In the April/May issue of the Colonialtown Newsletter I wrote at length about the potential closure of Fern Creek Elementary School. I have since met with School Board Chairman Bill Sublette and Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins. Let’s just say that the meeting was not of one mind.
There is a reason why I am so passionate about diversity in our schools and why I oppose segregating schools by “income and values.” I went to very diverse schools in Seminole County; Casselberry Elementary, South Seminole Middle and Lyman High School. I had experiences I would have never had with others if I had gone to an all-white, income segregated school. I learned that when kids compete on the field, it did not matter how much money their parents made … that they could excel based on their ability. I learned that it was very rewarding to help tutor other students who struggled in class. I learned that while I may have had problems at home, it paled in comparison to other students who lacked even the basics, such as indoor plumbing and daily meals. I learned compassion, understanding and the value of standing up for what is right. These are not on standardized tests. They are genuine values learned by growing up in an environment of diversity and inclusion. I thank my high school Principal, Carlton Henley, for leading by example. I was honored to serve with him as an adult and elected official on the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council.
One of the recommendations of the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council for long-term regional planning is to not have minimum school acreage requirements for school sites; this is to encourage community schools in neighborhoods. The Orange County School Board is using the acreage at Fern Creek as an excuse to close it. This goes against good planning practices, encourages urban sprawl and prioritizes school construction in suburban areas, while sacrificing the urban core. As an elected official in a growing and vital urban core, I oppose this.
I am also concerned that the use of the School Sales Tax will further this practice and leave abandoned schools throughout our downtown neighborhoods. As someone who has always supported public education, I find this proposal troubling and not worthy of public support. I would feel differently if there were a more collaborative relationship between the School Board and municipal government.