To the District 200 Board of Education:

Please read this series of events as you are in the midst of preparing to interview for a new superintendent. This timeline will help you create scenarios as you interview the superintendent candidates. It is important that you get a good feel/understanding how viable this person will be to all Oak Parkers.

Under Supt. Susan Bridge, many African-American teachers and administrators have left OPRF, possibly for personal reasons, but nonetheless they are no longer present in the building. We do not have enough African-American teachers/administrators and when they leave, they are not replaced. This creates a void for students of color.

If OPRF is to seriously address the achievement gap, then having a critical mass of African-American faculty and staff is needed. OPRF needs to create ways to attract African-American talent to the school and also needs to work to retain this faculty and staff.

Music instructor Scotty Jones has left. In a June 2004 Wednesday Journal article, Dean Kevin Washington related that he was suspended with pay after a dispute in May of the same year with Supt. Bridge regarding his involvement with a mentoring program. At the end of the last school year, Bridge wanted to reclassify to teacher, Donna Stevens, assistant superintendent for pupil support services. Stevens later resigned.

Under Dr. Bridge, John Belser (English teacher), Rasheda Graham (English teacher), and Mr. Glenn (Special Ed) also left. I read and listen to the facts reported in the papers and in the community. There is some question as to whether these persons were wrongfully let go, questions as to whether they were eliminated because of their ethnic background, questions whether working conditions were not conducive to their success at OPRF.

Whatever the questions, I know we will never know all the answers. However, we are in desperate need of committed and dedicated African-American role models for our students. When we see administrators and teachers let go without replacement and without seeming cause, these actions lead to much consternation in the community.

Dr. Bridge made promises regarding closing the achievement gap at APPLE meetings before the last District 200 referendum. She wanted us to work hard to pass the referendum and people believed in her promises. She wanted us to believe that a difference was going to be made. But I have sat at APPLE meetings for several years, as I have had three children graduate from OPRF. I was against the referendum because I did not believe in her promises anymore. After the referendum passed, Dr. Bridge did not keep her promises. I wanted to tell some people “I told you so.” If Dr. Bridge had kept at least one of her promises, we would have made much more progress with the achievement gap.

As we look at a new period, a new beginning for OPRF, as we get a new superintendent, please do more than just give lip service to solving the achievement gap. When Board President Barry Greenwald, at a Citizens Council meeting, suggested that it would take 20 years to address the achievement gap, I was appalled.

Please hire a superintendent who comes with a commitment and a track record for dealing with achievement concerns. Please bring someone who understands that it is important to have a faculty that represents the ethnic makeup of the student body. We need someone who will bring an African-American presence to the faculty. Please bring someone to OPRF who has a “can do” attitude about solving these tough academic issues as opposed to a “20-year, let’s cross our fingers” approach.

As for the last days under Dr. Bridge, please do not eliminate any more staff just because of ethnicity. Please work to create a staff that includes a representative number of committed African-American faculty.

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