NAACP holds discussion forum for community
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) sponsored a discussion forum for the candidates running for the board of education on Wednesday, Feb 4. The candidates answered selected questions from the audience about various issues facing today's students and schools.
Running for District 4, which includes the Blair cluster, are Valerie Ervin and Sheldon Fishman. Candidates for District 2 that were present for the debate were Stephen Abrams and Bob Astrove. Sharon Cox, Michael Enriquez-Ibanez and Tommy Le, all running at-large were also in attendance for the discussion.
Ervin and Fishman have both been involved in community organizations for many years. Ervin is the co-president of the Blair PTSA and a NAACP Parent Council representative for Blair. Fishman has been active in area PTAs for more than 20 years at the local and county levels. Both are running on platforms that call for improved representation and recognition of racial diversity in Montgomery County schools and increased parent involvement by encouraging and providing feedback.
One concern addressed throughout the forum was the problem of not being able to equally represent students in every aspect of school, from extracurricular activities to academics. Ervin proposed that schools disregard the guidelines that make it impossible for students to participate in after school activities if they have below a 2.0 GPA. "Right now at Blair High School, the PTA is looking to suspend the rules for incoming ninth graders so they can participate in extracurricular," Ervin said. Fishman added that fifty percent of students at Blair cannot participate in sports or clubs because of grades. Both candidates expressed that the lack of diversity in clubs is a real problem because there is a direct correlation between academics and participation in school activities.
Ervin discussed the issue of "really integrating schools." She expressed the concern that if public schools are not truly desegregated, then students will not be able to manage in a diverse community.
The issue of equity in education was brought up in the discussion forum and concern as to whether or not each student receives fair instruction was addressed by the candidates. Ervin believes that different parts of the county receive "better education." However, because of "No Child Left Behind," everyone is held to the same standard. "We have one curriculum but it's not taught the same for every group of students," Ervin said.
The current early elementary initiatives have yielded impressive results for students through second grade, however trends have shown that in third and fourth grade, the progress begins to slow especially for African American males. Fishman believes that in order to essentially close the "achievement gap" that exists among white and minority students is by creating "a content-rich curriculum." "The curriculum provides the background knowledge that currently gives some children a huge advantage over others," Fishman said.
For 30 year Montgomery County resident Janet Lee Ricks, the issues that will help her in casting her vote have remained the same for many years. "From a student and parent stand point, it seems that teachers aren't stretching [students]," Ricks said. "In my education, we didn't have honors. It was important to stretch yourself in the higher classes."
Ricks also looked to the importance of after-school programs in schools to create strong citizens. "School systems are not just there for math and science. It's education for life."
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