A few days ago the Register celebrated the return of Eugene Sanders to the cradle of his alma mater, the Sandusky High School auditorium; where he spoke for one of the school's black groups in recognition of Black History month. The paper wrote a brief but glowing editorial on his accomplishments and success, praising him for the work that he is presently doing as CEO of the Cleveland Municipal School District. He had served as the chief administrative officer for the Toledo district, as well as chair of one of the educational components at Bowling Green State University, and was the first runner-up in the Washington D.C. search for the head of their City Schools.
I kind of know Sanders personally, and I know that coming home to speak at his alma mater has always been a dream of much pride. But it would be a dream of pride and honor for anybody who cares about their community of origin. You see while he now lives in Cleveland, he is still home every weekend attending church in the community in which he grew up in and is still very passionate about. Although he was not actually invited by the school administration; it was good that the Black Student Union extended the invitation to one of their own. For who was better than one of their own to speak to them about wrestling with all the challenges that life in Sandusky can present, while depositing the positive message that you can make it despite all the blockages and hindrances?
Lest we forget, this is the same Eugene Sanders who grew up in this system, graduated in 1976 from SHS, went to college and came home hoping to give back to the community which he felt had given him so much. He went back to graduate school and obtained two master's degrees in education, only to be denied a principal position in favor of a person who was finishing his first master's degree with basically the same experience in terms of on the job training. The Sandusky black community was livid at the time, but what could they do?
To this day, any time institutional injustice is mentioned in regards to the Sandusky school system, the Sanders case is always refererred as an example of that injustice. Sanders is a lifelong member of the community. He comes from a hard-working family where two of his siblings have Ph.D.s and still work locally in various areas of education. He had wanted to stay in his home community and give back, but was denied that opportunity. And we wonder why black young people want to get out of here so badly?
Now the Register is asking the question, "What does it take to bring Eugene Sanders' attitudes back to Sandusky?" The Register admits that Eugene brings with him a positive attitude, vast knowledge and solid experience in the educational process. They applaud the fact that he credits his family, his church and the Sandusky Schools for being the building blocks to his success.
Using the "Sanders Paradigm" of success, they end the piece by asking students to, "Go for it and bring it all back home." They tell them that they can make the difference. But the truth of the matter is that with all the talent, educational obtainment, desires and love for his community, Sandusky let him down. Sanders had to leave his beloved community to find the success and national attention that he has received and now enjoys. There are other young Eugene Sanderses in Sandusky who love their town and just want the opportunity to give back to this community, but the institutions who hold the power and have the privilege must stop wasting and squandering the talents and the dreams of these young black people through the many different forms of institutional injustice, social indifference and racial invisibility, which exist in this community.
Editor's note: Columnist Sanders is Eugene Sanders' brother.