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A bandwagon with square wheels

There was a collective sinking feeling in the stomachs of those who supported our former City of Syracuse Superintendent of Schools Dr. Henry Williams. Recent revelations of corruption at the highest level of his current position in another state have left some in shock with others wagging a finger in “I told you so” mode.

It was another cold winter years ago when efforts to replace Dr. Williams hit a snag when members of the black community and enlightened whites gathered met at People’s AME Zion Church. “They’re picking on him because he’s black” was the outcry from the crowd.

Another meeting was held at Nottingham High School attended by almost a thousand people, tearful testimony of problems other than the superintendent spilled out onto the stage. African-American leadership went into a little room and emerged with a strategy to do next-to-nothing. And nothing they did and a soon after Dr. Williams moved on to bigger and better things, as did most of the politicians in the room.

No one cared to look in the schools to see what was going on there. Rumors of corrupt officials carting off equipment, supplies and money have run rampant for years. Patching up antiquated heating systems, lead in school drinking water fountains while landlords were paying thousands to upgrade their properties through lead abatement.

Was there anybody looking out for these kids?

School board members went on excursions to Florida to seek black male teachers while ignoring qualified black men who were snatched up by suburban districts. Some of these men had been through the district’s program to attract local black male teachers. Few of them were ever chosen to work in the city.

Now as the schools and the city embark on one of the most ambitious school building projects since the 1940s, questions must be asked and answered.

I too jumped on the “save-Dr. Williams-’cause-he’s-a-brotha” syndrome and today we’re all paying with a broken down school system where even those who work as teachers send their kids to private schools.

Yeah, we all jumped on the school bandwagon, a wagon that apparently had square wheels.

Ken Jackson is a Syracuse resident and the editor of Urban CNY.

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