We can’t turn our backs on the Fort Worth public schools

Posted Saturday, Sep. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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sanders About once a week, during the journey from my downtown office to home, I take a short detour to pass by my old high school, just for inspiration.

I.M. Terrell High, which was one of four all-black high schools in the city when I attended, sits majestically on a hill about a mile east of the central business district.

Some days I stop, get out the car and stare upward at a few special places in the building: the second-floor corner classroom where I first studied journalism; that protruding center third-floor room (with windows on three sides) where Fleacie Stevens taught English VII; and the office complex, outside of which the legendary Hazel Harvey Peace usually could be seen as we passed in the hallway between classes.

Occasionally, after leaving Terrell’s campus, I’ll proceed to East Fourth Street for a second detour to take a glimpse of my old elementary school, Riverside, which is now named for the woman who was my principal, Versia L. Williams.

You’re probably asking, “Why are you so sentimental about a couple of school buildings?”

The answer is simple. It was what happened to me, and thousands of others over the years, inside those public school buildings that I cherish so. There we were taught — and taught well, even in the days of segregation.

But along with the teaching, those devoted educators continued to encourage us, indeed motivate us daily, as they prepared us to compete in a new day when things would change.

Most of all, we were loved inside those buildings.

So, today, I stand as a proud product of the Fort Worth Independent School District and one of its staunchest supporters. In fact, I am a champion of public schools in general and will boldly defend them against their harshest critics who constantly tear them down.

When I visit elementary and middle schools during career days or high school Advanced Placement English classes (as I did at Dunbar last week), I see in most of those students what my teachers saw in me: a potential that students have not yet seen in themselves.

To be honest, when I look at them, I often see me, knowing that they have the capability to achieve and that all they need are the dedicated instructors, the tools and a support system to keep them challenged and motivated.

That is why I want the best for them, and why all of Fort Worth should want nothing less for those who are the future of this city, state and nation.

And it is for that reason I am compelled to support a bond issue presented by Superintendent Walter Dansby and passed by the board of education in August.

Designed to bring what the superintendent calls “education equity” to the entire district and its more than 80,000 students, the $490 million bond package is divided into three propositions:

1) $386.6 million for a new high school complex in Benbrook, new classrooms, new field houses for 13 high schools, kitchen/dining area projects, security and technology improvements and districtwide pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds.

2) $73.3 million for two new sixth- through 12th-grade schools, a performing and fine arts academy and a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) academy.

3) $30 million for nonconstruction projects, including maintenance trucks and buses, band uniforms and instruments.

If all three propositions pass, residents will see 3 cents added to the tax rate or $30 a year on the average home valued at $115,599. That’s a small price to pay for improving education.

The district is holding informational town hall meetings on the bond package through Oct. 16 at various high schools. The election is Nov. 5.

Individuals, businesses and organizations ought to get behind this proposal to ensure its passage.

Join me in standing up for our schools, our children, our future.

Bob Ray Sanders' column appears Sundays and Wednesdays. 817-390-7775 Twitter: @BobRaySanders

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