Wednesday, May 20, 2009

We need more Carla Rangers!

I recently met Carla Ranger, a Dallas school board member, at a function held at the African-American museum for the annual Children's Book Fair. I introduced myself and briefly told her what I do with kids and teenagers. Though we were whispering off to the side while the event was going on, I sensed there was something I really liked. She immediately invited me to connect with her so that she, in turn, could connect me more intimately with the community college district and I let her know I would email her.

After that meeting, I began hearing, noticing, and paying more attention to Carla Ranger. I noticed she was sometimes the lone person speaking out against some of the DISD board practices. She was standing up for the children. She was fighting back...even when it wasn't the easy or acceptable response.

I then ran into her again at an Education and Advocacy meeting. It was a Friday evening. She there to attend...not to assert herself or defensively point out various school practices (which has seemed to happen from some of the board members or DISD administrators I know). She was there to listen and hear the parents and community members talk. Though she was willing to speak when pushed by people who obviously respected her tremendously, it was obvious that was not her intent in attending.

After the meeting, I listened to her talk to other people at the meeting who were obviously familiar with her and she with them. She was interested in gaining more information about current issues...even though she seemed to be overwhelmed with information and struggles that were going on in the district. And still, by the time I spoke to her she remained completely open and eager to help with anything that would help move the children and the district forward in a beneficial way.

As I talked with her, heard about her on the news, and talked to friends about her, I gathered that she seems to be a soft-spoken, but very outspoken, person. In this current era of Dallas politics and defensiveness, I found that to be extremely refreshing and encouraging.

I, too, think it's important to speak out. There are too many injustices in this world that either get overlooked or covered up. There are times that I speak out in a way that people agree and other times the things I say start a fire storm. I feel very blessed to work at a place where I don't have fear that my words will result in retribution against me.

Unfortunately, it seems that Carla Ranger didn't and doesn't have that. See, Ms. Ranger works (worked) for the Dallas County Community College District. The two times that I spoke with her, Ms. Ranger expressed her love for the community college system we have here in Dallas. We were planning on working to get our teenagers more acquainted with the community college as an option for post-secondary. Evidently, her critiques during the school board meetings have now inadvertently resulted in the loss of her 20-year position there. See her blog post here.

I am very disappointed that the powers that be are trying to silence a courageous woman who is speaking out with the children in mind. Too few people seem to do that these days. Too many are concerned with the political repercussions and continue to be "status quo" or in their own self-interest to protect themselves and those around them without concern for the precious children who are suffering at the hands of our broken system.

I'm not sure what can or should be done in this situation but, for the sake of our children, I know we need more Carla Rangers...not less!
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