TIMELINE:Death of A Community School

This article originally published in West Orlando News Online.

During the community meeting held August 2, 2012, at the J. R. Smith Center, Mr. Marcus Robinson presented a timeline. This timeline chronicles the events, beginning in April 6, 1962, that outlined how the Orange County School Board was able to close Richmond Heights Elementary School.

Richmond Heights Elementary School is one of several schools in District 5 that School Board Member Kat Gordon voted to close. Kat Gordon, represents District 5, and was the only school board member that offered to close schools in their own area to save money for Orange County. None of the other school board members were willing to sacrifice the schools in their districts. Kathleen Gordon was willing to put the parents of District 5 into a situation which makes it tougher for their children to receive an education. These students would have future distances to walk or ride the bus to school. This means that they would start the day in a more disadvantaged situation.

The timeline starts in 1962 when eight Black families sue Orange County Schools in the U.S. District Court because the quality of education in Black schools was not equal to the quality of education in non-Black schools. The time line ends when the school board, through a series of maneuvers and ploys, illegally voted to close Richmond Heights Elementary School.

 One entrant of the time line states that in 2010, Orange County Public School declared unitary status. This assertion claims that all schools in Orange County are equal in racial make up and in technology and equipment. This assertion is not true now, nor has it ever been. Orange County has never obtained unitary status according to the government’s definition and standards. Kat Gordon and the Orange County NAACP did not object to this assertion and even assisted the Orange County School Board in illegally closing predominately Black schools. The District Judge that heard the case all but called the lawyer for the Plaintiffs incompetent. This lawyer’s incompetence did not stop the judge from signing the document releasing OCSB from being held accountable in its dealing with the schools of District 5.

You can hear Marcus Robinson explaining the time line here: http://youtu.be/gf_pQoL9tBI

There are several agreements made between the Orange County School Board, the residents of Orange County, and the Orange County NAACP. Some were ignored or even misrepresented while the Orange County NAACP and Kat Gordon said nothing, thereby failing the residents of District 5. In 2002 the tax paying residents were assured that certain schools, including Richmond Heights Elementary, would be rebuilt or remodeled. The OCSB broke that promise. In 2011 the Orange County NAACP, The NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Orange County School Board, entered into what is known as the Settlement Agreement. The OCSB broke that agreement while Kat Gordon and the Orange County NAACP completely ignored the regulations.

 The time line chronicles the efforts that the school board and Kat Gordon used to close most of the schools in District 5. They falsely manufactured arguments of low enrollment as a reason to close the school. Jones High has an enrollment that is less than 50% of its capacity. If the school board and Kat Gordon are successful in closing Richmond Heights Elementary School, will Jones High School be the next one to close?

 Lawrence A. Robinson

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