The Pittsburgh branch of the NAACP has completed the final phase of a series of demonstrations at the Pittsburgh School District administration building in protest of the district’s racial achievement gap. Their seven-week effort, which ended Dec. 28 was to increase awareness of the gap and inspire district administrators to take action.
“The emphasis on resolving disparities has to be a top agenda item of the school board, administration and teachers,” said NAACP member and Black Political Empowerment Project leader Tim Stevens. “If we don’t collectively address that ongoing disparity, people in this region, particularly African-Americans, will have a difficult future.”
|BRAVING THE COLD—NAACP President Gail Moss, Richard A. Stewart Jr. and Curtis Page finish their final lap around the administration building.
For the past two months, members of the NAACP and those sympathetic to their cause have marched around the administration building and testified at school board hearings.
“We have no choice in the matter. If we don’t we are creating a future generation of people in poverty,” Stevens said. “When you have a large percentage of minority students quitting school what is left but a life of crime and poverty? We cannot afford it, not only as people of color, but society as a whole.”
Stevens also placed some responsibility on the family, who he said has a responsibility to show children the value of education. He said it is also important to make children see the financial value of education.
“Parents, guardians and relatives have a key role to play to make sure their kids are really knowing of the importance of education,” Stevens said. “Our young kids shouldn’t buy into the idea that learning is not something to be treasured. And speaking proper English and getting good grades is not about being White it’s about being bright.”
As for what the next steps would be, Stevens said he would continue writing letters to the administration. The NAACP will also try to monitor the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant, which is part of a teacher reform initiative to ensure quality teachers are available to every student in every class.
“I think it’s always good to demonstrate one’s cause and call attention to key issues in our community,” Stevens said. “(The administration) is obviously aware of it, but it’s hard to tell what the effects are of such activities in the minds of leadership. But the consistency was good.”
District 2 School Board Representative Dara Ware Allen said the Gates Grant would be used to address some of the NAACP’s key concerns, such as ensuring every student is given the same opportunity to learn.
“The board and administration are fully aware of the achievement gap and also have that as a priority,” Allen said. “There are a lot of positive initiatives under way.”
In terms of the NAACP’s allegations regarding the re-segregation of schools, Allen said she would have to look at the issue more closely. She also said she would look into discrepancies with student discipline to see if any disparities exist.
“The NAACP and the board may disagree on solutions but it would be helpful if the two would come together to talk because we both have the same interests at heart,” Allen said.