of murdered daughter speaks out against Wright promotion
21st 2011 a classmate
murdered Kalil McCoy and everyday since has been June 21st for her mother and family.
McCoy attended Andrew Jackson high school. Kalil loved school and dance
and the band at Jackson too. It was her life, even if it wasn’t considered the
best high school in town. She wanted to be there so badly that her family used
a cousin’s address when they moved to the southside of town. Now I have heard of families using relative’s
addresses before but always to attend a higher rated school never a lower rated
one. During Kalil’s entire run at Jackson, the schools grade vacillated between
a D and an F.
interaction with its principal Iranetta Wright but why would they, Kalil was
considered to be a good student who never got in trouble and who always had a
smile on her face. Her only real trouble came close to graduation when Wright
insisted that she pay some band fees or she wouldn’t be able to walk at
graduation. The family’s next
interaction with Wright would be even more painful. Make that their
graduated from high school on June 9th 2011 with her life was in front of
her. Nobody knew at that moment the rest of her life would be just 12 days.
Something like this isn’t supposed to happen to here in Jacksonville. It
happens in New York City, Detroit or Chicago, not in the slow moving city on
the river that flows north and when it does happen at first you don’t notice
the little things. Little things sadly don’t always stay little.
mom Lynette Roebuck doesn’t know exactly when she realized it but she never
heard from Iranetta Wright, the principal of Kalil’s favorite place in the world.
Now she heard from the band director Reginald Mitchell as well as several other
teachers and many friends but not the leader of the school that had seen Kalil sacrifice
hundreds of afternoons and evenings putting in hard work. The snub really
didn’t matter the first few months after the murder; the family was dealing
with to many other things. It wasn’t until Mrs. Wright stopped a memorial for
Kalil that the cold shoulder she had given the family really mattered.
fall after Kalil’s murder during the Ribault Jackson football game, Band
director Mitchell had organized a half time memorial for Kali. The Tiger
Sensations, Kalil’s friends were going to perform some of Kalil’s favorite
dances, a fitting memorial to a young woman who lived to dance. The one caveat
that Mitchell asked was that nobody wore Kalil memorial shirts.
family showed up still somber, yet excited to see what the band had in store
for them. Moments like these where others displayed their love for Kalil eased
their pain. That’s why it hit them like a ton of bricks when they learned that
the memorial had been canceled.
Mr. Mitchell hadn’t cleared the half time performance with his principal
Iranetta Wright (who can often be seen gyrating and dancing on the sidelines of
football games). It was pointed out that Mitchell never cleared his half time
shows with Wright but that didn’t matter because Wright had put her foot down
and teachers at her school knew better than to question her or get on her bad
side. To say the cancellation of the memorial was devastating to Kalil’s family
would be an understatement. The family went home without the tribute that would
have temporarily lifted their spirits. They left instead feeling marginalized,
ignored and even disrespected. They had hoped the half time dance at the school
she loved would have eased their pain even if just for a moment. They couldn’t
understand why Iranetta Wright who had ignored the family since the murder had
Kalil’s family did eventually get a memorial, but it was Raines high school
who came through with the help of several Jackson Tiger sensations.
Kalil’s family will always be grateful for that. Yet, to this day they still
have no cogent answer as to why Wright would cancel the memorial service at Jackson
high school and why she would be so callous.
since compassion didn’t get Wright the promotion, lets look at the data.
state rise dramatically, and enrollment drops 500 kids from before she got
when she got there, 3 are higher
saw fit to promote Iranetta Wright. In the Times Union Vitti said, Wright
displays boldness and courage and she will make difficult decisions, perhaps
like the decision to cancel a murdered girl’s memorial while her family was in
the stands. “She’s moved the needle in each of the schools she’s been at. She
represents the type of leader I’m looking for.”
I don’t know about her time at Lakeshore but at
Jackson it took nearly half the student body leaving, a change in the scoring
formula by the state and four years to move the needle. As for her leadership
style it was described to me as autocratic. A former teacher and there are lots
of former teachers from her tenure at Jackson, said; she would talk to the
staff in a fashion that if we would talk to the kids that way we would get
fired. Her motivation techniques consisted of threats and intimidation. Much of
the veteran staff she inherited has moved onto other positions in the district
or has left the teaching field all together replaced by “easily moldable”
rookies who often don’t know that they shouldn’t be talked down to and forced
to work sixty hours a week.
Some might say let Vitti succeed or fail with
her but the thing is how many good men and women, teachers, principals and
support staff, is she going to browbeat, cajole and demoralize on their way
down? How many grieving mothers is she going to first ignore then
family’s pain, none of us can unless we have experienced the same thing but I
can speak about the disappointment of this choice for promotion. When Vitti was
hired many of us thought he was a breath of fresh air and where he has done a
couple nice things increasingly he looks like more of the same. He has doubled
down on Teach for America, which does the opposite of what we know to be best
practices. He went to a conference, on the people’s dime, whose theme was how
do we attract more charter schools to Florida and finally there are his choices
to help lead the district. Teachers hoped he would pick people who would
support and lead them, not ones who preferred to intimidate and cajole. A
characteristic of great leaders is rigor–not ruthlessness. I hope for the district’s sake they prove me
wrong and I hope Kalil’s family finds peace too. I hope that the most.
On June 21st 2011 a classmate murdered
Kalil McCoy and everyday since has been June 21st for her mother and
family. Inexplicably and unnecessarily Iranetta Wright made their pain worse.