Three local school superintendents came to talk education with business leaders last week.But at a breakfast billed as the first Fort Worth Education Summit to build more business support for schools, much of the conversation turned to perceptions and fears.“A lot of people are scared to death of [racial] diversity,” said Crowley Superintendent Dan Powell, for 35 years a teacher, principal and superintendent in three area districts.“Diversity is a strength in this community. God forbid we ever have leaders who haven’t been raised in a diverse environment.”Powell joined Fort Worth Superintendent Walter Dansby and White Settlement Superintendent Frank Molinar at the $25 taco breakfast at the Tarrant County College Trinity River Campus downtown, organized by commercial real estate leaders meeting as the Greater Fort Worth Real Estate Council.The summit was a first step toward building the same teamwork Dallas calls Commit!, a partnership of schools and businesses to support education areawide, not inside any particular boundary lines.The Fort Worth summit included three of the city’s largest districts, all three serving both wealthy suburban areas and poorer inner-city neighborhoods.Molinar, a 22-year White Settlement teacher and coach, graduated from the district’s Brewer High School before it moved to west Fort Worth.“We are preparing the children of White Settlement” — and much of west Fort Worth — “for a global society,” Molinar said.“Some of these children come through the door with duct tape on their shoes. Every one deserves the support to be successful. I don’t use the term ‘at-risk’ children. There are ‘at-promise’ children. They come at a promise for a greater America.”Dansby, in his 40th year as a district coach, administrator and superintendent, asked the business leaders to stand strongly behind all schools and all children.“Equity is not about making things even,” he said, repeating a refrain from public forums about construction projects in the $489 million bond issue going to voters Nov. 5.“Equity is about doing the right thing for each child in each and every thing we do. We’ve got to face the fact that we have to deal with race and class in this country or we’ll never move forward in our education system.”Dallas started the same conversation about schools, businesses and unity years ago.It has barely begun in Fort Worth.Chamber of Commerce President Bill Thornton said the city, like Houston, Dallas and San Antonio, suffers from a “perception issue.”“We suffer from the perception that inner-city public education needs work, that it’s broken. But if you sit down and do some analysis, there are points of pride.”Pete Geren, a former U.S. representative and secretary of the Army, gave a command.“There’s no excuse for anyone in the community to be a spectator,” said Geren, now president of the Sid W. Richardson Foundation.“Every one of us needs to accept responsibility for the success of our schools. We all have to be part of this effort.”It was a tough first lesson.
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