Our Times editor identifies serious problems in school

        Anyone who has the privilege of being personally acquainted with Sondra Matthews, the editor of Our Times newspaper, knows her to be a quiet, modest, unassuming person with a quick wit and a sharp mind. Had she been on hand in the days of Moses, and women afforded equal status to men, she might have been considered a prophet or a Magi.

        Instead, she is here with us, sharing her personal observations from a modest home on South Evans Avenue. With her nephew, De Marco Hampton, she almost single-handedly produces a biweekly newspaper that serves the African-American community in Evansville.

        As with most writers who toil in relative obscurity, known to but a very few in their immediate vicinity, hundreds upon thousands of words may be written without raising so much as an eyebrow among their resident audience. But then, there is the exception: that one phrase, paragraph or editorial that strikes to the core of a given situation.

        Such occurred last week in the pages of Our Times in an editorial headlined, A Yeager appointment to superintendent would dash hopes of change.

        In eight well-reasoned paragraphs, Matthews writes with purpose, candor and bearing, revealing the unspoken truths surrounding the School Boards superintendent selection process, which has been shrouded in secrecy and mystery away from the public domain. Lets keep it real, she urges.

        She recalls a bit of the recent tortured past of the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corp., reminding readers of the actions of former Superintendent Bart McCandless and how we got in this mess in the first place to wit, Yes, the $70 million school referendum, rainy day slush funds, thumbing (his) nose at CAJE (Congregations Allied for Justice and Equality), over-bonding of the career-tech center and the uneven bidding process of employees health care plan all hurt, but certainly Yeager had a major role in all of these failed issues.

        Then there was the segregated meeting with black students at Bosse High School and the later meeting with the black ministers the coup de grace.

        Returning to her main premise: But still, it was (interim superintendent Bob) Yeager, more than any other school board member or deputy superintendent, who kept McCandless ear and confidence. Lets continue to keep it real.

        Again, raising the unspoken suspicions of many local observers who do have the guts to challenge the powers that be in this community, she wonders how it was that retired administrators Patrick Henry and James Sharp from the ole boy regime the two who saddled us with both Phillip Schoffstall and Bart McCandless could be tapped once again to spearhead the candidate review process? Why? she asks. Good question.

        Adjusting her aim in the direction of the local NAACP president, the Reverend Gerald Arnold, she wonders why the organization went so far as to show its hand early, awarding Yeager with a diversity plaque when, prior to becoming interim superintendent, Yeager hardly spoke to black citizens who weren't teachers and in attendance at school board meetings.

        Mentioning the recent appointment of Bobby Tinner as the EVSC multicultural coordinator favored by Arnold, she also found it odd that the organization gave Yeager a platform at its February monthly meeting (an appearance looking very much like a candidate running for elective office), at a time when the Reverend Arnold is a member of the citizens advisory committee participating in the selection process with school board members. The representation reflects big business, big labor and big education; i.e., white males interests and control.

        Championing the cause of finalist candidate Dr. Yvonne Bullock, a black woman who is currently director of teaching and learning in Hazel Crest, Ill., our learned lady describes an ugly, unvarnished truth about the submerged racism that endures in our community:

        If she were to be appointed superintendent of this city-county corporation, it would be the hardest job she ever experienced in her life. Evansville is not a city that takes easily to blacks having any authority or control.

        With each word, phrase and paragraph, one senses a grave concern for the pathos Matthews witnesses in her community on a daily basis. She hears the stories, knows the families and functions as a witness to the darkest side of poverty and racial inequality which many of us are simply incapable of acknowledging.

        She realizes that a quality education is the only hope some children have to escape the bondage of living in the underclass. But to her, it remains a daily reality which fosters anger, contempt, drug abuse and violence for some and, for others, an air of inevitability and resignation.

        In her final passages, she appeals to the better angels of the character of School Board members and pleads with them that, if they do not appoint Bullock, We, too, recommend reopening the recruiting process using a reconstituted, more representative advisory panel.

        Amen, dear sister, there are many throughout the county who are in total agreement.

David Coker is a resident of Evansville.