Gainesville residents lament inequity at Alachua County schools

Chanae Jackson-Baker is speaking to a crowd of about 70 people at the Hippodrome Theatre on Monday evening about the inequity in Alachua County schools. 

No matter how hard Chanae Jackson-Baker tries, she cannot connect with her children’s teachers in the Alachua County Public Schools.

The education activist and mother of four told an audience of about 70 at the Hippodrome Theatre Monday night how black parents in the school district don’t have enough power but are blamed for the education system’s shortcomings.

Jackson-Baker said she’s the mom who jumps at the opportunity to volunteer with school events and attend meetings.

But her emails to teachers went unanswered. Her phone calls to schedule meetings never panned out. She said teachers wouldn’t work with her to settle on a time.

“I learned many other parents that look like me look at this the exact same way,” she said.

Jackson-Baker and five other speakers shared their thoughts on education in Alachua County during the third event of "Voices of Gainesville: Facing the Facts, Sharing the Stories” series, which was in response to a 98-page UF report on racial disparities in Alachua County. Previous speaking topics focused on housing and transportation and criminal justice.   

Audience members nodded their heads in agreement as Jackson-Baker spoke about her experience as an African American mom in Gainesville.

Less than 67 percent of black students in Alachua County graduate from high school compared to 85 percent of white students who graduate, according to the report.  

“The district tries to act like black parents don’t care about our children,” Jackson-Baker said. “It’s always us and them between teachers”

The United Church of Gainesville Racial Justice Committee, Hippodrome Theatre, NAACP and Self Narrate hosted the storytelling series to put a face and voice to the statistics, said Brandon Telg, the executive director of Self Narrate.

“When we know about it, we can do something about it,” Telg said.

Caleb Goston, a 16-year-old Gainesville High School student, was born and raised in east Gainesville. He was the second speaker of the night and the only student.

He furrowed his brows in concentration as he spoke about how teachers need to go out of their ways to help students who need it.

Teachers should offer life advice and textbook knowledge, but few focus on students’ lives outside of school, Goston said.

He feels that many students fear of the day one angry child steps on campus with a firearm, but school administration doesn’t see to care, he said. The students feel always on edge.

“It’s a generation of anxiety,” he said.

Contact McKenna Beery at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @mckennabeery