Council Member Reacts To Racial Comments

"People in the audience...their mouths dropped open, as did mine."

First District City Councilwoman Denise Moore was in attendance for Monday's District 150 school board meeting; a meeting in which race was a topic during comments from former teacher Sharon Crews.

"The fact the speaker had prepared remarks suggests she was quite clear what she wanted to say," Moore tells 1470 & 100.3 WMBD, "but, I'm not sure she understood how it was going to be perceived."

Crews, a former teacher, attempted to criticize busing in District 150. But, she talked about accepting her first teaching job at then-Roosevelt Junior High in south Peoria.

"For seven years those young people taught me to see the world through their black eyes," Crews said.

Crews also appeared to direct her comments toward Superintendent Grenita Lathan.

"It is best for District 150 children, both black and white, to have a superintendent with the least racial baggage," Crews said. "Someone who can teach young people not to think of themselves as victims."

Lathan fired back, "I am tired of people dancing around issues. We have 14,000 students in our district and all 14,000 count, I don't care what they look like."

Moore says, as a child of the 60's, the exchange hit close to home.

"A lot of things (Crews) said in her comments harken back to those times when you couldn't really say things like that without being called on the carpet," Moore says. "So, the response by the administration, to some degree, was trying to inform her perhaps her opinions were ill-timed."

Moore says, still, a lot can be learned by the situation.

"That's a teachable moment," says Moore. "Being at the school district and seeing all the teachers in the room, it's a teachable moment for all of us."

"Race is an issue, race is not going away," Moore says. "Just because we elected an African-American President doesn't mean the issue of race has been settled. And it was quite unsettling in this room tonight."

Moore realizes emotions can get the best of people, especially when education is the topic of discussion.

"These meetings make it more emotional than a City Council meeting. As a parent and a grandparent, I would be emotional about things that impacted my child's education and want to be as involved as a lot of people who came here are."

You can hear the emotional exchange between Sharon Crews, School Board member Laura Petelle and Superintendent Grenita Lathan during Monday's meeting on the video posted below.

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