Tyler ISD school board candidate Cedrick Granberry said improving academic performance is a priority for him and the key to accomplishing this is racially diversifying the campuses.
Granberry, 38, is running for the District 2 position and faces incumbent the Rev. Orenthia Mason, who is board president.
He spoke to the Tyler Morning Telegraph editorial board recently about his campaign.
The business owner and father of three TISD students — a second-grader, fifth-grader and eighth-grader — said he questions the lack of diversity in the district's schools.
He said there is one middle school, Moore MST Magnet School, that most students want to go to, and that middle school is really diversified, which he thinks has a lot to do with its success.
"I feel like if the district really wants to ensure that we have success on all campuses that that should be a main priority to ensure that the schools are evenly diversified across the district," he said.
Granberry questioned the motives of emphasizing career and technical education in the district.
He said he wants to make sure that the district doesn't direct certain students into vocational programs as a way of making it easier for the students or boosting district performance.
However, his statements contradict what district officials have repeatedly said. During a March 27 school board meeting, TISD's Chief Academic Officer Dr. Christy Hanson said there is confusion among people who think career and technical education courses are vocational.
The district is planning to offer many programs such as pre-law, pre-engineering, pre-vet, architecture, marketing and finance at its CTE center, which is slated to open in fall 2015.
Cosmetology and automotive collision and repair also will be offered and are among the courses where a student could leave high school and potentially get a job in the field.
But other courses will introduce students to careers that will require an associate's degree, a bachelor's degree or even higher degrees to enter the profession.
Regarding the district's 43-year-old desegregation order, Granberry said it is a shame TISD remains under it.
However, he said, it is still relevant to the district and important, particularly if it's the only thing that's going to help TISD diversify its campuses.
"The disproportionality is something that I think that we're ignoring and we're not taking steps to make sure that that changes," he said. "And that's really why the desegregation order is still in place. … Diversification is the key to unlocking the true potential of our school district."
The fact the district has never made motion for unitary status, which is the legal filing that a federal judge must grant before a desegregation order is lifted, says something about the district, Granberry said.
"It shows me that possibly … we realized that we haven't done everything that we can," he said.
Granberry said a lot of parents feel that when they express how they feel about different issues, the school board doesn't take their thoughts into consideration or does so in an unequal way, listening to some members or parts of the community more so than others.
He cited decision made about Rice Elementary School and Stewart Middle School as examples. He said when a possible location change for Rice was on the table, the school community overwhelmingly opposed a change, so the district is keeping the school where it is.
However, when the Stewart Middle School community and the Butler College community opposed the possible repurposing of the school, "it seems as though that was not considered at all even after the town hall meetings," he said.
Stewart is slated to become the A.T. Stewart Academy of Excellence and house the district's PACE program and possible an early college high school.
Granberry said if elected, he would do whatever it took to reach the constituents in District 2.
He said as a TISD parent, he is aware of what's going on and sees the situations from a variety of perspectives.
Tyler is a wonderful place to live, but it can be better, and so can the school system, he said.
"As a trustee … I will do all that I can to ensure that everyone is welcomed and that whatever policy and decisions that are made … on behalf of my constituents (are) reflective if at all possible (of) how they feel," he said.