Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Parents and Students Must Not Take Failure Sitting Down

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Parents and Students Must Not Take Failure Sitting Down

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee, Times-Union columnist

Andrew Robinson is probably turning over in his grave these days.

Back in 1965, Robinson became the first principal of what was designed to be Jacksonville's black model school -- William Marion Raines High

School. Armed with slogans such as "Vikings are Ichiban" -- the Japanese word for No. 1 -- he encouraged Raines students to live up to the community's expectations of excellence and to defy racist notions that education was wasted on them.

But nowadays, it seems many of those students are resurrecting those notions instead of counteracting them.

Raines has joined Ribault High, Ribault Middle and Paxon, Gilbert and Butler middle schools to comprise what is rapidly becoming Northwest Jacksonville's triangle of black failure. All of those schools received an F on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test -- meaning that most of the students performed so badly on the test that they can, with the state's blessing, escape to another school.

That is sad. But what's sadder still is the lack of outrage from the parents and the students at those schools. No crowds of angry parents have flooded the lot at the school administration building to express angst. Or to demand answers. Or to ask for help.

I hope that changes.

Because right now that silence, in and of itself, speaks volumes about the community dysfunction that has crept in since Robinson's day -- a dysfunction that is, in part, feeding the failures.

"One of the things that I've noticed is that there has been a big shift in our communities, in our culture," said School Board member Jimmie Johnson, who is also a former athletic director and principal at Raines. "For a long time, education was important, and now, you have a mindset that doesn't see it the same way ... we've got to find a way to deal with that mind-set."

School Board member Brenda Priestly Jackson has seen the apathy up close.

"After Ribault got its F last year, we had a series of meetings at the school," said Jackson, a Ribault alumnus. "We had the meeting at 7 p.m. But the faculty, by far, was the largest group in attendance. We had very little parent participation."

"We have misplaced values in our community ... this is about the devaluation of education in our community."

She's right.

Now I don't necessarily believe that it is fair to use the FCAT to brand an entire school a failure. But still, one has to be concerned that, of all the middle and high schools in Duval County, the schools that are failing the tests are all in Northwest Jacksonville. One has to be concerned that many students at those schools and their parents seem to be throwing their hands up at the problem. Or worse, shrugging it off.

There are reasons for this. …

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