Angela Weinerth’s lawsuit against Martinsville City Public Schools isn’t going away. Weinerth, the formal principal at Martinsville High School, was “demoted” to the middle school when in 2016 Zeb Talley was named interim superintendent, the job he now holds formally.
We aren’t going to comment on the merits of the lawsuit or her capabilities. Like everything else, this picture is painted with the broad-stroked colors of opinions and little with the hue of hard facts that create firm decisions.
The school system has every right to choose its staff to carry out a vision or concept that requires a consensus. Perhaps in your career you’ve understood why changes in leadership above needed to be textured. Fiefdoms don’t work.
But Ms. Weinerth’s complaint and its foundation do bring to public conversation a topic that we should reaffirm:
No position should be appointed solely on the basis of race.
Ms. Weinerth thinks her race – along with her age and gender – was why she was moved from the high school to the middle school. And she uses in her argument this quote that was made in 2016, when Talley was appointed:
“Minority students do better and do well when they have people in authority who look like them,” Talley told the school board in July 2016. “They need to have a vision of where they can go, and having a minority teacher assist that, they feel like they can relate. We have great teachers who can reach across any color barrier or disparancy in terms of economics, but it’s good to have a classroom and a school that represents the demographics of our [area].”
He made these remarks because of the overwhelming imbalance of white faculty vs. students of color in our schools.
His point is well taken, but cautionary.
Role models and the respect they can forge are very lacking in today’s society. Our young people don’t live within the stout structure that once formed the underpinnings of good behavior and proper focus. They err in their judgment. Psychologists have found new definitions and treatments for bad behavior.
Educational gaps emerge from those fissures. Students don’t learn lessons in or out of a classroom. They don’t always find a person who shows them why it is important for them to learn.
So if a young person of any color connects to an educator, it can’t be underestimated. We agree looking for those connections is important. School systems should do everything possible to improve bonding between student and stuff.
But we don’t like that concept to be based on race. It’s a factor, but is it the overriding factor in helping young people find their way to successful lives?
We need our educators to see students for what they are, no matter race, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation. We need them to hear what students communicate, to listen not only to the words but the underlying messages. And we need them to act with their hearts, to want what’s best for each young person.
If an educator can do that, we don’t care what color, age or gender he or she is.
Pardon the cliché, but it’s what’s inside that counts.