By Don Coble
By any measure, Addison Davis would be a terrific hire for the Hillsborough County School Board. With a record graduation rate, an eighth-place standing statewide and an emphasis to help the children at Charles E. Bennett Elementary with revolutionary programs that result in higher grades, his record is indisputable.
But like everything else, facts aren’t always an issue, especially when something as important as educating our children turns political.
We hope Hillsborough makes a smart decision. Whether that involves Davis is something that should be determined by skills and his record. To interject politics, particularly race, is an insult to his work and to the legitimate process.
The American Civil Liberties Union and NAACP object to Davis being hired in Tampa. They claim Davis runs a district where there have been concerns about student discipline. The ACLU presented copies of a letter it sent to Clay County last June outlining their concerns and the organization gave copies of that letter to the Hillsborough School Board during its meeting last week.
The board is expected to narrow it field of candidates from seven to two or three this week and make a final decision at its Jan. 21 meeting.
In reality, the ACLU sent all 67 counties a letter after collecting information from the 2017-18 schoolyear. And it found issues with every district.
It states that Clay County had 64 student arrests that year, along with 62 citations and three arrests for disorderly conduct. It claims those arrests feed into “school-to-prison” pipeline. The organization also pointed out black students make up 15% of the district’s population, but figures on disciplinary actions ranged from 17% for arrests to 32% for police citations for the same group.
The study doesn’t address guilt or innocence. Apparently that has no bearing on the information they want to present, and it only proves Mark Twain to be correct when he said: “there are lies, damn lies and statistics.”
The study was conducted the same year of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland that left 17 dead. That didn’t matter.
“These findings prove what advocates have been saying for years,” Michelle Morton, a juvenile policy coordinator for the ACLU of Florida said in a release when it sent letters to all 67 counties. “Our schools don’t need more cops.”
She also said students are “crying out for help and schools are responding by pushing them away.” She also bemoaned the disorderly conduct arrests, claiming it “pushes students further from a life of success and feels to a school-wide climate of distrust and disengagement that undermines school safety and student achievement.”
The ACLU gave the Hillsborough district the same kind of blistering assessment
What the ACLU and NAACP didn’t address last week was the state’s improving graduation rate. Clay County rose to a district-record 91.9%. And it ignored another fact: graduation rates for blacks, Hispanics, at-risk students and students with disabilities had greater increases than white students.
We don’t endorse candidates at Clay Today for one simple reason: we respect our readers to be smart enough to make their own decisions. We certainly aren’t going to suggest the Hillsborough County School Board should hire Davis. That’s a decision for Hillsborough to make. Let’s hope they show diligence and study the facts, not emotional grandstanding.