When I heard that Dr. Art McCoy was suspended from his position as the superintendent of the Ferguson-Florissant School District I did not know what to make of it. I had known Art as a teenager: but was unfamiliar with his work as an educator. I know that Florissant, like the rest of North St. Louis County is in a period of great transition. North County was built and grew as blue-collar industrial suburbs and our national economy has changed and factories have closed. TWA is gone, Ford is gone, the GM parts plant is gone, Lambert Airport is nowhere near what it used to be, and McDonnell-Douglas has long since sold to Boeing costing the district tens of thousands of taxpayers ( the district logo is the old company logo) . There has also been a massive white-flight out of the district towards St. Charles and Lincoln Counties which has caused property-values to decline. Indeed Florissant and other parts of the district were hit very hard by the sub-prime meltdown. Harder than anywhere else in the state of Missouri. Kinloch now looks like a ghost-town, Robertson no longer exists, and parts of Ferguson and Cool Valley are downright ghetto.
I believe the district does has some issues. Like many schools with a large population of kids from broken homes you will be dealing with fighting, drugs, gang-activity and behavior problems. But that’s nothing new. I went to McCluer North 20 years ago and participated in all four. Those are cultural and spiritual issues that can’t be solved in the classroom or by any educator. To lay the blame on any one person is unfair.
What is clear to me is the divide over Dr. Art McCoy is all about race. Everyone I heard speaking against him was white. Yet they didn’t say much. Art has clearly pissed a lot of white people off but why? The black attendees spoke at length about their support of Art. Why the secrecy from his detractors? Not trying to be funny. I really wanna know. Did he have Farrakhan Day? Substitute pumpkin pie for sweet potato pie? Or is it the whole Normandy and Riverview schools issue?
Again we come back to race. Florissant integrated slow and unenthusiastically. The courts merged the white Ferguson-Florissant schools in the 1970’s with the African-American districts of Kinloch and Robertson. Berkeley soon became majority African-American afterwards. Ferguson began integrating first with apartment-complexes like Wyndhurst in the late seventies. Florissant held off the longest.
White Florissant officers were ordered to harass black motorists for years . A former drunken chief once confronted a black man at a party and yelled “get this in your head Florissant is not an integrated city”. My sister once managed a local eatery as a teenager where she was told to put the forms of black applicants into the “do not hire” drawer. In the 1980’s McCluer North football star Dan McKeon was killed in a racial-fight at a house party by a black kid from Kinloch. I personally witnessed numerous racial fights attending Desmet Elementary, Parker Road Elementary, Cross Keys Middle School, and McCluer North. While there were cross-racial friendships and dating for the most part the schools were divided based on race.
The classic liberal logic is integration creates friendship and understanding. I’m not so sure. Most of the white kids I went to school have said they don’t want their kids going to the same kind of schools they went to and moved out to St. Charles, Lincoln, and other counties.The numbers speak for themselves. The white student population of McCluer North for example has dropped by almost two-thirds since I was a student.
I am not saying all of the problems are on white people and black students are blameless. I am saying that racial issues that go unspoken about and lead to private actions with public consequences can never be good. For sure there are real issues: but deal with them in a public manor.
I am not a pessimist. Normandy held a big meeting last year about the problems in their schools. Almost nobody showed up. 1500 people showed up last night at the school board meeting! Several-hundred students in the narcissistic Nikki Minaj Instagram era protested yesterday in support of Dr. Art McCoy! That is the sign of a healthy community that cares about education. The crowd represented the new flavor of the district. Hard-working black families. If they show up to vote this change will be reflected at the school board and other elected bodies.
The district has a great future. Not all whites are leaving. Look at what is going on on Florissant Road in Ferguson. Restaurants, coffee shops, a micro-brewery, a farmers market and what is developing into a North County version of the Delmar Loop. Not all white Florissant residents are mesmerized by what is going on west of the Missouri River either. Families are maintaining neighborhoods like Old Town Florissant and local businesses like Old Town Donuts, Fritz’s, BJ’s, Cugino’s, and Mattinglys are still thriving.
In addition to that the district is becoming home to a lot of Arab, West African and Latino immigrants. The 1950’s aren’t coming back: but if everyone works together the next decades can be the brightest for the district. However, for this to happen, a transparent board that can deal with the changing demographics is needed and what I saw last night from the board is far from transparency. Fighting hard to hold on to yesterday will not create a better tomorrow.
Having a hard problem posting these videos for some reason but you can view of Redditt Hudson, Chuck Henson and school board member Robert Chabot at my Youtube Channel