Ty’Sheoma’s School Gets New Furniture and a New Coat of Paint, But What The School Really Needs is to Be Bulldozed and Rebuilt

Ty'Sheoma Bethea with First Lady Michelle Obama (Courtesy: egadams63)

Ty'Sheoma Bethea with First Lady Michelle Obama (Courtesy: egadams63)

Remember Ty’Sheoma Bethea, and her letter to President Obama about the sorry state of her over-100-year-old Dillon, South Carolina junior high? And how cheapskate (and racist) Governor Sanford refused stimulus funds from the Obama Administration?

The latest:

[…] Darryl Rosser, the president of an Oak Brook school furniture company — is stepping up to help, donating $250,000 worth of desks, tables and chairs to replace the 40-year-old hand-me-down furniture that fills the drafty, leaky classrooms at J.V. Martin Junior High School in Dillon, S.C.

“This is one that really grabs your heart, when you see the situation,” said Rosser, chief executive of Sagus International, who visited the school after watching the president’s speech. “I’ve never seen anything that bad. A lot of schools are struggling, but I think this was the worst I had ever seen in terms of the age of the furniture and the mis-sizing of the furniture for the kids.”

Workmen also slapped a new coat of paint in the cafeteria, and added a quote in gold lettering from one of President Obama’s speeches. However, Rosser, who was given a standing ovation flanked by state schools chief Jim Rex, U.S. Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., Rep. Jackie Hayes, D-Dillon, and Sen. Kent Williams, D-Marion, also stated the obvious:

“At the end of the day, they still desperately need a new school,” said Rosser, noting that his company is donating the furniture despite its own economic struggles and a recent round of layoffs. “I don’t want anyone to think that our donation solves that problem. All we’ve done is to make the situation a bit more palatable until they get a new school.”

Moreover:

“In one sense, it makes me sad because I feel like this is something that our state should be doing for our children,” said Amanda Burnette, J.V. Martin’s principal. “Private money shouldn’t have to be used to fund public education.”

Really. This makes me think of the days of Booker T. Washington imploring white industrialists like Carnegie and Rockefeller to give to Tuskegee. Why indeed should public schools appeal to private industry? In a sense, it becomes the same old paternalism. Free public schools actually are for children to grown into responsibility and citizenship. They are for a free people.

Refusing stimulus money is like cutting off the nose to spite the face. A lot of school districts need it, and not only in South Carolina. Yet, South Carolina is notorious because it has hardly stirred itself to help even poor white towns to upgrade their schools. The less educated the citizens, black and white, the more quiescent and backward their workforce, the more paternalistic the system. The stimulus money would begin to upset the entrenched balance of power in South Carolina.

Mark Sanford is presently getting write-ups from Newsweek to boost his image towards attaining the presidency one of these days. According to The State he wept crocodile tears when asked about his obstinacy regarding the stimulus money, referring to the ‘silent majority’ (meaning the minority who remain resistant to change) who urge him to stand firm. He may indeed have been weeping for himself, as he is growing increasingly isolated from even Republicans. The more Sanford dithers, the more unpopular he becomes.

Back at J.V. Martin, the students are happy, pleased, but not completely satisfied. Extreme Makeover, this isn’t.

Band teacher Kevin McLellan, a former J.V. Martin student, said he’s been asking for new seats for years. The new ergonomic chairs will improve students’ posture and sound, he said.

After three classes using the new furniture, eighth-grader Darby Hamer said her back felt better than usual, and the new desktops offered more room for books.

“And these don’t squeak,” said the 14-year-old.

The student who brought the attention to J.V. Martin said the correctly-sized furniture will help students focus.

“Even though our dream is not yet completed … We now have a better school. We now feel better about our school,” Ty’Sheoma Bethea said. “We are not quitters,” she added, mimicking the words in her letter, “and we are not through.”

~ by blksista on May 5, 2009.

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