IT TAKES A VILLAGE: District 1 School Board member, Steve Gallon, told a room full of parents to do their part to improve academic achievement at urban core schools in MiamiDade.
By MICHELLE HOLLINGER
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Steve Gallon received nearly 62 percent of the vote in the 2016 run-off election that made him the Miami-Dade Public Schools District One School Board representative. Yet, even with a resounding victory, Gallon still sounds like he’s on the campaign trail. That’s because although he got the job, the work to transform district one; once home to five ‘F’ schools, is ongoing.
Gallon made it clear he cannot do it alone. While hundreds of middle and high school students participated in their own break-out sessions, Gallon addressed a room full of parents on Sunday, Jan. 14 at ‘A Conversation on Race,’ youth summit at the Universal Truth Center. Gallon challenged the adults to do their part to improve academic achievement, not just for their own children, but for all students.
A former school board member, Solomon Stinson, was also present at the event sponsored by the W.I.S. H. (Women Involved in Service to Humanity) Foundation, Inc. and the Gamma Zeta Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Stinson briefly addressed the parents, encouraging them to visit their child’s school – not only when something is wrong.
“Just take a minute of your time. You don’t have to want anything. Just go to a school and look around,” he advised. Visits to other districts are also important, Stinson said. “Go to other schools like Killian and Palmetto where they say the upper crust lives. See what kinds of programs and facilities they have in their schools. You have to say, ‘this is what I want.’”
Gallon agreed with Stinson’s advice, however, he noted that visits to those communities will not show how to deal with persistent failure because, he said, “in those communities, failure is not an option.” Instead, parents whose children attend high performing schools make demands that benefit their children.
Conversely, the former principal and school superintendent asked the approximately 50 parents a pointed question regarding the acceptance of failure in general, and specifically, as it related to Carol City Middle School. “How did we as a community allow children to attend a school that had five consecutive ‘fs’ and we didn’t say a loving word.”
Helping parents understand that, “If it’s not OK in Pinecrest, it’s not OK in Miami Gardens,” is key, Gallon shared.
An “ethos of awareness,” he said, is essential. “It comes back to this whole notion of education and how do we as a community, as members of the choir, how do we educate parents and community stakeholders who lack the knowledge to navigate a system of advocacy for their children?” Acknowledging also, that regardless of how their care shows up, “Every parent cares about their children,’ is significant, Gallon explained.
“As principle of Holmes, I saw some parents show how much they care in a different way and with different words. My former principal Dr. Koonce said parents are sending you the best children they have.”
Gallon cited the impact of desegregation on the black community when he recalled the collective sense of responsibility that helped more black children succeed despite enormous obstacles in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.
“That was before we had the option to move to West Miramar or to Weston or (farther) down south in gated communities. The only gates that we had were the invisible gates of segregation that forced us to come in contact with educated doctors that were black. Teachers that were black and highly revered, with lawyers that were black,” said an impassioned Gallon.
“Because we had invisible gates of segregation that imposed upon us a need to each one, teach one and lift others up.
Desegregation has given us a means by which we have left, and we have forgotten…schools in the urban core.”
Gallon encouraged successful blacks to recapture the “village” mentality for success from the past by returning and helping to improve student success at underperforming schools.
“We have to get back to trying to hook each other up. Those of us who have been hooked up. You don’t measure your success by when you get it and go,” he cautioned. “You measure your success by how you get it, go and come back.”