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by Ronald A. Edwards – Guest Columnist, originally published in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder Newspaper on Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Minneapolis, MN (MSR/Education/July 3, 2012)…Richard Green was the first Black superintendent of the Minneapolis Public Schools who later became chancellor of the New York City Schools. He was an educator’s educator. He earned respect and affection of all involved with education, educators, students and parents. He was honored when Central High School was renamed Richard Green Central Park School, now a K-8 school.
Green was a native son, born and raised here. The failure of subsequent superintendents to live up to the standard he set has caused serious consequences for our schools and, thus, for Black teachers and Black students.
A high-school education is the first key to success in our society, as it leads to the second key, a job. Richard Green would be saddened, were he still alive, to witness the controversy and education reversals surrounding his namesake school. This controversy was exposed at the Minneapolis School Board meeting June 12, when a delegation of African Americans appeared before the Board of Education to protest new segregation and continued purging of African American educators from the Minneapolis Public Schools.
The controversy? The district is not only violating its own policies on teacher tenure, but it has also created an atmosphere of disregard for the African American community itself. The unkindest cuts? Those by Blacks of Blacks.
The demonstration caught the MPS Board by surprise. I was not surprised, based on the events between May 24 and May 27 involving Superintendent Johnson’s administration. Even the head of the teachers’ union was shocked by the cover-up and the possibility of being charged with complicity by representatives of the teachers’ union for violating conditions addressing tenure and job security for qualified African American educators.
The very respected president of the Minnesota Black Educators Alliance was present and spoke directly to the board and to the superintendent, expressing concern and disappointment with this far-reaching practice to reduce the number of Black educators in the Minneapolis Public Schools.
For example, on April 9, 2012, the Latina principal at Richard Green School indicated to a top-rated Black teacher that she had no intention to sign off on her tenure despite her great ratings, credentials (including a master’s degree), the educational development of her students and appreciation of their parents.
Why was the board only now stunned by the evidence that principals had been orchestrating these kinds of decisions against African American teachers? How the district deals with this as well will have serious legal implications for future relationships between the board, the superintendent, and the educators and their union, as well as all parties within the African American community.
It is no coincidence that in the last two weeks, 21 teachers have requested to be transferred out of Richard Green School, 21 excellent educators concerned with the education of African American children.
This situation, under any circumstance, is unacceptable. We are watching a reversal of history, the re-segregation of schools, and the purging of Black educators that taught in them. Only this time, the purging and re-segregating is being done by Blacks, not just by Whites.
If this continues it will be a sign that we are truly returning to the period before Brown vs. Board of Education, and if this occurs, God help the children. As Nellie Stone Johnson always said, no education, then no jobs, then no housing.
At stake is not just the future of public education in Minneapolis and, by extension, Minnesota. At stake is the principle of a seat at the table for everyone, as that is the first step to turning around the economy of the entire state. And as Minneapolis goes, so goes the state.