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NAACP: Education fight isn't over yet

Florida members are asked to rally their communities and school districts to help close the achievement gap.

By MELANIE AVE
Published October 1, 2004

TAMPA - The fight started with Brown v. Board of Education 50 years ago continues.

That was the message Thursday at the annual Florida state NAACP conference, which began Wednesday at the Embassy Suites Hotel on Fowler Avenue. It ends today with a presentation by John Jackson, the organization's national director of education.

The event was timed with the 50th anniversary of Brown, which banned racial segregation in public schools.

Florida NAACP president Adora Obi Nweze asked organization members from across the state to rally their communities and school districts to lessen the nagging achievement gap between white students and many minorities, especially black children.

She cited statistics that find more black children enrolled in alternative and special education programs, more dropping out of school early and fewer taking advanced placement courses - essential for admission to top universities.

About 80 people attended, including several school administrators from Hillsborough, Broward, Gadsden and Miami-Dade counties.

"We're asking you to join the NAACP in our fight to finish Brown," Nweze said. "Our children deserve our service."

Urged Charles Moody, founder of the National Alliance of Black School Educators: "Let's not sleep. Let's not let a third generation think they got there by themselves."

Two years ago, the NAACP asked each state to develop five-year equity plans showing their commitment to eroding racial disparities.

"At this time, we have gotten every state but two," Nweze said. "Even Florida got on board after they saw their name printed in USA Today."

Thursday's local discussion was an effort to bring that same request to every Florida school district by offering superintendents a template to follow.

Nweze said too often, school districts put their energies into the top-performing students, usually a small percentage of overall enrollment. "The whole mission in this state has to be toward every child," she said.

Miami-Dade deputy superintendent Irving Hamer applauded the NAACP for its efforts at more equitable education for minority children. But he said school districts must put resources and structure in place, or little will be achieved.

"The NAACP is relevant because they stir the pot," he said. "It's important to have a voice of courage, not complacency, when you're trying to move a social justice agenda."

Saturday in Pinellas County, hundreds of parents are expected to attend a day-long summit with the goal of getting more involved in their children's education.

That, too, is an effort to join the fight against the achievement gap separating black and white students, said Watson Haynes, a black civic leader who helped organize the summit. It is expected to draw as many as 800 parents, he said.

The gap between black and white students is wider in Pinellas than in any large county in Florida.

Times staff writer Thomas C. Tobin contributed to this report. Melanie Ave can be reached at 813 226-3400 or melanie@sptimes.com

[Last modified October 1, 2004, 00:09:19]


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