(Todd A. Smith)
Scott Henry, a Cypress Fairbanks Independent School District (Cy-Fair ISD) board member’s recent comments that implied that more Black teachers lead to higher dropout rates justifies the need for people to take local elections more seriously.
Frankly, national elections just appear sexier.
The issues often appeal to people more than local neighborhood issues like potholes or school curriculum.
Many people can name multiple past presidents of the United States.
However, fewer people probably know the names of the members of their local school boards or the names of the people on their city council.
But it definitely should be the other way around especially since a right-wing attack on so-called critical race theory attempts to rewrite American history and/or worse.
That unfortunate reality needs to change if America truly wants to come together despite our differences when it comes to race, gender, religion or other descriptors that often divide the masses.
I can remember my pastor Ralph Douglas West of The Church Without Walls telling the congregation that one of our church members from Cy-Fair ISD lost his/her school board seat because of the controversy surrounding critical race theory in classrooms.
While anyone with a brain knows that critical race theory is a law school and graduate school elective not taught in grade school, many conservatives rallied around that false narrative and elected people to school boards that would rewrite American history as if slavery, segregation, police brutality and modern racial oppression never happened just to make SOME White students feel good.
As school districts across the country removed children’s books that mention race, gender, sexual orientation or other things from bookshelves, a schoolboard member from Cy-Fair ISD has taken the critical race theory controversy to new lows as he suggested at a board work session on Jan. 10 that more Black teachers in schools leads to higher dropout rates.
The board member said that 13 percent of Cy-Fair teachers were Black as compared to 10 percent statewide in Texas.
Furthermore, he used the Houston Independent School District (HISD) as an example of how more Black teachers (36 percent) have led to higher dropout rates amongst students (four percent).
Based on the video that began circulating on social media on Jan. 12, he said he did not want to be HISD with a four percent dropout rate.
What this blatant racist school board member must realize is that many Black teachers decide to teach in neighborhoods and districts where their mere presence can be life-changing for many Black and Brown students who might not have many positive and educated role models in their lives.
Many of the areas that students come from in predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods are filled with crime, poverty and bad influences that can easily deter a student from reaching their goals in life.
Sometimes, these Black teachers can reach these students and sometimes they cannot, unfortunately.
A higher dropout rate does not have anything to do with the color of the teacher but the outside forces pulling these kids away from their schoolwork.
Sometimes, students must quit school prematurely to help their parents pay the bills.
That sacrifice often leads to younger siblings being able to continue their schooling without having to deal with the adult pressures that their parents and older siblings must deal with.
My maternal grandmother and three of her sisters are prime examples of that reality.
When my maternal grandmother’s father died when she was in 10th grade, she had to drop out of school to help my great grandmother with the bills.
In fact, the four oldest girls had to drop out to work, which made it possible for the youngest sister to finish high school and graduate from college.
After graduation from college, my great aunt became a successful schoolteacher.
Furthermore, my paternal grandmother had to quit school in seventh grade to help her family in the fields of Louisiana.
Those two wonderful ladies did not drop out of school because they had Black teachers or because Black teachers were inferior.
They dropped out because the harsh realities of being Black in America made them give up on their dreams before they should have because they had to put food in their mouths and a roof over their heads.
In fact, as a child of two former educators, I have overheard White teachers belittling the Black students put in their care.
My father worked as a principal at Nitsch Elementary School in Klein Independent School District.
A White teacher at Nitsch told me to my face that these elementary school kids, many of them Black, would not amount to anything.
Imagine someone in charge of molding your future, thinking you were destined for failure at 6 years old or 7 years old.
My mother would often tell me of Aldine Independent School District and the now defunct North Forest Independent School District, both in the Houston area, going as far as Iowa to recruit White teachers because they had something like a quota for non-Black teachers.
Some of those teachers could not get the jobs they wanted in other states, so they used their time at predominantly Black schools to boost their resume.
As soon as some got the opportunity to flee to “greener pastures” they abandoned those predominantly Black schools and Black students with the quickness.
Many Black teachers passed on the “greener pastures” to give back to Black students who probably came from the same environments that they escaped.
Those positive Black role models probably changed the trajectory of so many lives because many of my Black teachers changed my life for the better too.
And that cannot be quantified.
That is definitely not to say that teachers of other races have not made huge impacts on the lives of their Black students.
The three or four English teachers who noticed my writing talents as far back as elementary and middle school, and worked with me to hone my skills, were not Black.
Impact and competence as a teacher (or anything else for that matter) has nothing to do with race.
However, some Black teachers have dedicated their lives, sometimes taking less pay, to give back to students who come from similar backgrounds as they did.
Often, Black students go to Black schools like Historically Black Colleges and Universities to receive the type of support and guidance that they feel they missed out on at predominantly White schools.
At these schools, they often have professors and instructors that go out of their way to help them succeed.
I have seen Black professors at Texas Southern University go in their own pockets to help put their students in a better position to succeed.
Sure, some probably dropped out for financial reasons, etc.
But that had nothing to do with the fact that they had Black teachers.
And to suggest that a teacher’s worth has anything to do with race is why it is critical that people participate in local elections like school board races so that they can remove as many racists as possible from negatively impacting the next generation.