Placeholder or advocate

Goliath J. Davis, III, Ph.D.

Goliath J. Davis, III, Ph.D., Contributor

PINELLAS COUNTY — Voters will soon cast their ballots for candidates seeking the Pinellas County District 7 school board seat. Given the true state of affairs with education and the achievement gap in Pinellas County, a true advocate, not another placeholder, is desperately needed.

Black children continue to perform poorly and are suspended and arrested at alarming rates. The district boasts about graduation rates and enrollment in Advanced Placement classes but neglects to inform parents about low student proficiency in reading and math, and AP class failure rates. The Pinellas Way isn’t working.

One of the candidates in the race will ultimately win. Will the victor be a placeholder, enamored with the position, eager for photo opportunities, content to carry the district line, and either afraid or too poorly informed to challenge the status quo?

Or, will the victor be an advocate?  One who will stand and ensure mothers, fathers, and grandparents understand their loved ones graduating with concordance diplomas may very well lack the ability to proficiently read and handle math, making meaningful employment and college entrance difficult to attain.

Some in the district has actively recruited candidates for the race under the guise, “we need someone we can work with.” In short, they need a placeholder.

Voters, on the other hand, need an advocate for improvement and change.  Voters need a board member who will insist on improving African American graduation rates with standard diplomas, certifying reading and math proficiency.  Voters need a board member who understands Superintendent Mike Grego works for the board.

An advocate will insist on equity, improved elementary reading and math scores, the elimination of racial disparities in discipline and arrests and district innovations to facilitate effective teaching and learning.  An advocate will understand winning the seat is not about resume building or securing a paying job with benefits, but rather winning is an opportunity for hard work, serving constituents and ensuring all children in Pinellas are prepared to compete and function as productive citizens.

Service is an admirable calling, and those called to serve must never forget who they serve and the true purpose of the higher calling. I am hopeful the candidates for District 7 will seek the seat with the heart and commitment to make a difference in the lives of our children and, ultimately, society and the world.

We so desperately need an independent, informed, hardworking, courageous warrior.  Service is about self-sacrifice for others.  No longer can we afford self-serving civil servants who show little regard for the cause or the people.

I appeal to all candidates for the District 7 seat to search your hearts and assess your energy levels, your dedication to the cause and willingness to make a commitment to calling out and fighting the institutional and systemic racist biases, policies and practices that continue to impede our scholars’ attainment of quality education.

I am reminded we were able to rise and excel during segregation and Jim Crow but are failing at a time when technology, access and opportunity are arguably greater than before.  Perhaps it is time to reclaim those old values (education, faith, and hard work) that brought us over. The journey for freedom continues, but too many believe we have arrived.

A true advocate will fight the established power and empower our parents to actively participate in their children’s education. A true advocate will move to reform the current school board meeting policy that prohibits meaningful citizen participation by not allowing interested attendees to speak to an issue until the board has already deliberated and voted.

We can no longer abide a board member who, for their own personal gains, deceives our community with lies and misinformation about graduation rates, proficiency, reading scores and readiness.

So, candidates for the District 7 school board seat, if victorious, will you be a placeholder or an advocate? Do you have the right stuff — courage, commitment to your constituents, willingness to do the hard work, and willingness to call out a bull’s excrement?

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