Leader Blues

Saturday, September 12, 2009

TOP STORY >> NAACP says district’s policies racist

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

In a letter it sent Wednesday to school board president Tim Clark, the Jacksonville branch of the NAACP charged racial bias exists in the disciplining of Pulaski County School District teachers.

In his letter, R.L. Aaron, chairman of legal redress for the group, charged that Clark “allowed (Teachers’ Union president Marty Nix) to blatantly direct comments toward us, as the NAACP, without objection,” that President Barack Obama was referred to disrespectfully as “Obama” and that parent Bonnie McDonald was “silenced” when she charged the district with racism and complained that the president’s speech to school children was not mandatory and was aired in only a handful of PCSSD schools.

Clark and board member Gwen Williams — herself a black woman — took exception with Aaron’s charges and rebutted them one by one in letters of their own.

When McDonald’s angry tirade well exceeded her allotted five minutes at Tuesday’s board meeting, Aaron said Clark silenced her. He wrote, “I thought you were going to beat the head off the gavel.” (Bonnie McDonald was misidentified last issue as Candice McDonald, her middle school-aged daughter.)

Two members of PCSSD security force closed in on her when it appeared she would not leave the podium voluntarily.

Clark wrote that “Ms. McDonald certainly violated the five-minute rule” for members of the public to sign up to speak.

Williams went further. “As for Mrs. McDonald, she … not only went over the time limit, she became rude and disrespectful.”

Williams wrote: “I did not agree with the superintendent leaving it up with the principals to air the president speech or not to air the speech. This did not give Mrs. McDonald the right to present her comments in the fashion that she did.”

Clark, in his response, wrote: “No one in the Pulaski County Special School District receives ‘lashes.’ We discontinued that practice years ago. ’’

“To my knowledge, our employees have never received ‘lashes,’” wrote Clark. “May I suggest that state law and the desegregation plan of the district guide you when you choose to engage in other investigatory matters regarding the district’s students or employees.”

Williams wrote, “ I am not sure where you heard that we give lashes, corrupt [sic] punishment has long been disallowed in this district. Furthermore, to even suggest that we give lashes (as was given in the past) is offensive to me and every board member, past and present).”

Clark said that Nix’s comments were not inappropriate because she did not “call your name, the name of the NAACP, the name of a board member or even employees of the district.”

He said other presidential administrations have been known by last names — Reagan, Bush I and II, Clinton.

“Be sure that it is not you, sir, who are creating racism where it does not exist, ” Clark said.

At the meeting, Clark, a new father, had thanked people for cards and gifts. “I hope that no gifts were accepted from union members that might give the appearance of inappropriate relationships or influence future decisions in union issues,” Aaron wrote.

Referring to the implication that gifts from union members could influence his voting, Clark wrote, “I will never allow my position…to determine my relationships.”

In her letter, Williams wrote, “I find it offensive that you would suggest Mr. Clark received gifts from union members in exchange for future decisions in union issues. You need to understand that these are not just employees to us, they are also friends and our extended family.”