Try to strike up a conversation about Fort Worth public school reopenings, and you’re likely to be booed out of the room. Many parents are understandably at wit’s end after guiding their children through virtual learning courses several weeks into the beginning of fall classes. Nothing about this year has been normal since COVID-19 swept across the globe this past March and never left.
Protests for and against reopening classes, heated school board meetings, and private Facebook group trash talking have done nothing to bring diverging views toward consensus, but a new online effort is showing one way forward by providing teachers much-needed school supplies. The idea behind the private Facebook group FWISD-Bridging the Gap Together is simple. Teachers introduce themselves and share a link to an Amazon Wish List.
“Hi all!,” one Fort Worth school teacher said. “This year will look very different. I will not get to use my incredible art room or my materials and instead will have to push a cart to see all 700 of my kiddos. That being said, I need a cart! Thank you to this incredible community. Anything helps! So proud to be FWISD strong!”
Parents soon responded with uplifting messages and confirmations that orders had been sent.
“FWISD is so, so incredibly lucky to have you share your talent with so many students!” one mother responded.
Teachers have unfortunately been the target of recent attacks, especially when they express health-related concerns over returning to classrooms amid a pandemic. First-hand accounts by local teachers have drawn cringe-worthy comments on the Weekly’s Facebook page.
“Now is time to get rid of the teachers union,” one man replied. “Hire outside private firms. Pay teachers on performance.”
Another popular proposal on the thread and others like it was to immediately fire teachers who don’t heed Donald Trump’s call to reopen classrooms.
After a lot of back and forth at school district board meetings, Fort Worth began reopening classrooms for in-person learning earlier this month. By no means will every student be jumping back into classes anytime soon. School district polls released at recent board meetings show that parents are split over the question of when to reopen classes, and one teacher who recently resigned over COVID concerns said only a small fraction of her students are willing to return to class immediately.
The next several weeks, unfortunately, will still be messy and fuel for arguments and anecdotal hand grenades lobbed on Facebook threads. The FWISD-Bridging the Gap Together Facebook initiative is the type of community activism that may well pull this city through one of its most trying times, and it’s based on the simple notion that when you unconditionally support teachers, you are supporting Fort Worth’s children.
In the eyes of many of our Instagram followers, all of the social justice reporting in the world couldn’t stand up to one ad by a Watauga-based retailer. Two weeks ago, a kindly woman stopped by our office to place an ad for her Trump Store. *record scratch*
She had no qualms with our left-leaning columns, according to the Weekly salesperson who handled the woman’s ad request. As with all other reputable publications, sales and editorial (reporting) decisions at the Weekly are strictly separated. Sales staffers don’t know what Edit is doing, and Edit has no idea what Sales is up to, which is the way it should be to prevent undue influence. The advertisement ran last week in print. No backlash. No angry messages on our social media inboxes (a rarity, we assure you). Depending on what type of promotion deal was made, ads can go any number of places: website, Facebook, Twitter, newsletters, or Instagram.
A Saturday morning ad posting on our Instagram account (@FortWorthWeekly) swiftly drew jeers and accusations that Fort Worth’s alt-weekly had sold out. There’s a lot of anger out there over a xenophobic president who will not denounce right-wing extremists and deplorables of all types while offering no praise for great and honorable giants like John Lewis. We get it, and we’ve gone further than any other 817 publication in calling out the Donald when needed. Trump’s ignorant rhetoric is a symptom of a broader problem that has plagued the United States since it was founded 244 years ago on a power structure beholden to rich white men.
In the pages of this humble rag, you’ll find stories that look behind the injustices that affect Fort Worth and dive into the economics of racism — who benefits from that system and who suffers under it. Through conversations with civil rights groups, local lawyers, and other folks who bring first-hand insights to issues like voter suppression and mass incarceration, we’re telling those stories. Had we writers/reporters/editors known a Trump store ad was coming, we definitely would have said, “Um, maybe that’s not the best idea right now.” That we didn’t is no one’s fault. As we said, Sales and Edit are completely separate entities. We only wish we did. Now we know. Thank you for your continued support of our mission to tell the stories no one else is in a way that honors civil and environmental justice.
The Weekly welcomes submissions from all political persuasions. Please email Editor Anthony Mariani at firstname.lastname@example.org.