Cincinnati school war stirs passions

Monday, May 4, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Be careful when you open your voice mail. Somebody may want to flunk you for trying to end the war between the NAACP and Cincinnati Public Schools.

"You whites always like to tell us blacks what to do. Get lost." -- James Everett, Walnut Hills.

"Hey moron, why do you always side with minorities?" -- A.C. Riddley, West Chester.

"I've been wondering if this whole thing boiled down to putting somebody's favorite candidate into the superintendent's office. Now I know." -- Jeter Phipps, Mount Washington.

Those readers were responding to Friday's column about the NAACP's attempt to reopen the 24-year-old Bronson vs. Board of Education case.

The column noted that the NAACP had the right goal in mind, that of improving academic performance. But the civil rights organization was using the wrong tool. Bronson was about desegregation, not grades.

Instead of going to court, I suggested the two sides join forces. The NAACP's members should ask what they can do to improve schools and the board should put them to work.

"Your solution makes too much sense. The lawyers and the egos involved will never let it happen." -- George Burnside, Covedale. "I have no problem with the NAACP revisiting the Bronson case. Many of the same things that appeared when I was in high school in 1968 are beginning to crop up again." -- Juanita Glover, Avondale. "So, they're reopening Bronson? Nothing ever changes. No wonder so many people have moved out of Cincinnati." -- Ward Childress, Fairfield.

"I'm sick of hearing it's the school board's fault when somebody's kid fails a proficiency test. They should look deeper for the real reason." -- Gil Volker, Sycamore Township.

"Want to know the biggest problem with Cincinnati Public Schools?" asked Jane Barton of Hyde Park. "Parents who don't care."

Summit odyssey

Caring parents are one reason seven Summit Elementary School students won the right to go to the Odyssey of the Mind Association's World Finals, dedicated to problem solving and creative thinking, later this month at Walt Disney World.

Parents at the Anderson Township school approached me about helping them raise the money to send the team and all 14 parents to the finals. The cost, $17,234, and the number of parents asking for a free trip, seemed excessive.

And I said so last week in a column. While applauding the students for their hard work and prize-winning entry, I suggested the list of paid adult trips be limited to the team's three parent-coaches. Thirty-two readers had their own suggestions:

"Stuff it, creep." -- Crystal Myer, Mount Washington.

"Drop dead." -- Gina Thomas, Mount Carmel.

"Shame on you. You trashed our school, our community, our students." -- J.L. Newman, Anderson Township.

"Take a bow. You got it right. Kids shouldn't pay. Parents should." -- Gilbert Haas, Lawrenceburg.

"What were those parents thinking?" Glenn Gregson, Clifton. "Look at it this way: If this would have been a basketball team, the school would have paid for it and nobody would have said a thing." -- Emma Harris, Mount Airy.

Since the Summit column appeared, three more area schools qualified for the Odyssey finals. The schools are: Central Elementary in Lawrenceburg, New Haven Elementary in Union and Beechwood Schools in Fort Mitchell with two teams.

"We've had at least one team go to the Worlds every year since 1990," said Cheryl Scharf, Beechwood's Odyssey coordinator. She credits the school's Odyssey boosters association for paying the students' way to Disney World. The boosters raised money with candy sales, a dress-rehearsal dinner and a silent auction. They usually start raising money when school begins in September. "But this summer, we'll have an ice cream social," Mrs. Scharf said.

"You can never start too early when raising money for a school."

Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.