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Oxford School District Board Hears From Concerned Citizens

On Tuesday evening, parents and citizens met with the Oxford School District board and Superintendent Brian Harvey on the subject of closing the achievement gap. The group had requested the meeting so they could be heard on the subject of creating a separate school for students from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

The Charger, the Oxford High School newspaper, released the original article on the subject based on an interview with Superintendent Harvey at the end of September. After an outcry from the public, the School Board met on (date) with citizens and released a statement (previous article and statement linked here) stating that the district was not planning a separate school, but was only considering it as one of several options they had studied to work toward closing the achievement gap. Nonetheless, the very idea has caused continued public outcry from parents and citizens alike.

The mood inside the auditorium at the conference center was tense. The school board and superintendent sat in panel formation on stage while attendees were invited to the podium to address the audience and board.

As the hour passed, many people from various backgrounds and occupations took the stage, but there was one common thread amongst all of them: they were hurt, angry and refused to see their school district separated based on socioeconomic status. There were stories of where people were when they read the article, the hurt that it had caused their children, and anger that it had stirred in their hearts.

As one gentleman descended the stairs from the stage amidst a round of applause, a hush fell over the crowd as an older gentleman in the second row stood and headed toward the stage. His clothes were out of place in the auditorium, his hair was long and he carried a knotted walking stick.

He introduced himself to the audience as Sobukwe, and the room was silent as he began to speak. He spoke calmly, but with authority as he addressed the school board and admonished them for not considering other alternatives. He quoted Einstein and praised the work of Harriet Tubman, who had changed the course of history while being from what would be considered a low socioeconomic class.

“Put somebody in those schools that want the children to succeed, and they will succeed,” Sobukwe said. “It don’t matter if they have a dime. Harriet Tubman didn’t have a dime… she had a reward on her head, but that didn’t stop her.”

The once silent crowd erupted into cheers as Sobukwe continued speaking and the atmosphere in the room changed from tense to one of camaraderie.

Next, Latanya Dixon took her turn at the podium and spoke from her knowledge she had drawn from studying educational leadership and researching the achievement gap.

“Research tells us that when school is segregated, it impacts mathematic achievement,” Dixon said. “The law tells us that those with learning disabilities benefit from being in the classroom with those on a different level.”

Other citizens and parents continued to take their moment to speak to the school board. as the time for the meeting was coming to a close. Just before the meeting was adjourned, one of the Oxford Police Department officers in attendance asked for a moment to be heard.

“Every morning we get up… I put this uniform on and my number one goal every day is to help as many kids as I can. Black, white, rich, and poor,” the officer said. “I don’t want anybody to think that we are there because of a discipline problem or anything like that. The main reason we are there is to protect your kids so they come home every day.”

After an hour filled with many emotions that ranged from anger to hurt and confusion to resentment, many were encouraged that the men and women in uniform inside the schools every day have one main goal as their center focus: the children’s safety, no matter their background.

The school board called the meeting to a close just over an hour after it had begun. They left the audience with the parting words that, from this point forward, they would investigate, study and include the community.

Amy Goodin is a writer for HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at argoodin12@gmail.com.

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