Byron Merritt

07/07/2014 All Public Comments

[00:10:15] Byron Merritt (President SW DeKalb High School PTSA)

This representative group of SW DeKalb High School parents have gathered here this evening to obtain justice for teachers who have been reassigned for speaking out about problems at SW DeKalb High School. To ask Mr Thurmond to reinstate the 5 teachers that have been reassigned away from SW DeKalb by the Area Superintendent by what looks to us as retaliation because they raised the serious concerns about how SW DeKalb High School was being run.

In September of 2013, 25 SW DeKalb High School teachers attended the PTSA general meeting and gave us a document listing 15 issues affecting the running of the school and impeding their ability to teach effectively. The document also included specific examples of the problems and made recommendations that would bring positive resolution to the matter.

We have 88 9th grade students coming to SW DeKalb HS on waivers this August. We have 80 9th grade and 10th grade students not reading on grade level. Our graduation rate has dropped to 7th from the bottom in the county. The very teacher who has run our Summer Bridge program and 9th grade academy to help these struggling new students to get up to speed has been reassigned further impeding these student’s progress and guaranteeing the graduation rates will continue to decline.

It is imperative that our children have role models in front of them that reflect character, critical thinking, principled action, and the courage to act even when it puts one’s job on the line. These are precisely the teachers we want and need in our school. This is the critical behavior that has been instrumental in our freedom struggle in this country since the first slave ship landed in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619.

We celebrate Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer and Dr. King. Yet, when a contemporary Harriet Tubman or Fannie Lou Hamer stands in our midst, we strike her down. Have we forgotten the bloody past that took to get us here. If ever there was a time we need women and men of courage and strength and integrity, it is now.

These are the model teachers we want standing in our school. We can run a school system of scared and intimidated teachers who are forced to go along to get along and we will lose the hallowed American democracy in one generation. Black people will find themselves back in the hostile segregated South and wonder how we got here. Very simple, we failed to protect the courageous ones God has placed in our midst.

SW DeKalb has been the crown jewel of education in South DeKalb. We have been awaken from our slumber and we accept responsibility for the performance of our school. We know the teachers we need and want in our school. Respect our judgment as God fearing and spirit led women and men. Reinstate our teachers. Do not retaliate. Give us a chance to rebuild SW DeKalb and restore it to its former glory.

[applause from the crowd]