Sunday, October 27, 2013

An open Letter to Mayor Tommy Battle

It's me, RedEye.  How's that "One City, One Vision "  thingy working out for you?  The reason I ask is because it appears you have a new Battle Plan, one that doesn't include residents/taxpayers who live/work/play in north Huntsville.  Or, should I say, those who try to live/work/ play in north Huntsville?  In case you haven't notice, the quality of life is on the decline in north Huntsville, but I digress, the purpose of this letter is to address the J.O.Johnson name change controversy,  which I know you are aware of, because representatives from your office attend community meetings, marches, and school board meetings.

During the Huntsville City Council meeting Councilman Richard Showers  said the following in regards to the J.O. Johnson issue (emphasis mine):
7:30 pm. During council comments, Richard Showers said Johnson High School supporters opposed to changing the school's name were treated "less than a dog" at last week's Huntsville Board of Education meeting.
Despite a petition signed by about 1,500 people wanting to keep the Johnson name on a new northwest Huntsville high school on Pulaski Pike, the school board voted to name the new school for Mae Carol Jemison. A Decatur-born astronaut, Jemison was the first black woman to travel in space.
Johnson supporters "were talked down to (at the school board meeting) as if they were animals," said Showers. "I couldn't believe this was happening in this city."
Former J.O.Johnson assistant band director Reggie Hill said changing the name of a failing school does not address the underlying problems. "Are we really going to fix any issues by simply changing the name of the school?" said Hill.

Michelle Watkins said new and expanding industry will continue to avoid northwest Huntsville as long as there are "substandard" public schools. "A name change does nothing if the stigma remains the same and the resources continue to be focused on other areas," .

Casey Brown, president of the J.O. Johnson Alumni Association, said the school board "actively ignored" the wishes of 1,500 people who signed a petition opposing the name change.
"If we're One Huntsville, how come no one in northwest Huntsville has their vote respected or their word respected?" He then asked where you stood  on the Johnson name change?

And you, Mayor Battle,  said this:
While not addressing the name change directly, Battle said he believes Superintendent Casey Wardynski is attacking the problem of "disparate" schools through better technology and an aggressive student assessment program. Some struggling schools in northwest Huntsville have posted 25 percent gains in reading and math, he said.
Well, I guess it depends on what your definition of attacking the problem of "disparate" schools IS.  If you believe  Wardynksi  is attacking the problem of "disparate" schools by replacing books with laptops/IPads (without parental input), replacing certified teachers with Teach for America Teachers (in north Huntsville Schools), and testing instead of teaching, I have some swamp land in Arizona to sell you.

"We have to have good schools; we have to have schools that are equal," said Battle.
 In order to have good schools, all schools have to be good.  In order to have schools that are equal, all schools have to be treated equally. The J.O. Johnson name change issue is a prime example of separate and unequal treatment.  Case in point, Lee High School.
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Students marched from the current Lee High School to the new one this morning in reaction to a proposal to eliminate the Lee High School name when a newly constructed replacement school opens in the fall.
Superintendent Dr. Casey Wardynski showed up at the protest and talked to the students, convincing them to go back to class and promised no repercussions for the walk-out.
"These young people obviously have an opinion," Wardynski said. "I think the way that young folks express themselves is important, but there is a safer way to do it."
The 250 or so students walked out of the current Lee building at about 8:05 a.m. and around to the front of the new building. They stopped there and started chanting "Lee High School!", "Save Our School!" and "Show your L!"
They went back to class after Wardynski walked into the middle of them and told them he appreciated their opinion and would not punish them for protesting.
Compare and contrast the treatment of Lee High protesters with the treatment of J.O.Johnson protesters.
First, they stacked the agenda with long presentations, and seats were saved for teachers/employees prior to the public being allowed to enter the board room.  Second, citizens were told to write down their questions on cards to be given to the board members and they would decide which ones were to be read or answered.  Citizens were not allowed to ask questions of the BOE.  A handpicked Pastor was "asked" and allowed to speak, however Reverend Mark Johnson, nephew of J.O. Johnson left because the BOE kept changing the rules and he thought he wasn't going to be allowed to speak.
Compare and contrast the outcome of the Lee High School name change controversy with the outcome the J.O.Johnson name change controversy.(Emphasis mine)
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Dr. Casey Wardynski, Huntsville's new superintendent, backtracked on his proposal to change the name of Lee High School Thursday night following a day of protest by students, alumni and parents.
Lee High School students carried signs boasting "General pride" and beseeching the school board to keep the school's name as board members walked into their meeting. It was the second, albeit smaller, protest of the day as students and alumni expressed anger over Wardynski's proposal.
Wardynski was considering a name change in conjunction with moving both Lee and New Century Technology High School students into the new facility.
Initial reports indicated that hundreds of students might converge on the Annie C. Merts Center. The protest outside fizzled to about a dozen students, though parents and students packed into the board room for the meeting.
In the end, Wardynski heeded the opinions of the students -- and the school board -- and announced that the words "Lee High School" would be added back to the new school's facade, where they had been removed earlier in the day. Audience members in the board room and in the hallways of the Merts Center cheered.
So why is Lee allowed to keep it's name after protest but J.O.Johnson is not?  Here's why:
 "There's been any number of councilman and officials call to inform me that I've made a gargantuan mistake," Wardynski said, to applause from the crowd that made him smile. "Thank you for acknowledging my mistake."
Wardynski said that while the objectives of the new school is to increase student achievement and give students a bright future, another objective is to be a good neighbor.
Oh really? A number of council and officials called to inform Wardynski it would be a gargantuan mistake to change Lee High Schools name, but the same council (with the exception of  Showers) and officials are quiet as a mouse when it comes to J.O.Johnson.  Evidently it's not important to a "good neighbor" to ALL anymore.

Mayor Battle, north Huntsville residents voted for you in record numbers both times because you promised there would be One Huntsville. Now don't get me wrong, north Huntsville taxpayers aren't asking for special treatment, nor are we asking city government to take care of us, we are asking for equal treatment because we pay taxes and vote too.  We love the city of Huntsville, but we have to ask, does the city of Huntsville love us?

And no, a meeting to discuss renaming Church street after Rev. Joseph Lowery is not going to appease us, if you can discuss renaming Church Street you can discuss renaming J.O.Johnson High School.  Now if you want to discuss renaming Pulaski Pike or Meridian Street after Rev.Joseph Lowery......


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