Sunday, May 17, 2009

Questions to be faced

Merlene Davis writes today about achievement, race, tension, and progress in the Fayette County schools, starting with a reminder of recent history there:
Problems with our schools screamed from news pages nearly every day in the late 1990s and early part of this century. It was an "us" against "them" mentality, with "us" being nearly anyone outside Central Office.
The outcry had begun years earlier and resulted in the formation in 1993 of the Equity Task Force to examine our system's redistricting efforts that left northside schools and minority students out of the loop.
"I called it periodic civil war," said P.G. Peeples, president of the Lexington-Fayette Urban League and one of the soldiers in that battle that also included the Rev. Bob Brown, the Rev. C.B. Akins, and activists Arnold Gaither and Sam Jones.
The column marks the passing of that era and the arrival of a better one. The achievement gaps remain disturbing, but a new commitment to change them has developed.

In those earlier days Davis describes, the Fayette issues were far from unique. In every school system that serves black students, there are enduring questions about whether success for those children is truly a priority.

What stood out was that, in Fayette, the questions at last got a wide hearing, and the concerns finally got enough attention to generate substantive action.

Some other districts now seem to be moving on a similar path. I see new energy in Christian County and hear of new frankness in Covington. I get occasional updates on the developing experiences of the merged Harrodsburg/Mercer and Providence/Webster systems. My hopes for Danville are growing.

We won't close the remaining racial divide in public education until hard questions are asked and heard, early and often, as gently as possible but as bluntly as necessary. In Kentucky, Fayette County realized that first, and others are, I think, catching up.

The next step, of course, is building better answers.

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