The series of events that have evolved over the last week at Campbell Park Elementary should serve as an opportunity for all Pinellas County School Board members, Pinellas County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Grego, clergy, the NAACP and any other organizations who profess to care about our community to push the pause button.
While on pause, they all need to do some self-reflection and ask: “What have I done, or not done, in my role as a leader to help create a culture in St. Petersburg where a principal of one of our most challenged schools with a majority of African-American students would direct her staff to ensure that ‘white children’ were kept together?”
The inference being that you do whatever you need to do with the black children, the Hispanic children and the Asian children, but the goal is to ensure the white children are kept together. Many have tried to interject themselves in Mrs. Hoffman’s thought process without much success. Dr. Grego and Area Superintendent Pat Wright even seemed lost for words when attempting to explain their employee’s thought process.
This Letter to the Editor is not about Mrs. Hoffman! This letter is about us, the leaders of this community!
In a March 2012 article titled “Employment Screening and a Culture of Complacency,” author Michael Gaul explores the impact of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig where 11 lives were lost and four million barrels of oil spilled into the ocean, an event that he ties directly to complacency.
He goes on to identify complacency as a dangerous culture that extends to many major corporations and even public institutions such as schools. While the results of complacency may not be as immediate and as evident as the BP oil spills, the long term protracted impact on black students is just as horrific and some will argue even more so than the devastating impact of the oil spill.
Gaul states that when these catastrophic incidents happen, the tendency for those looking from the outside in is a typically: “Glad I am not with that organization.” We simply see the problem as someone else’s and totally dismiss the experience as an opportunity to learn from someone else’s mistakes.
One of Gaul solutions to ending cultures of complacencies is by conducting employee screenings. His belief, and I concur, is by hiring the right people on the front end, you lessen the organization’s risks. In the case of schools, you increase the number of children from all races chances of academic success.
The Pinellas County School board must step up its game to ensure they have policies that ensure the district is hiring the right people to educate our children as well as those who will lead these educators.
In the field of education, the right person charged with the responsibility of teaching our children or leading those that educate our children, must have a very fundamental belief that all children in spite economic, social, ethnic, race or zip code have the right to be loved and the right to learn.
Taking that concept and making it into policy is the first step among many to the Pinellas County School District ending its culture of complacency.
The first step for the community’s role in ending the cycle of complacency within the Pinellas County School District needs to come from our willingness to educate ourselves on school board candidates’ track records and then work to diligently to elect those who have the skills and desire to establish sound educational policies. We must have the collective discernment to sniff out those who genuinely love seeing all children excel academically.
Maria L. Scruggs, President, St. Petersburg Branch NAACP