PEMBROKE PARK — It is widely known by now that public education for black male students in Broward County is in a state of crisis. The deteriorating performance of Broward County Public Schools was evident in “Yes We Can: The 2010 Schott 50 State Report on Black Males in Public Education.”
That report, released recently, said the county ranks third on the list of the five worst-performing school districts in America with a large enrollment of black male students, at 62.3 percent.
“And this is not good,” Broward County school superintendant James Notter said in a panel discussion. “All children, regardless of the zip code they live in, deserve and are entitled to a fine, quality education. So there will be engagement in local schools and they don’t have a choice. These are our kids.”
The community and the school system, Notter said, can make it happen together.
“We can put a sustainable program together for all children, especially as the Schott Report rang out across this country on black men,” he said.
Notter, who is under severe criticism of his leadership of the school district, has announced he will resign from his position effective June 30.
His comments came when he took part in a panel discussion that included community leaders, public officials and school board members.
They spoke about the county’s failing graduation rate among black males as church leaders and public school employees listened. The discussion formed part of a conference on the theme, “Saving Youth and Developing them for a Better Tomorrow.”
The three-day meeting took place at Koinonia Worship Center in Pembroke Park on March 24.
The idea for the conference arose during a roundtable discussion held at Koinonia last November that challenged faith leaders to make a greater impact on their communities, said Elder Mathes Guice, director of the church’s men’s ministry.
“We planned then to do something in about a year but we could not wait. This issue — the education of our children — is urgent,” Guice said.
The Schott Report identified the worst performing districts with large black male student enrollment as New York City, Philadelphia, Broward County, Chicago and Nashville, in that order.
The school system or, its records, show that there are deficiencies in many areas, Guice said, adding, “We can’t leave the education and development of our children solely up to them.”
Lauderhill City Commissioner Hayward Benson said black males are getting an inadequate high school education and he called for an action plan to raise their graduation rates.
According to Janet Morales, principal of New Renaissance Middle School in Miramar, the older a child is in middle school, the more likely he or she will drop out.
“It’s so important just to get them to high school. I tell them that once there, there are so many activities they can become involved in that will help keep [them] interested in school,” Morales said.
Community issues coming into the school are part of the problem, she said,“Some of it can be bullying or a disagreement that takes place outside of the school and then continues on the grounds. And low self-esteem is also an issue,” she said, adding that mentoring is a big help.
“When our students see that there is someone vested in them, it could change everything. I can talk to them every day but they see me all the time so it’s not the same. When others come in and give them time, a huge difference is made,” she said.
Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon H. Weekes Jr. pointed to what he said is a direct link between education and the number of people who are being arrested, particularly black males.
“I see it day in and day out. We need to hold them accountable, give them goals, sit and talk with them,” Weekes said.
If the amount of money allocated to the district is tied to the number of minorities who graduate from school, Weekes said, “the [graduation] rates would be over 90 percent.”
Now that the Schott Report is out, Weekes said, district officials “want to run around and address it, put the pieces back together, when we know the problem has existed for a long time.”
“We have to take the responsibility and do something or we will be in the same place year after year,” Weekes said. "If we don't educate the children we are setting them up for failure, for a lifetime of hardship; a constant struggle of having to make ends meet."
Cynthia Roby may be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net