Thursday, September 20, 2018

Former Board member calls for community to "End It Now"

Posted: Saturday, January 13, 2018 | Views: 5406

Former Board member calls for community to "End It Now"

A former Tangipahoa Parish School Board member is calling on the community to rise up and demand the opposing sides in the Joyce Marie Moore desegregation lawsuit "End it Now."


Hammond businessman, parent, and pastor Jay Kelly, who served on the Tangipahoa Parish School Board briefly, offered a powerful letter to the editor to the Tangipahoa media this week, "pushing the community to unite and call for an end to the deseg case by a definite date: July 31, 2018." 


Kelly said the goal is to end it now, "no matter what."


His letter, along with an interview filmed this weekend, appears below:



Citizens, we have a problem. It is not a new problem; in fact it has lingered for decades. Sometimes active, sometimes dormant. . . but today it is very much alive, permeating and eating at our school system—our children—like an incurable disease. It is ever present, beneath the surface, often manifesting itself through nasty symptoms.

The federal desegregation case and subsequent court order, Joyce Marie Moore v. Tangipahoa Parish School System, has and continues to affect nearly every significant process and policy set forth by our public school system. What I am describing is not new, insightful, or groundbreaking ...and that is the problem.

I am afraid that many of us—including myself—have, at times, grown too accustomed to the abiding presence of this case, even though it has hindered our ability to function as a democratic community and is delaying progress in student achievement. We have complained about it, debated it, taken sides, but, ultimately, continued to live with it as a lasting reality. I propose a solution:

End it Now. Period.

Without denying any of the legalities or complexities of the case, the stubbornness of one side or the other, or the expectation/ideal of “unitary status,” I still insist, End it Now.

As in today or the nearest day possible. We should approach this like parents intervening in their children’s arguments, “Stop! It’s been long enough. You had your chance to settle it, now we’re gonna settle it for you. . . well, actually, for us!” This is what we, the Tangi Community, are going to have to do.

After all this time, there is no reason to think that a settlement 5-10 years or 5-10 months from now will produce any better result than one 5-10 days from now. Whenever this case is settled, more work will really be just beginning. It is time for us to get on with it. Yeah, I know, it’s complicated. So is the ACT, but they still don’t give 2 days to take it.

This year, School Board member seats are up for election. This summer—this summer!—a new Superintendent will be put in place. Major changes are presumably coming, yet one constant remains: Moore v. Tangi. If we are going to remain mired in this case and under the supervision of a federal judge, we would be wise to hire the best lawyer we can find to lead our schools. That's right, a lawyer--and I'm only half-joking. How can an academic serve as Superintendent and effectively impact student achievement with one hand chained to the desk of a federal courtroom and one foot locked in a perpetual Executive Session? We must End it Now.

The questions may be asked, “How do they end it? They’ve been trying for a long time.” The answer is simple: They just do it. Because we as a community demand that they do it. End it Now.

Before the next Superintendent is in place this summer, and prior to the election of Board members, we must demand the settlement of this case. Go in a room, as many times and for as long as necessary, and come out with a united word to Judge Ivan Lemelle that you agree to move on. You either agree to conditions that establish unitary status, or you agree to end it where it is now, or you agree somewhere in the middle. . . but you agree to end it. Ideally, both sides will be unhappy with not “winning,” but you know who will win? Our children!

It is no longer necessary to operate under the supervision of a federal judge. If democracy and our community function as we can and should, we check and balance ourselves. I have faith that our system will not be unequal in educational access for students or in hiring for its employees for at least 2 reasons:

1. We are no longer intentionally racially segregated today as we were years ago. In America, our institutions are a reflection of our social values. And, typically, when Americans as a whole have learned better, we've done better. When our interactions, employment opportunities, recreation, etc. were racially segregated, so were our schools. Segregation leads to inequalities. That is why the brave Mr. M. C. Moore had to sue for his daughter to have an opportunity for an equal education. Yet, I can almost guarantee it wasn’t a school system who literally terrorized his home with hate, but it was members of society. Just as it was members of society who attempted to block the doors of public schools across the country and threw rocks at the Little Rock Nine as they walked into their school. Society’s values and perspective were much different then, and that is why the federal government had to step in, laws had to be passed, and institutions had to be sued for enforcement. There was no “community.” Although we have more strides to make for systemic racial equality, I am certain we no longer have a society where the majority thinks it is civil, proper, or even beneficial to segregate. And those who do desire to do so, still do. On their own dime. They relocate or they pay for a school that is separated more by financial requirements (tuition) than by race for that specific purpose. (This is not an insinuation that all who choose private schools are doing so under racial considerations.)

2. Today, an engaged community simply would not let those inequalities occur. With the structure and transparency of the public school system, any inequities that are allowed are just that--allowed, by a disengaged, uninformed public. Today, in a more integrated society, a school cannot lack without that lack impacting students of multiple races. If there are facility or employment issues, we can and should make our voices heard to Administration and/or our elected officials. Our Board members are elected to represent us and to be proactive as well as responsive to policy issues that impact us. The Administration is accountable to them and gives oversight and enforces policy among the employees and students as a whole. If either the Board or the Administration are not properly executing their job descriptions, we have the right and the ability to affect change through our vote or our call for termination/reassignment of employment. We have used that voice before, and we should use it now. . . louder.

It is time for our healing. I call for your voice to make it known clearly and continually—via social media (#EnditNow) and other communication—that this community expects the case of Joyce Marie Moore v. Tangipahoa Parish School System to be closed by July 31st, 2018. We expect both the plaintiffs and the defendants to communicate through whatever legal means necessary that, on behalf of the citizens of Tangipahoa Parish, they have agreed to settlement terms. May it be known that our commUnity desires to and is sufficiently capable of democratically supervising our school system. We got it from here. We can take care of our own business now. I hope you agree. I pray we act.


J. Kelly

EDITOR'S NOTE: In response to Kelly's letter to the editor, Greater NAACP President Pat Morris offered the following reply:

"You cannot have your cake and eat it too"

Some want us to speak out against Donald Trump but not about the fact that Hammond High never had an African American principal although the school is predominately Black

Some are ignorant enough to say things like "End this Desegregation Case" without understanding that it is because of this very case that their own family members have jobs in Tangipahoa Parish.

Some want us to speak out against Donald Trump but not about the fact that Hammond High School only ranks only/outperforms 29% of high schools when educating Black children

Some want us to speak out against Donald Trump but yet have the audacity to support Mark Kolwe and Brett Duncan in making decisions to keep our African American children and all children for that matter from having an effective and experienced principal at their high school. Why hadn't we seen an article about the impact this decision-making has on student achievement? We are certain that the school leader has more of an impact on student achievement than a desegregation case.

Some are ignorant enough to say things like "End the desegregation case now", but they do not have the decency nor courage to send their own kids to predominantly Black schools in their own neighborhood.

Some are foolish enough to write things like "End the desegregation case now", but they have never said a word about their African American brothers and sisters who underwent an academic lynching by being piled at Greenville Park and Woodland Park. Both schools dropped by at least a whopping 30 performance points which basically placed them at alternative school status. Who wrote an article for these children and families? Hundreds of them from what was determined by "Massa, who's doing a great job, to be from the poorest and most problematic neighborhoods were flushed out of Hammond Eastside and forced to be educated in a disparate situation from the start. Who had the courage, like Dr. King really had, to agitate about this?

Some want us to speak out against Trump but not against the fact that although our district is about 50/50 our school board is 80/20. And yet, they say, "End it now." For whose sake? Really?

Some want us to speak out against Trump but not against the fact that our central Office Administrators are 100% white with absolutely no experience in improving achievement in minority students while this district is in crisis mode when it comes to educating Black children. These same individuals were not "preaching" the fact that we needed an educator as superintendent when they recently served on the board. Now that the current superintendent is definitely on his way out do they have the "courage" to finally say what is needed.

We cannot jump on the bandwagon after the fact. Brett Duncan and Mark Kolwe had a plan. They wanted to keep the Black voice silent about the injustices that take place in education as it relates to our children, families, and employees so that we can hurry up and "end it now." So, they find the most vulnerable Black man and get him to say the things they cannot say directly to us. He falls for it for the sake of a things like a political career, support for a new TV show, a job, an election, etc. Sometimes, we are easy to buy. This is why we need people on the board and in political position who are seasoned, grounded, and will make up their own minds about what they feel are the right things to do for our children and families. We cannot have puppets for Mark Kolwe and Brett Duncan. Thank goodness these individuals will be leaving us soon.

We definitely want this case to end. However, foolishly ending it without ensuring we have the right things in place will only leave our grandkids fighting the same battles exactly three years after unitary status is declared. We need people to stop being irresponsible for selfish reasons.

Patricia Morris, President