Ozen High School E-Mails Stir Confusion

Dee Dixon, Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise, August 28, 2007

An e-mail sent out about helping low-performing students at Ozen High School caused some confusion Monday.

Assistant Principal Elvena Colbert sent out an e-mail stating that all black male students were to sit on the front row in classrooms.

Principal James Broussard later sent out an e-mail urging staff to disregard the one distributed by Colbert.

Broussard’s e-mail explained that the intent was to identify students who received low Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills scores.

Then, teachers would have those students sit toward the front of the class or change the seating chart so they could be more easily engaged in classroom discussions, said Willis Mackey, Beaumont assistant superintendent.

He said teachers have tried to brainstorm ways to help student succeed.

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He said it is not a black and white issue but one about economically disadvantaged students.

Coming up with ways to help low-performing black male students was the topic at a recent meeting of the 100 Black Men of Greater Beaumont.

Data shows that this group performed poorly, with only 50 percent passing state assessments in math and science, Mackey said.

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“The e-mail was a good-intentioned e-mail,” he said. “It wasn’t meant to be demeaning. It is another method to tell our boys, ‘We want you to take a lead role in your education. We want you to be men.’”

The group also launched a program to encourage men to take a more active role in their children’s education by dropping them off at school and mentoring.

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“They (the young men) need to sit in front of the classroom and not in the back dozing off. . . . There is no intent of anybody for all the black kids to go to the front or black males to go to the front.”

He added members of the group want the low-performing students to be more aggressive about their education by paying attention in class and not “pass notes” or “goof off.”

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