BY GOLIATH J. DAVIS, III, PH.D., Contributor
PETERSBURG — Aretha Franklin took Otis Redding’s song and made it an anthem. Her soulful delivery of the lyrics is moving and penetrating. Everyone understands the meaning of “R E S P E C T, find out what it means to me…give me my propers…”
We also understand that in the age of Trump, respect and decency have eroded significantly. So much so that at every level of government and public administration, elected officials and administrators take a page from Trump’s book and disrespect their constituents with impunity.
The recent announcement regarding the departure of Pinellas School District’s Transformation Zone Director, Nikita J. Reed is yet another example of the School Board and Superintendent Grego’s lack of respect for the African- American community and its leadership.
Director Reed submitted her resignation in March of this year. Superintendent Grego announced her departure on May 4 and her replacement, a white female, on May 5.
The African-American community (parents, pastors, COQEB, Urban League, etc.) were neither informed of Reed’s departure nor invited to participate in the process to select her replacement. This, despite the fact COQEB (Concerned Organizations for the Quality Education of Blacks), NAACP, pastors, community volunteers, and others are parties to lawsuits against the district to close the achievement gap.
Additionally, principals and school-based staff assigned to Transformation Zone schools were also not informed or given opportunities to apply for Reed’s position.
Please understand, I am not suggesting the community has the right to dictate to Grego or the school board who should replace Reed. On the other hand, common decency dictates that Grego and the board should have shown more respect for the community, their constituents, parents and their own employees.
But like Trump, it appears they abandoned participative democracy in favor of autocracy. The individuals most accountable for this insult are the elected board members, and specifically, those elected to represent south St. Pete.
Grego works for the board, yet the board acted as if they worked for him. They approved the consent agenda item regarding Reed’s departure and replacement absent discussion and debate.
I do not know whether or not members of the African-American community have voiced their displeasure to Grego or board members. But, the displeasure is pervasive and widely discussed.
A significant number of individuals have contacted me. School-based employees are also unhappy and somewhat confused, given the uncertainty and lack of information from the administration.
As we continue to advocate for our children’s quality education, let us not forget those charged with the responsibility will continue to fail our kids as long as they are allowed to disrespect their parents, community and their leaders/advocates.
In the words of the Blue Notes, “Wake Up Everybody!” If for some reason, Superintendent Grego and the school board have forgotten how to be decent and respectful, we must not shy away from our responsibility to demand our props.
Kudos to Maria Scruggs and the NAACP for the continued advocacy on this issue.