'Worse than before'
When Chattanooga city schools were forced to desegregate in the late 1960s and early 1970s, one of the men at the head of the fight was James Mapp, who had several children in the schools at the time and was the plaintiff in the lawsuit that brought about court-mandated desegregation.
Prior to desegregation, Brainerd High School and Woodmore Elementary Schools were the shining stars among schools in the city, Brainerd's list of National Merit Semifinalists at the top of public schools charts annually and Woodmore's students tabbed the best and the brightest.
But Mapp, who like any parent wanted the best for his children, got what he and many others wanted. Schools by court order were desegregated. Forced busing transported children out of their neighborhoods and to schools across town. Whites left suburban neighborhoods in droves; blacks moved in to take their places. Private schools sprang up across the county.
Today, the city and county school systems are merged. Whites not in private schools, for the most part, attend schools in suburbs in the far western, northern and eastern parts of the county. Blacks, for the most part, attend schools within the city limits. A sort of voluntary resegregation has occurred.
And, among Hamilton County schools, despite federal and private money being poured into schools with at-risk populations, Brainerd High and Woodmore Elementary are among the lowest performing schools in the system.
Mapp, reached by Times Free Press reporters about the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Brown vs. Board of Education ruling, had this to say about the state of area schools: "The shame of it is that parts of Chattanooga are worse than it was before."
Sometimes, you have to be careful what you ask for.
Fortunately, more than 40 years after the desegregation of Chattanooga public schools, there are bright spots. White and black students who have the individual desire, the backing of parents and the involvement of quality school teachers and administrators still achieve.
Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences and Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts -- public magnet schools both -- strive for a balanced racial make-up, require academic rigor and mandate parent involvement. Several schools have programs that cater to individual interests.
Indeed, Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith said the system's accountability model is focused on offering "the best quality for every child regardless of where they are."
That's as it should be, but there's always room for improvement.
Division is all the rage in high school sports in Tennessee and Georgia, and that's kind of a shame.
Proposals are being tossed out around the two states' high school sports associations to split competition completely between public and private schools. Public schools would play public schools in individual league competition, and private schools would play private schools. Public and private schools actually could play each other, but the outcome always would be meaningless in determining eligibility and seeding for postseason playoffs.
To be sure, the playing field can never be level between certain public and private schools, and the states' associations have made efforts to deal with that over the years. But to cleave the two would prevent the occasional opportunity for a David to slay a Goliath (in a game that counts), might keep neighborhood rivals from meeting on the playing field (because some public schools would never play a private school again) and might forbid a team from ever learning its true strength (because separate postseason championships also would be instituted).
It's interesting that separate but equal turns out to be today's model for fairness.
Let's hear it for Ohio
With a little effort, a fundraising campaign by an Ohio fifth-grade class could serve as a model to make major and minor repairs on monuments -- Civil War and otherwise -- across the country.
Derek Hinkle's 25-student Reynoldsburg, Ohio, class concluded its $5,000 campaign to repair the statue of a drummer boy and correct water damage on the Ohio Monument on Missionary Ridge by attending a ceremony at the site on a cold and rainy day on Saturday.
Few people can afford to shell out big bucks for the repairs on monuments, but many might be willing to contribute smaller amounts and pool the money for the restoration of individual monuments that mean something to them or their families.
Such an effort might also attract the interest of foundations and, indeed, of larger givers who previously might not have been aware of such an effort.
Whether or not they lead to more monument-al activism, the actions of one Ohio teacher and his students -- who reportedly received an education across the curriculum in preparation for attending the soggy ceremony -- are to be highly commended.