What has happened to Black student pride at San Bernardino High School (SBHS) over the years? When I came to San Bernardino in the early sixties, SBHS was alwaysthe talk of the communityas the school with a rich history of Black pride. There was the families of the Minter’s, Cheryl, Fred and Dexter; the Law’s, Rod and Ester; the Walker’s, Donnie, Lloyd, Melvin, Pattie; Shelly Garrett; the Macon’s, Elvern, Edna, Ella, Samuel and Stanley; Peter Dixon; Karen Mason, the Seldon’s, George and Glen; the Jacquet’s, Roseland, Barbara, Wayne, Wilbur and Andy Brown; Josh Carter, Dexter James, the Bradshaw’s; the Greenwood’s James Sweeney, Leonard Jacks; and James Butts. Later I found a long history with Dr. Howard Inghram, the area's first Black medical doctor serving the county of San Bernardino and Riverside. Then his sister Dorothy Inghram the first Black superintendent in the State of California, both were graduates of SBHS. Then you have upstanding citizens like Carl Clemons as graduates who went on to serve in the navy, work at Norton AFB and serve on many boards and commissions in the city paving a way for others to follow.
We have Wilmer Amina Carter a graduate of SBHS now serving in the State Assembly representing thousands in the area of Fontana, Rialto, Bloomington, Colton, and San Bernardino. Mark Seay a professional football player with several teams but has the record for scoring the only two point conversion in a Super Bowl Game as a San Diego Charger. He now works for Stater Bros. owned by Jack Brown, also a SBHS graduate. You have Cheryl Brown an entrepreneur and a 1961 graduate with four children Lynn Renee Brown-Lee, Emergency Room Technician and national labor organizer for the Barack Obama presidential campaign, Paulette Brown-Hinds, PhD, owner of BPC Media Works, a strategic communication firm, Hardy Brown, II, Executive Director of Black Voice Foundation, Inc. and Opportunities of a Lifetime for students. Regina Brown-Wilson, Communications Analyst with the Office of the Secretary of Education Sacramento and three grandsons James, Justin and Jonathan Lee that graduated from SBHS.
SBHS also produced Bryon Russell, a professional basketball player with the Utah Jazz; Virgil Marshall retired Air Force officer; Frank Jewett, San Jose graduate in finance and marketing; and Glenn Bragg, Major League Baseball player for the Reds and Brewers. Andrew Pierson works at Morehouse in Atlanta; Greg Hudson, a computer science engineer, owns his own company; Johnny McGlothen owns his own company Mix Music Mechanic Company; Actor Phillip Michael Thomas, known for his role in Miami Vice and classmate of Dan Frazier, the former city councilmember in San Bernardino are graduates of SBHS. You also have Danny Tillman the current president of SB City Unified School District a graduate of SBHS. The list is too long to account for them all but you can get the gist of SBHS’s long and rich history of Blacks that graduated from the school.
I cite this history because the other day I heard a rumor that for the year 2011 only six African American males will march across the stage to receive a diploma of graduation from San Bernardino High School. This prompted me to seek out and do a profile of SBHS and see what is happening and hope for solutions or spark a discussion from those that walked the halls of this school. Stevie Wonder had a song called ‘Higher Ground’ and this is what needs to be done to turn things around. Stevie sang, “people keep on learning, soldiers keep on warring, world keep on turning’ cause it won’t be too long, till I reach the higher ground.” Then in another verse he says, “Teachers keep on teaching, Preachers keep on preaching,” world keep on turning cause it won’t be long, till I reach the higher ground.” I will add “Parents keep on parenting,” Community keep on giving” for it takes a village to raise our children. Well what do we have to do so our kids can reach that higher ground?
In researching the rumor I heard about the SBHS class of 2011, I found out from Linda Bardere, Director of Communication for the school district that six Black males graduating is a vicious rumor and that the correct number is sixty four Black males who will be graduating this year from SBHS. I am happy to hear the good news but I am going to still ask the question "what has happened to the pride of African American students who attend SBHS?" According to the data compiled for the year 2008/09 by the Department of Education in Sacramento on SBHS, this is what is going on at this school with such a rich history for African Americans.
Black students scored at 534 for the Academic Performance Reporting Index, when it should be 800. This is the lowest score of all groups of students at SBHS. The graduation rate for all students at SBHS was 58.2 percent. Only 5 out of 39 Black students that graduated in ‘09 from SBHS completed coursework required for admission into the UC and/or CSU system of higher education in California. The reported dropout rate of 47.0% in ‘09 for Black students at SBHS is way too high for any group of kids and if they are not in school where are they?
Currently we have 423 (17.2% of the student population at SBHS) African American students with 16 (14.7% of the teaching staff) African Americans on the teaching staff. The latest Academic Performance Index Report shows a base score of 574 which is up from 534 a growth increase of 40 points. On the STAR Test, African American students at SBHS score at or above in English Language Art at 16.5%, Math at 20.3%, Science at 21.0% and History and Social Science at 12.0% this needs much attention. They do not have the current dropout rate or the number of Black students meeting the admission standards for entrance into the UC or CSU institutions.
I am not casting blame on the school district but on all of us that parent, send, teach, provide services and govern the district of these African American children. There are many questions that need or should be asked and answers given by everyone involved. How can a parent not know their child is not in school? Do they ever contact the school? Does the teacher ever notify the parent as to what happened to the child? Does the district policy require any kind of follow upon a student that just falls off the radar screen, so to speak? I know that Dr. Alturo Delgado and his staff have walked the streets and visited homes to encourage kids to attend school with some results. Have the parents and community met them halfway? I do not know. Have the students given their all? I suspect not. Has the teachers and support staff of classified employees done all they can? I don’t know.
The old Eastern Airlines had a commercial that showed they were losing customers. So the president assigned staff members to contact known frequent flyers as to why they were not flying Eastern anymore. The president saved the largest customer for himself to visit and asked the hard question of why? What have we failed to do? What could we have done different? What will it take to win you back? What will it take to bring the pride back and take our children to higher ground.
I am urging the district to contact some of the alumni of SBHS and current parents and have a honest discussion about what should be tried to return the pride of African American students and take them to higher ground.