Being clean does not equal a good school

Maria Scruggs

Dear Editor,

The December 8 Tampa Bay Times article entitled “Pinellas downplays problems at failing schools, but hires leaders to fix them” should force the African-American community to simply draw a line in the sand.

In what was described as a two-minute video of one hour bus tours to Campbell Park, Maximo, Fairmount Park, Lakewood and Melrose Elementary Schools, the article highlights the fact that after a one hour visit to just two of the schools, a couple of conversations with staff and an opportunity to see our children dance, Pinellas Education Foundation Chairwoman Cathy Collins concluded:

“I was pretty confident that things would be in order and that there was progress being made, because I have watched the leadership of Mike Grego over the last three years, and he is a true leader… and there is no way that some of the issues that were described in those articles were going on in those schools.”

In a follow up phone conversation with a Times reporter, Collins goes on further to say that the two schools on the tour were amazingly clean and well put together. After reaching this point in the article, I braced myself for her to comment on how clean the children were.

Maybe the reporter spared the African-American community from further insult, or just maybe Collins has had enough cultural sensitivity training in her life that when she found herself at that point, she didn’t want to travel down a path where she would find herself standing head and shoulders with Donald Trump.

Will we ever get past the historical rhetoric that suggest African Americans are not clean and therefore when a white person sees a black home, person or institution that is not filthy they must make comments to the fact.

Vice President Joe Biden found himself in a similar twist when he referred to then candidate Barack Obama as articulate and clean, to suggest that even though he graduated from Columbia University, Harvard Law School, taught part time at the University of Chicago Law School, practice law and became a U.S. Senator, he still wasn’t expected to be articulate or clean.

Collins’ comments were egregious and insulting; however, they are just the tip of the iceberg of the most insulting actions from leaders in this community that I have experienced.

I am certainly not a fan of the Times, however, I like to think I am able to rise above my own biases and give credit where credit is due.  After a year-long investigative report, they brought to light the fact that five of our elementary schools within south St. Petersburg have been identified as five of the 13 worst performing schools in the state of Florida.

Yet, three of the community’s most prominent citizens: Alex McKenna, Collins and Debra Faulk all concluded after a one-hour tour at two of the schools the Times call “failure factories,” that their reporting is faulty. And, in spite of the thousands of African-American children being let down at these five schools, Pinellas County Superintendent Dr. Grego is an “excellent leader.”

What is equally disturbing is McKenna, Collins and Faulk serve on one of the most prestigious governing bodies in the county and with some of the A-listers representing major corporations, and yet after one hour they felt comfortable enough to conclude that because our schools were clean, the system is not failing.

~ Maria L. Scruggs ~

One Reply to “Being clean does not equal a good school”

  1. Al Nixon says:

    I find it disturbing when reading your letters that no one comments. The courage you exhibit when challenging entities of influence is refreshing and an attribute I admire. You are a true “rooster for justice”, willing to wake-up folks throughout the community and fight to the end for what you believe. Our community needs more brave roosters like you because our hen-house is in grave danger of erasing fifty years of progress and sacrifice. I too, am a rooster that has flown back home to roost, you will here me crow soon.

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