In just a few weeks, thousands of students will file back into their schools, ready for another academic year.
Forty-four percent of these students are minorities. They are African American, Hispanic, Asian, and multiracial. Fall River’s demographics are rapidly changing.
Knowing that, let’s look at our School Committee. Surely, 44 percent of our elected local leaders are minorities? Well, actually it’s more like 0 percent. And it’s always been 0 percent. In fact, for the entirety of our city’s history, it has been 0 percent.
For a proud Gateway City, Fall River has a historically inequitable leadership problem in our public schools.
When considering my candidacy for School Committee, this issue weighed heavy on my conscience. I’m African American, and I grew up in low-income housing. I went through our public education system, and I’ve dedicated my career to helping kids get their lives on the right track through education. Fundamentally, I understand these 44 percent of students more than any School Committee member ever could. Not because they don’t care or don’t try, but because I share their life experiences.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve had opportunities to talk with many of the families that make up this 44 percent. The families I have talked to have shared two consistent messages with me. First, they are amazed that someone running for public office came to talk with them face to face. Second, they take serious issue with the first.
According to the families I have spoken with, our public education leadership has a problem: They are trying to help minority students not through face-to-face engagement, but through sympathy. They “feel bad” for the 44 percent, and many of the programs that have been developed to help minorities come from sympathy rather than thoughtful, inclusive conversation with those that they seek to help. As a result, many well-intentioned programs struggle or fall flat. Sometimes, these programs cost thousands of dollars and could have been better directed if everyone had a seat at the decision making table.
In other words: Historically, our leadership hasn’t exactly been relentless in getting to know the minorities they are trying to help.
These families absolutely need a voice on the School Committee and it would be the honor of my life to be that voice. I have been through much of what they have been through, I have struggled and overcame in many of the same ways they have, and if elected I will bridge gaps that exist between the committee and our minority communities. For too long, these students have not only been minorities because of their skin color, they have been minorities in terms of meaningful support.
This Sept. 12, and again Nov. 7, we have an opportunity to do something for our minority population that we have never done before in the history of public education in Fall River: We can give them a seat at the table. Let’s break barriers, and create change. Vote for Crystal Stone for School Committee in Fall River, MA.
This editorial was published to the Herald News website on August 1, 2017