Stop these thoughts that divide our schools

Published 6:00 am Monday, February 20, 2023

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We feel that what should first be considered for any elected, appointed or hired position of power is the qualifications and character of the candidate, not their skin color.

That said, the words of some of our elected officials concerning Brenda Robinson’s reappointment to the Natchez Adams School District Board of Trustees are disturbing, to say the least.

At a Tuesday meeting of the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen, Alderwoman Felicia Irving made a lot of wonderful points about why Robinson should be reappointed as a school board member.

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Under the existing board and Robinson’s leadership, the district has made great strides by improving from an F district to a B district according to state standards.

We feel what makes Robinson a good choice for a board member is her prior experience on the board and educational background in counseling, curriculum development and instruction and professional development — which give her an edge in addressing the needs of the school system.

But Irving took it too far when she said that the school district, which has majority Black students, should be led by a majority Black school board.

The frame of mind that Irving presents with her statement is the very frame of mind that continues to divide and cripple public education in Natchez.

Natchez Adams School District’s 90 percent Black student body does not reflect the population of Adams County. Most recent census data indicates Adams County’s largest racial groups are 53.7 percent Black, 35.6 percent white and 9.7 percent Hispanic or Latino. It also reflects the poverty level is over 25 percent, but the percentage of economically disadvantaged students enrolled in NASD schools is just over 75 percent.

Our school board recognizes that the biggest challenge facing public education in Natchez is not the education itself. It’s both poverty and the divisive mindset of the community.

On Black History Month, why would a person in leadership choose to add fuel to that fire that divides our community? The school district has pushed for better grades and built better facilities, but continues to battle both poverty and public opinion.

Public school teachers face the challenge of mentoring students from broken homes and supplying some students with basic needs, something you don’t see often in private schools where families can afford to pay for their children’s education.

Over recent years, the school district has strived hard to build better school facilities and improve education, workforce development and opportunities for our students and we support that endeavor. By doing this, our school district is working to prove that our public schools are good enough and that quality education doesn’t have to cost families more money.

The only way to change the mindset about public education in Natchez is by continuing to stand on a united front regardless of race or economic status, by pushing to maintain progress and by setting the bar even higher for next year.

Rather than being concerned that the school board reflects the unfortunate lack of diversity currently in our public school, the concern should be that our public schools’ student population does not mirror the population of our community.