The Escambia Youth Justice Coalition (EYJC) rallied its supporters and together they offered comments, posed questions, and made suggestions to the Escambia County School Board and the School District Superintendent in hopes of spurring the District to engage the community in tangible, transparent reform of failing school, policies and practices. There were students, parents, business owners, ministers, civil rights activists, and other members of the community that addressed the Escambia School Board Tuesday, March 25th during the regular School Board Meeting set for 4:30pm.
This was a step forward towards creating a safer, positive, more inclusive and enriching school environment for all students. The EYJC leadership states that they want to work with the School District to propose solutions to fix low graduation rates, truancy, school closures, school arrests, harsh school discipline, and racial disparities. Additionally, the coalition is preparing materials to officially submit to the school board in time for the District’s workshop on Chapter 7 of the School Board Rules and Procedures Policy Handbook entitled “Students”, and is especially focused on collaborating with the School Board President, Linda Moultrie’s Task Force on Achievement.
In rallying their supporters to the school board meeting, the EYJC demonstrated how they are focused on having their voice heard. There were speakers prepared to participate in the public comment section of the school board’s agenda on behalf of the Coalition and some of those comments are provided below:
1. Deborah Vellco, a member of 1st United Methodist Church read an excerpt from the “The Comings Jobs War” and encouraged the School District to recognize the effects of failing schools and poor education on the larger community,
2. Rev. HK Matthews, President of the National Movement for Human and Civil Rights, Inc. spoke about low graduation rates and their connection to the School to Prison Pipeline,
3. Dr. Donna Curry, former Exxon-Mobil Executive, made comments about graduation rates and the closing of schools instead of investing resources into schools and children,
4. Cindy Martin, the Vice-President/Co-Founder of the community-based youth intervention group, Montclair on a Mission or MOM, complained about the homeless camp that is slated for a shelter to be built on the site less than a mile from Montclair Elementary. Her concerns spoke to student safety as they walk home and advocated for the school district and parents to become engaged to stop the shelter “because there are parents and community who care about our kids”,
5. Burnette King, NAACP Pensacola Branch Executive Board Member, provided suggestions on re-writing the Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook,
6. Dr. Veasley, NAACP Pensacola Branch President, talked about the School to Prison Pipeline,
7. Rev. Rick Branch, the Minister of Music of 1st United Methodist Church – talked about the Office of Civil Rights complaint and the need for accountability and community engagement in our schools,
8. Dr. Shirley Lewis-Brown, representing the League of Women Voters, advocated for support for the Civil Citation Program, and
9. Preston Jones – a student at PHS talked about how bad school policies affect school culture and provided suggestions on revising policies and encouraging the School Board to include students in the discussion.
The next meeting of the EYJC will held on Monday, April 14th at 5:30 pm in the Englewood Missionary Baptist Church at 1100 West Scott Street.