What does Don Thompson, Dov Charney and Jonathan Lu all have in common? Actually, they have a couple of things in common. All three were successful businessmen who controlled the daily operations of some of the country’s most successful corporations and they were all either forced to retire, resign or relinquish their power from a Fortune 500 company in 2015.
While there are varying published reasons why, the point is they are no longer in those positions, and you can’t find videos of their boards of directors praising their performances.
Scuttlebutt in the Fortune 500 world says that African-American CEO Don Thompson was asked to relinquish his throne after repeated declining sales for the fast food giant McDonalds. Thompson had worked in various positions at McDonald’s for 25 years.
After returning from a six-month suspension, Charney was fired after a series of performance blunders from American Apparel, the very company he founded. And Lu, the former CEO of Alibaba, was replaced by the company’s chief operating officer.
The financial world may speculate as to why these former CEOs are no longer at the heads of these companies, but to date, I have not been able to find any glowing comments on either of these business giants from members of the board of directors. Therefore, one can only speculate that their bosses were not satisfied with some aspect of their performance.
Where am I going with this you may ask? Well, these are individuals who probably aren’t even aware that south St. Petersburg exists, let alone aware of the socio-economic deficiencies that exist within our community. I’m speaking particularly about as the achievement gap that is so pervasive between African-American children and their white peers within the Pinellas County School system.
Recently in a Tampa Bay Times article, it was revealed that Cathy Collins, President & CEO of Clinical Consulting Solutions and board chair for the Pinellas Education Foundation, and two of her fellow colleagues on the board released a two-minute video challenging the accuracy of the Times’ year-long investigative story on our five failing schools.
After a one-hour tour they concluded that our schools were clean and were complimentary of Superintendent Dr. Michael Grego’s leadership. To add insult to injury, after receiving criticism of the video, Collins wrote a column, that was published in the Times’ listing a litany of projects and monies that have been spent on African-American children as further justification for her comments.
My first question to Collins is: If Clinical Consulting Solutions had produced profit margins mirroring the FCAT scores of Fs that our five elementary schools have received over the last four years, would you still be employed as a president & CEO?
My second question is: If Clinical Consulting Solutions had invested dollars comparable to those Collins touts the Pinellas County Education Foundation has spent on African-American children, would they be questioning the return on their investments if their financial portfolio mirrored the achievement gap that still exist between black and white students?
Collins’ and her colleague’s comments simply mirror a culture of low expectations for African Americans in Pinellas County that continues to exist with any socio-economic discussion regarding the black community. We spend millions of dollars for economic and community redevelopment. We spend millions of dollars in the courts attempting to make the Pinellas County School system do something they have found difficult to do for the majority of African- American children for 30 years. But until there is an expectation that the African-American community, which includes businesses, residents and children, can no longer be viewed as something less than, it will be difficult to achieve any level of socio-economic equity within this community.
The expectations that we are much more than something less has to begin with us. We must demand respect, and then and only then will the Cathy Collinses of Pinellas County recognize that our institutions of learning must be more than simply “clean.”
~ Maria L. Scruggs ~