A call to action

By Ruthann Carr

At the July 8 School Board meeting, Superintendent Chuck Winkler presented two documents addressing issues raised by the recent killings of unarmed black men and the resulting demonstrations.

One was a brief, draft statement from the school administration; the other, a 10-page document sent to the administration from the Fluvanna NAACP Education committee.

The school’s draft statement said:

“FLUCOS stand firmly and united against all forms of racism.

FLUCOS stand for all of our students, families, and community members.

FLUCOS are committed to providing an environment where all feel welcomed, valued and we are focused on equity.

FLUCOS will amplify the voices of those who are not heard.

FLUCOS will raise awareness and be a part of the change.

We are all FLUCOS.”

The front page of the NAACP document reads:

“Fluvanna Antiracism and Equity Coalition – Call to Action to eliminate inequities and racism and to promote an equitable and just learning environment in Fluvanna County Public Schools.”

Winkler suggested they form a group to address the issue.

Chair Perrie Johnson (Fork Union) offered to be on the committee.

Later, when asked why she was interested on serving, she said she’s been interested in the subject for years.
“I’m excited to serve on this committee because the issues raised by the NAACP Education Committee have been an interest of mine since the beginning of my teaching career in Fluvanna,” Johnson said in an email. “Over 30 years ago I began teaching at Cunningham District School and spent more years there than at any other school in Fluvanna.  My son and daughter attended Cunningham and made many friends. I came to know the children and parents of that community, as well as those in the Fork Union District, where I live.  I believe in the mission statement of the NAACP Education Committee and want to do more than pay lip service to their intent.  I hope my participation on an FCPS equity committee will help us craft a realistic, effective plan addressing these issues, but tailored to the unique strengths and challenges we face in Fluvanna.”

Andrew Pullen (Columbia) asked to serve as well.

He did not respond to an email asking him the same question as of press time.

Winkler and his staff have spent long hours trying to cope with the pandemic and how it will affect education in the fall.

Last week, Winkler said he hadn’t yet formed the committee to look into racism.

He referred questions to Don Stribling, executive director of human resources, student services and operations.

Stribling said the committee doesn’t have a formal name yet, but described it as: “A group of individuals from the Fluvanna public school staff and the Fluvanna community who will focus on equity issues within our school system.”

The first paragraph of the NAACP document states:

“The pandemic of the past few months and the events of the past few weeks have revealed with

undeniable clarity the inequities that are embedded in our society and the underlying systemic racism that sustains them. Because our education system reflects our society, our schools are not immune to these societal imperfections which diminish the education of every child.”

Ben Hudson, president of the Fluvanna NAACP talked about why they created the document and shared it with the schools.

“Members of the NAACP Education Committee have been working with Mr. Winkler and members of his administration for some time now,” Hudson said in an email. “Going forward, the Branch does expect to have input and possibly individuals working directly with Mr. Winkler’s solution-finding initiatives.  A major goal of the NAACP is to work to ensure that all disadvantaged students and students of color are on a path to college or a successful career by ensuring access to great teaching, equitable resources, and a challenging curriculum. Towards that end, members of our committee have been working with members of the community to listen to and address issues and concerns as they relate to equitable outcomes for students and ensuring a school environment free of discrimination.

The local NAACP chapter will continue to work closely with the Division Administration and conduct community collaborative information exchanges to allow for sharing of relevant progress and course correction as appropriate. Individuals who are interested in additional information about the local NAACP’s pursuit for educational equity and would like to support the organization with a contribution, service, or membership can do so by visiting the chapter’s website: fluvannacountynaacp.com

Stribling said community members interested in being considered for the committee should send him an email at dstribling@apps.flucos.org.

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