BLU Educational Foundation Town Hall Meeting in High Desert
By Eliz Dowdy, Staff Writer
The BLU Educational Foundation and their partners hosted their third town hall meeting in the inland empire recently. The town hall was held to gather information from the communities where they believe the focus should be to ensure that Black students are reaping all the benefits of their educational experience. The previous meetings were held in Riverside and Fontana. The high desert meeting was co-hosted by the Victor Valley NAACP; NCNW High Desert Section, and COPE –Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement.
BLU president/CEO Dina Walker opened the meeting, stating the goals and mission of the meetings. Ms. Walker is also president of the Rialto Unified School District Board of Trustees, and stated she has witnessed things she never knew existed since assuming her role as a school board trustee.
Since special emphasis is placed on low income parents/guardians, and low income communities, they came to the high desert and walked the streets of Adelanto to get a perspective of the area. Meeting parents, and discussing their concerns for the education of their children. She stated that school districts receive extra funding for students with disabilities, foster kids, and homeless kids; therefore parents, school administration and Black community organizations should develop a working relationship to change some startling statistics where Black student education is concerned.
She continued to emphasize the need for increased community engagement in the education of Black students, not only college preparation classes, but trade schools for those who may not be college bound, but who still need good paying jobs to be able to support families. There are certificated programs operating out of Cal State San Bernardino that prepare students for jobs that pay between $60 and $70,000 per year. The caveat is there are virtually no Black students enrolled in the job preparation courses.
Walker introduced Bill Thomas, president of the Victor Valley branch of the NAACP. He spoke about the beginnings of the organization, and specifically the beginning of the branch in the high desert.
Dr. Sam Casey, senior pastor of COPE and an ardent education activist, shared some startling statistics. San Bernardino County has 2/3 of the African American students that reside in the state. He compared push out vs drop out rates. African American students are three to five times more likely to be expelled than white students. In 2015, African American students represented nearly 40% of push outs. What is the difference between the two? Push outs occur when expulsions are over used as methods of discipline, and drop outs can occur for a number of reasons. The student may have to work to help with family expenses, keep younger siblings, or become embarrassed because their academic scores are incredibly low. There may be issues with the teachers also that lead to drop outs.
In the Adelanto Elementary School District African Americans comprised 51% of suspensions. The bottom line is a disproportionate number of African American students are pushed out of school in San Bernardino County; even sending students to another classroom means the students are not engaged in learning.
The attendees were directed to breakout groups where they discussed what issues should receive priority from a group of fifteen topics. Those prioritized most were: Academic success; Family/School/Community Partnerships; School Safety; Black History; and Technology. Effective teachers was also closely scrutinized.
When the breakout groups re-emerged, each group shared the five priorities they had chosen. The listings will be merged to form one set according to the place value they received; then data from all three town hall meetings will be viewed to see what communities want to see happening their respective communities.
Volunteers were asked to be available to work with the other town hall volunteers to see what the partnerships can accomplish in pushing education for students into a higher orbit.
Dina Walker thanked the attendees for their support and concern for kids’ educational opportunities. Also discussed were the means of getting more African American parents engaged before their child falls through the cracks.
The event was held at Burning Bush Baptist Church in Victorville where Reverend Dr. David Denson Jr. is founding pastor.
The BLU Educational Foundation is a 501 C 3 nonprofit organization whose focus is college & career access; civic engagement; leadership development; and the arts.