Policymakers, educators and parents filled the African American Research Library and Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale Monday, Oct. 28 to advocate for education.
The town hall meeting themed “Lessons from the Past,” dissected the quality of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which is the main law for K-12 public education in the United States. Known as ESSA, this law holds schools accountable for how students learn and achieve, while also providing an equal opportunity for students who get special education services.
The ESSA replaced the No Child Left Behind Act during Barack Obama’s presidency in 2015. Before the forum commenced, Elizabeth Primas, ESSA project coordinator, explored what this law means to the Black community.
“Education begins at home with parents, and with the ESSA law has said is, we can’t let go of our children when they enter school. We have to continue to be the stronghold for them,” said Primas. “We can’t just turn them over at the school house door. We have to walk in and demand that they have high-quality teachers, that they have good curriculum, that they have resources. Equitably does not mean equally.”
Moderator Dorsey C. Miller questioned the panelists about whether lessons from the past could be a blueprint for a more productive future in education.
Throughout the night, panelists were able to share insight on their past and how it made them who they are today.
Featured panelists included: Robert W. Runice, superintendent Broward County Public Schools; Florida Sen. Perry E. Thurston Jr.; Brenda Snipes, retired educator and former Broward County Supervisor of Elections; Gregory Tony, Broward County Sheriff; Eugene K. Pettis, attorney and co-founder of Haliczer; Gordon Weekes, chief assistant public defender; Valerie Smith Wanza, chief school performance and accountability officer, Broward County Public Schools; and Daniel Gohl, chief academic officer; Broward County Public Schools.
“One of the things that’s missing is, despite what was going around us here in Fort Lauderdale, when I grew up starting in 1960s, there was a network of support going around every child,” said Pettis.
This town hall meeting highlighted the parts of ESSA that have the greatest potential to impact students and provide tools for meaningful conversations concerning children’s education.
Immediately following the forum, there was a Q & A with the audience, which allowed concerned teachers, parents, and 13-year-old Samara Rawls to voice her opinion on what the future holds for the education system in Broward County.
The event was in partnership with the National Newspaper Publishers Association NNPA and the Westside Gazette newspaper.