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What will your legacy be?

Photo courtesy of Lifetouch Photography

Roland Martin, nationally award-winning journalist and television host, challenged National Black Council of School Board Members Luncheon attendees on Sunday to become "radical revolutionaries" in the battle to improve public education.

Citing a direct link between income inequality and education inequality, and between education and economic opportunities, Martin stated that we have to deal with uncomfortable truths, rather than pretending that all would be well if we had full funding, or top-notch teachers, or perfect administrators.

As board members, we need to deal with some uncomfortable truths by asking parents if they are willing to invest in their own children before they ask us how we are fixing the system. We also need to admit that not everyone in education belongs there, just as is true with every other profession. Moreover, Martin pointed out that not every board member is equipped to deal with the future of our students and schools.

Martin said that many states have a majority-minority population in their school systems that "requires a different view of this idea of how we are going to approach public education." At the same time, technology has become the norm for American students. Martin pointed out that as he was live-streaming his talk on the Internet, audience members were tweeting, sharing photographs, and posting what he had to say via their smartphones. "If all this is the case, why do we want an education system that harkens back to the 1800s?"

Referencing declining enrollment in some school systems, Martin questioned the wisdom of battling to keep neighborhood schools open. "Schools are a reflection of the neighborhood, when the neighborhood is failing, so are the schools." Board members have to be honest about what they are confronting, which is often a matter of convenience for parents rather than what is in the best interest of students. Rather than a community being wedded to a building, they should be wedded to the idea that their children are in the best place to be educated. He said, "It might put your re-election in jeopardy but I would must rather you go down fighting the right fight."

Martin challenged board members to consider their legacy, asking them if 30 years from now, their names be cursed or blessed; that they went along to get along or that they were a radical revolutionaries who demanded accountability, and enabled 21st century education to be ushered into the classroom. Board members were reminded that the actions they take today will have an impact on school systems in the future.

Also at the luncheon, new council officers were announced, and past officers were thanked for their service. 

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