can you hear “you don’t know what you’re talking about”?
It’s safe to assume that the will to collaborate with
DPS has been damaged by the lack of will to move forward on this proposal.Damaged are relationships between DPS and the
key stakeholders at the table to address the needs of minority boys.Damaged is the hard work that went into
altering the reputation of the Durham Board of Education.Damaged are trust and the willingness to form
a strategy that significantly impacts the population with the greatest need.
In an earlier blog, I warned that the failure to move
on this proposal will hinder race relations in Durham.Durham’s black leadership is left
disappointed and confused by this process.They feel compromised and disrespected after committing time in
service.Board members need to find a
way to honor their service while respecting the expertise and recommendations
of those who served.
Failure to do so will pit white board members against
a black community both frustrated and annoyed after not being heard.The outcome could be the formation of an
all-boys academy not endorsed by Durham Public Schools.Members of the task force may decide to build
the school on their own, and, if that happens, we may witness the final nail in
the coffin leading to the re-segregation of the Durham Public school system.
If white board members are unwilling to concede the
wisdom of the best minds in Durham, how can blacks trust the school board has
the interest of black students in mind when making tough decisions? Leaders
came together to propose a plan to open an all-boys school.They did so with the assumption the board had
approved the concept based on the school’s strategic plan.Members of that task force are now forced to
concede a lack of interest in the plan among white school board members -
despite it being in their own plan.
How do you reclaim trust?What steps need to be taken to make this
right?How do you apologize to those who
worked hard and believed in the proposal they presented?
Maybe members of the board don’t care, but they
should.The black community is watching,
and the gap is broadening more and more every day.
Expect and all-boys academy built by black leaders fed
up with being told no.This is a
decision that will not go away overnight.