One quote probably sums up this month’s cover story about poor minority test scores at Woodrow Wilson High School:

“Somewhere down the track,” says Woodrow teacher and neighborhood mother Ruth Pendergrass, “you have to have someone, whether it is a parent, an older brother or sister, a church member, a neighbor. Someone has to push you. There has to be expectations from someone.”

There are all kinds of theories about why kids of certain races aren’t doing well at Woodrow, or in the Dallas Public Schools as a whole, for that matter.

Racist teachers or administrators. White flight. Not enough black school board members in positions of authority. Too much violence in the streets. Not enough funding. Too much television.

But I think it all comes down to attention. And some of our neighborhood kids simply don’t get enough attention from people who count with them.

After all, it’s not much fun being successful if no one else seems to care. Good grades don’t really mean that much to students unless a parent or someone close to them shows an interest in their success.

And if no one takes an interest, another student winds up on the slag heap of educational refuse, a pile that the gang members and low-lifes of the world seem so adept at reclaiming.

So what, you are probably asking, does this have to do with you or me?

“My child doesn’t go to Woodrow,” you might be saying. Or you might be saying, “I don’t even have a kid, so why should I care what’s going on down there?”

If only life were that clear-cut.

That old phrase “what goes around, comes around” seems appropriate here, for the kids that drops out of high school today may be the kid that ransacks your house or assaults your neighbor tomorrow.

And that’s equally true whether you are living in our neighborhood or in the supposed nirvana of Plano – troubled youth seem to have no trouble getting around these days.

To me, there’s something morally wrong about leaving a kids hanging out to dry in a system that we all know – certainly after reading this month’s cover story – can’t do the job by itself.

And once you know about a problem, can you honestly turn your back on it?

Members of the East Dallas Chamber of Commerce haven’t – they’ve started a mentoring program at Gaston Middle School, and more than 20 neighborhood business people became involved the first year. See our story on page 28.

Members of the East Dallas YMCA and Park Cities Rotary Club haven’t – they’re teaming to offer counseling and mentoring to Woodrow students.

Members of the Lakewood Early Childhood PTA haven’t – they sponsor an annual home tour that benefits Lakewood Elementary, which feeds students into J.L. Long Middle School and later, Woodrow. We’ll be sponsoring their home tour in November.

I don’t think anyone who has lived in Dallas very long can look anyone in the eye and say: “Don’t worry, the Dallas School Board will take care of this problem.”

So if we know the school board can’t or won’t step up, who does that leave to make a difference?

At the bottom of this page, you’re looking at one of those people. And the next time you look in a mirror, you’re looking at another.


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