Bob Ray Sanders

May 17, 2014

FW schools have come a long way in 60 years

Six decades after Brown v. Board of Education, there’s still much work to be done.

It was 60 years ago this month that the Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, declaring that “separate-but-equal” schools were inherently unequal and therefore unconstitutional.

While there was hope that the unanimous decision would break down the walls of segregation, those age-old walls didn’t come tumbling down immediately as school districts all over the South tried to find ways to avoid implementing the law.

In Fort Worth, which had one black high school that served black students from at least 17 other towns, the school board came up with a plan that was supposedly designed to give African-American youngsters an equal education while still keeping them separated from whites.

The board voted to create three new all-black high schools by adding one grade a year to the three existing black junior highs — Kirkpatrick on the north side, Como on the west side and Dunbar on the east side — which would have their first graduating classes in 1957.

As it turned out, African-American kids in Fort Worth and surrounding areas who were in the first grade at the time of the Supreme Court ruling in 1954 would spend the rest of their public school days in segregated classrooms.

Ironically, and perhaps the greatest sign that times have changed over the past 60 years, the current superintendent of the Fort Worth school district graduated from one of those all-black high schools, as did the current president of the board of education.

Walter Dansby, now in his third year as the district’s first African-American superintendent, received his diploma from Dunbar. Board President Christene Moss graduated from Como.

Although there have been obvious changes, there haven’t been enough.

I agree with the sentiments expressed by President Obama in a proclamation issued in honor of the Brown v. Board of Education anniversary.

“Thanks to the men and women who fought for equality in the courtroom, the legislature, and the hearts and minds of the American people, we have confined legalized segregation to the dustbin of history,” the proclamation states. “Yet today, the hope and promise of Brown remains unfilled.”

For a long time I’ve thought that Dansby has been under-appreciated, even by some members of the board.

Here is a man who has come up through the district ranks as teacher, coach, principal, administrator of various departments, deputy superintendent and then finally the top job, excelling in each.

A crowning achievement was to lead the development of a $489.9 million bond issue last year, designed in part to “equalize” the educational experience for all students, and see it successfully passed by the voters.

Yet the board of education has been working on his evaluation since February and still has not decided that his work has been satisfactory enough to receive a contractual bonus. The board owes it to the public to get this job done, regardless of what the review says.

But just when I thought no one was paying attention, at least two groups are showing their appreciation to the superintendent.

The Greater Fort Worth Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America has named Dansby the “Communicator of the Year,” based for his efforts in getting the bond issued passed. The award will be presented May 29.

On May 24 The United Hispanic Council will honor the superintendent at its first “Celebrity Scholarship Roast,” which will raise money to help send Fort Worth school students to college.

Former board member Juan Rangel praised Dansby for agreeing to be roasted, showing once more that he is dedicated to the students in the district.

The event will be at 6 p.m. at Tarrant County College Trinity River Campus. For ticket information, call 817-294-4993, 817-923-3245 or 682-597-6261.

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