As a result of certain statements made at the Feb. 19 budget work session by members of the Howard County School Board, we, the supporters of the Black Student Achievement Program (BSAP), find it necessary to respond publicly.
On behalf of those of us who spoke in supportof the Black Student Achievement Program, Bowyer Freeman, president of the Howard County NAACP, invited you to meet with us away from thespotlight in an attempt to clear the air regarding comments made during our testimony and those made by several of you to the Howard County Sun in response to that testimony. The meeting, which was called on short notice, was attended only by Deborah Kendig, as the rest stated that you had scheduling conflicts.
After our making this attempt at conciliation, for Dana Hanna to launch into a diatribe such as he did at the budget work session (at a public forum for which the ground rules forbade reply by the public) and attempt to lecture us regarding the appropriate manner for us to raise our concerns, was to put it kindly, both unnecessary and counterproductive. We also found Hanna's statements to be patronizing andsymptomatic of the type of double standard which many public officials hold for African-Americans; that if you ask nicely, then just maybe we'll use some of your tax dollars to directly benefit you.
It leads one to the conclusion that perhaps he is more interested in placating those of his white constituents who apparently took him to taskfor not being more forceful in his denunciation of the manner in which we chose to air our grievances, than in reaching an understanding with us and moving on from there.
If you were not before, I am sure that by now, you are painfully aware that your actions as public officials are open to intense scrutiny and criticism from all segments of this community. If you do not like or agree with the content of that criticism, then ignore it or refute it, if possible, and move forward to do what's in the public interest.
(Please note I used the term public interest as proposed to public sentiment. As the public sentiment may be against BSAP, I do not think that anyone can argue that it is not in the public interest to have a program whose purpose isensure that an environment is maintained in which all children can reach their full academic potential.)
However, it is not for you toattempt to dictate the terms and conditions under which that scrutiny and criticism will be carried out.
Frankly, we were fully aware that our actions and testimony would be perceived as forceful and uncompromising in content, and angry and emotional in tone. In fact, in order for you to be able to understand the depth of anger and concernheld by the African-American community for recent racial incidents in the schools, as well as the superintendent's proposal to cut BSAP, we consciously dispensed with the usual polite and reserved complaints and criticism with which you and we had both become all too accustomed. However, that we should have been singled out and characterized as being particularly threatening or insulting, suggests from our perspective, that once again a double standard was at work.
We are pleased that as a result of, or in spite of (take your choice) our actions, that several of you have taken the opportunity to talk to the staff of the program and finally find out first hand what BSAP is all about. We are further pleased that as a result of those discussions you now recognize that BSAP is a valuable and worthwhile program and that you will seek to continue its viability by budgeting sufficient funding for it.
Obviously given the differences in perceptions between the two parties, a need still exists for us to meet to discuss these differences to avoid such misperceptions in the future. Hopefully,rather than continue using the press or other public forums as the vehicle for continuing this dialogue, you will accept Freeman's offer to sit down and meet with us.
(Charles H. Palmer Jr., a Columbia resident, is on the Board of Directors for Helping Hands Enrichment and Leadership Foundation.)