Priority One: Our “Boeing Problem”

Acknowledging the problem. Ithaca Board of Education President Dr. Sean Eversley Bradwell (c), flanked by Board members Katie Apker and Eldred Harris, May 14.

May 18, 2024:

Tuesday, May 21st, we in the Ithaca City School District will elect three members to our Board of Education.  What we must ask of each candidate is, “What will you do to correct that most inexcusable educational embarrassment now confronting our District?”

We, in Ithaca spend so much money on our schools.  Look at the pristine athletic fields we’ve built outside Ithaca High with our last, nine-figure capital bond.  Or witness the paved lot on which we now park our buses.  Arguably neither of those largely-cosmetic, pricey adornments confronts our most pressing academic affliction.  It’s a pedagogical pandemic now spreading pervasively through too many of our schools; the realization that students aren’t learning.  Most particularly, students of color and economic challenge aren’t learning.

Our Enfield Elementary has for its second year been faulted by New York State for poor academic performance among all of its students.  Beverly J. Martin Elementary downtown is on the list again as well. The state targets its subgroups of Black Students and those economically disadvantaged.

And now, Boynton and Dewitt Middle Schools join the list, each school’s demerit based specifically on Black Student performance (or more appropriately, lack thereof).  For one thing, truancy rates are high.  At Boynton, we’re told, 60 per cent of Black or African-American students are “chronically absent.”  At Dewitt, the rate is 39.5 per cent.

“Those two schools … that have recently been placed on a list (Boynton and Dewitt) are because of a particular subgroup of students, which are Black and Brown babies,” Board of Education President Dr. Sean Eversley Bradwell affirmed at the close of the Board’s Budget Hearing May 14th.  “So if we’re going to talk about the budget, please separate that from our inability at this point in time to fully educate folks; or if we are going to connect them, let’s do so with the understanding of exactly how that goes down.”

So let’s go down there.

When Boeing jets had door plugs fall off in mid-flight, the company began making painful decisions.  Still, critics accuse Boeing of doing far too little and doing it far too late.

Will we in the Ithaca City School District set a better example when it comes to educating our kids?  It’s Question #1 each of us must ask every candidate for the Ithaca Board of Education who seeks our vote this next week.  Change, as always, starts at the top.

Trust me, I will say more on this. / Bob Lynch