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By Tiffany Adams
As a Smith supporter against all of the negativity directed towards him I say, "We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive." - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
When will all of the negativity stop being directed towards Superintendent Donald Smith? It seems that this man can't do anything without being chastised. All of the bickering about him reminds me of bickering on a national scene - Mitch McConnell attacking Barack Obama! No matter what he does it will never be good enough.
In every article that I've read, Miles and other board members are so passionate about their repugnance of Mr. Smith. The biggest complaint seems to be him not residing in the county, not his performance. Folks are assuming that he feels Marion County school system isn't good enough for his children. To be honest, if I were in his shoes I wouldn't subject my children to such an antagonistic environment. People need to realize that the words you speak have a strong influence on the children around you. Even when you think they're not paying attention, they are. When you speak in such an adverse way about Mr. Smith, your kids are more than likely to repeat it and just think of how his kids would feel if they come there and are subjected to such comments about their father! With all of the goings on, why would you expect him to throw his children into the lion's den? He is no different than any other father who cares for his children. You can say that the children wouldn't feel the backlash of the dislike of their father, but being a native of Lebanon, I know for certain how the folks down there operate, and it would be an injustice to those children's education to have them endure such treatment. It's funny to me that you don't hear any complaints of the teachers in Lebanon who reside in other counties and have children in other school districts. Who better influences your child's education, a teacher or a superintendent? For this reason I feel all of the pessimistic comments and behavior are being based off of the race of Mr. Smith.
I was born and raised there, and I left five years ago because of the cynical environment within the schools. I experienced lots of negativity as a child in school there. It saddened me to see that some 20 years later that my child was being subjected to the same things, and I refused to have her endure that treatment throughout her school years. I took my problems to Roger Marcum who was superintendent at the time, to no avail. I know I was not the only parent who had numerous run-ins with him, yet you never saw such an attack against him the way you are seeing against Mr. Smith. Do I feel like race plays a major role? I'll take YES for $1,000, Alex!
In an article published in the summer, I was appalled at the tone of the board members towards Mr. Smith as they ripped him apart. Any one with an ounce of common sense knows when you are being belittled, and that's what I feel they did to him. Is it also in his job description to be demoralized and not speak out against it? The issue of the test scores was an issue long before Mr. Smith took position. I must agree with Mr. Smith when he said, "Student achievement isn't just about test scores." People were complaining that he had no knowledge of his job. He attended conferences in other states to better enhance his knowledge and to no surprise he was ridiculed for that.
From my understanding, during Mr. Smith's first year as superintendent, he focused on the kids he felt were being left behind. Again many found a problem with that. Would common sense not say to start focusing on those kids to give them the encouragement to excel academically? Once you focus on those kids and get them to know they are just as capable of succeeding as the kids who come from a different socioeconomic status, then you will naturally see test scores improve. I know first-hand how it feels to have teachers who only focus on the kids of certain members of the community, and it doesn't make one want to go to school and give it your all only to have all of your efforts go unnoticed. How can you expect things to improve when you stick to the same things that you have for years? If it wasn't working then what makes you think it will work now? Stop being so reluctant to change people. It's no secret that African American children are left behind there unless they are an exceptional athlete. For years I sat back in school and watched the interactions of white teachers with white kids and I never felt that the teachers could relate to me. None of them knew how to relate to me as an African American child. I turned to my family for the encouragement I needed to excel in school. Now that these kids have someone who actually takes a sincere interest in them, it's like he is violating every rule in the book. You can keep saying it doesn't matter what race he is but it does matter to the majority of the people in the community and on the board. I wonder why for years you see special classes and clubs that contained not one African American child and you had a white superintendent and nothing was said, yet when a black superintendent takes office and groups different kids by certain criteria to pinpoint areas of improvement, the feathers of the school board members are now ruffled? I can't ever remember a superintendent causing such an uproar within the community.
It goes to show that Lebanon has a long way to go when it comes to race relations. Just like President Obama, Mr. Smith inherited the problems that were pre-existing within the school system under the previous reign. Would it make sense if he came in and did the same things as the previous superintendents, which clearly didn't prevail? Open your minds people and be realistic, because your tactics indeed reek of a 'hidden agenda' that Mr. Smith mentioned. Stop being so reluctant to change! In my opinion, the good ole boys thought they found their YES man, and once Mr. Smith got in there and started doing his job based off of his knowledge, education and experience instead of doing the job based on the tugging of the strings from the puppet masters a.k.a. the school board, that's when the problems emerged.
For those harping on Mr. Smith not respecting authority, please remember yet again that you are instilling this in your kids by constantly bashing Mr. Smith publicly in the presence of the youth in the community. Kids who do not respect authority have a hard time in life as adults, and to teach them that it's OK to do so is setting them up for failure later in life. Accept change and stop showing the citizens of Lebanon that bullying doesn't just exist in our schools.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."
I am encouraging every parent, especially African American parents, to use this as a stepping-stone to get up and become actively involved in the voting process of school board members. Your vote does matter. Until you make some noise and speak out, things will remain the same as they have for years in Lebanon. Every child regardless of color deserves every opportunity to succeed. These kids are our future leaders. They need you to be the voices that will pave the way to their future. Please hear me as I say the time is always right to do what is right-MLK.
Hats off to you, Mr. Smith, for not allowing your back to bend under the pressure that you have been subjected to, and for demanding the same respect as a human being that the board members are demanding from you. Words can't express the sorrow I feel that you were condemned from the day you chose to introduce change to such a narrow-minded community. I truly wish 10 Mr. Donald Smiths were around when I was in school. Please continue to keep the best interests of all of the children in the community at heart, regardless if they are black, white, purple, or green!
To the school board members, I say to you all, why waste time doing a midterm evaluation when your decisions and reactions are already premeditated. Stop insulting this man's intelligence. It's 2011, not 1911! Regardless of the number of degrees you have under your belt, the title you carry, or the number of commas in your bank account; ignorance breeds ignorance. Mr. Smith, you and your family are in my prayers as well as the closed-minded contenders that you are in the ring with.
Editor's note: Tiffany Adams is a native of Lebanon who now resides in Louisville.