Monday, October 27, 2008

No Clue

Thursday was the day from hell for this school board candidate. I went to meet the voters at an Oktoberfest at a local retirement residence, then went to a PTA meeting at one of our elementary schools, and ended up at the final candidates’ debate of the campaign. Also scheduled on Thursday was a public meeting at one of Richmond’s high schools to deal with a violence problem and the meeting of the Richmond City Democratic Committee. I really wanted to be at both of those events but just couldn’t make them.

For me, the most eye-opening event was the PTA meeting at J. B. Fisher Elementary School. Fisher is one of the elite elementary schools in the City of Richmond. It is in a middle-class neighborhood that is somewhat isolated from the rest of the city and is one of those open enrollment schools that parents elsewhere in the city try to get their kids into. Well, what opened my eyes was that there were about forty parents attending that meeting. No, dear reader, that is not a typo. There really were about forty parents at that PTA meeting. Now, I often go to PTA meetings at Westover Hills Elementary School, my neighborhood school. Usually, about seven or eight parents show up for those meetings. And, earlier in the week, we candidates were at a PTSA meeting at Huguenot High School. Again, there were less than ten parents at that meeting.

The forty parents at the Fisher PTA meeting prove what I have been saying here for a long time. Middle class parents generally are more involved in their children’s schools. That is why I am so determined to reverse the exodus of middle class families from River City. We need those parents in Richmond’s schools working to make those schools better.

At the debate, my opponent Adria Graham Scott made a remark that suddenly made everything clear to me. Adria is the one that has been getting all the endorsements, has all the professional campaign help and also the big campaign bucks. I don’t remember exactly what the question was, but Adria came out with, “We are lucky in the Fourth District because our parents support our public schools.” Well, my pen dug a big question mark and then an exclamation point into my pad.

Adria, where have you been all these years? Is it possible that J. B. Fisher is the only school in the city you have been in? Is the Fisher neighborhood the only neighborhood you have been in? Because, I know that in most neighborhoods in the Fourth District the parents do not support our neighborhood public schools. In fact as I have said again and again right here, my middle-class neighbors are leaving the city in droves because they don’t support our neighborhood schools. Haven’t you noticed that Adria?

Now, I have been stressing in this campaign that I am the only candidate who understands Richmond Public School’s problems from the inside because I have been working as a volunteer in those schools for more than three years. But, I didn’t realize how much I know and how little Adria Graham Scott and John Lloyd and Jonathan Mallard really know about our schools. (At least Jonathan does realize that our middle class parents do not support our public schools.)

Adria, you need to wake up to the truth. Because, if your endorsements and your campaign staff and your money win you this election you are going to be in for a rude awakening. Since you only know Fisher, you are going to be surprised that most of the schools in the city are not nearly as good. You need to know that Southampton and Westover Hills elementary schools have 67% and 76% respectively of their children on free and reduced lunches, while Thompson Middle School has about 80% receiving subsidized meals. And you need to know that these schools have such high concentrations of free and reduced lunch children because their parents cannot afford to use private schools, home educate their kids or move out of the city. And, if you end up on the school board, you will not only be representing the kids from Fisher Elementary but also the kids from George Washington Carver Elementary, where I volunteer each week. Carver has a free and reduced lunch population of over 95%. Adria, if you’ve never been with these children, you cannot possibly understand the problems they have to overcome to succeed in school. And, Adria, you’re going to have to learn about the injustices that are widespread in Richmond Public Schools, because if you are elected you are going to be dealing with those problems every day for the next four years.

Well, tomorrow will be only the eighth day left before the election and I have to be out campaigning. I’ll be back with more revelations about our political system soon.

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