When we initially formed the Peoria Association Of Pastors as we have become known, we identified 3 primary areas of concern that we would focus on and bring attention to. Aside from spiritual renewal, as we believe the only hope for any and every community is Christ and acceptance of his Lordship in the lives of individuals who make up the community, the areas of concern were 1) crime and violence 2) quality of life/social justice issues and 3) education and its impact on our children, family and community.
The education system itself is not perfect. It is changing to accommodate the needs of the community. Needless to say that in every corporation there is room for improvement, enhancement and further development. There is no corporation, no matter how profitable, affluent or large that does not need to be improved in some way, shape or manner. Peoria School District 150 is no different and the Corporation of the City of Peoria is in the same boat...needs IMPROVEMENT!
With that said however, I can personally point to the areas in which Peoria School District 150 under the leadership of Dr. Grenita Lathan, has done an excellent job in many areas that have gone unheralded by the media and totally overlooked by Peoria Mayor Ardis in his state of the City address. Here is the link to the Mayoral address:
State Of The City Address
State Of The City Address
In it you will note that the Mayor blames the lack of attractiveness of the City on the School District. He states that the District is going in the "wrong direction" and that it is a "pig" which lipstick can't make look any better. At the same time, the Mayor introduced that people are leaving the City because of the negative "perception" of the District, a "negativity" which the Mayor certainly fuels by his statements. I would like to know a few things however. Since the Mayor likes to play word games as well then:
1) Who Is "The District"
As the attached clip shows, when I challenged the Mayor on his statements, the Mayor said:
"Nowhere in my address did I place blame on educators, children or their families for problems in our educational system"
Yet he says he stands by his commentary that "The District" is going the "wrong direction". I think it is pretty clear, but since he didn't say who he blames specifically, the question is "who is The District"? If "The District" is not its teachers, children nor their families, then who is "The District"? The District is not the School Board, neither is the District solely Administrators...so who is "The District"? Since they are going in the wrong direction and the City is worse off because of them, who is "The District"?
As any reasonable person can see, "The District" INCLUDES ALL of its components. Its TEACHERS, STUDENTS, ADMINISTRATORS (whom the Mayor did not include in his exclusion) CHILDREN and of course the families. His attempts to cover what he is saying and redirect blame are simply attempts to OBFUSCATE the truth.
According to Dictionary.com, the word Obfuscate is defined in the following manner:
1- to confuse, bewilder, or stupefy.
2-to make obscure or unclear: to obfuscate a problem with extraneous information.
The Mayor does all three of these things with his statements of course quite on purpose.
2) What Is The "Wrong Direction" That The District Is Going?
We all know that Mayor Ardis wants a leveraged takeover of District 150. He wants a system similar to Chicago, in which he has power of appointment of both Board members and the Superintendent...Believe me, that would be a tragedy!!!! Not simply because Ardis is Mayor (his person has little to nothing to do with it) Simply by concept of allowing the office of the Mayor to rule would be horrible, no matter who's in office in Peoria. Why, because as we have seen with other efforts, LARGE segments of our community would go without representation and would be under-served even worse than we already are...In addition, a school is a business, but does not run like a traditional business...Children are NOT clients and their families are not customers...
3) Since The Economic Blight & Devastation Of The Black Community In Peoria Can't Possibly Be Laid At The Feet Of School District 150, How Can The Mayor Or The City Claim That They Are Going In The "Right Direction"?
Many folk do not really understand. The 61605 zip code, by virtually every statistic that one can pull together, is one of the most economically devastated zip codes in the COUNTRY considering size and population demographic.
There is nearly 50% poverty and nearly 30% unemployment in that zip code alone. services include more retail liquor establishments most of which are not owned by residents in and of the area, but by foreign nationals and those who for 14 years, according to law, pay no taxes on personal income and many of whom turn over their business after such time, to other family members who also enjoy the tax breaks.
Where are the City's ideas to help the poor Black and minority inhabitants of these neighborhoods? Don't simply blame it on the Council Person. She has just got here and she is doing a great job. Don't blame it on the last Councilman either in totality...Peoria, was supposed to be a City of ALL the people.
So is the "right direction" the exclusion of the average Black family and or the poor and minority? Is that the path that we all should be so eager to follow?
Mr. Mayor and those who support his statements...I think NOT!
I place the local CBS News story and my response to the Mayor's statements in the following or remainder of this article. As they say, read his statements, my response and you decide.
CBS 31 News Story
My Written Response To The Mayor's Assertions (full version)