By the time the white family's car had come through the black subdivision and stopped outside the school, the mother was weeping.
The family was new to Hillsboro County and the child in the car soon would be riding a bus into the black neighborhood to attend a desegregated school.
Under the county's court-ordered desegregation plan, there is no choice.A child attends the school to which he is assigned.
So while his wife sat crying in the car, the father went into Progress VIllage Elementary School to enroll the child. Mrs. Sweetrix Williams, the black prinicpal, showed him the school and gave him assurances. The father left smiling.
"When this started, while parents did'nt have much confidence in us," William said later. "They fell their children wouldn't make progress. Now the parents are hollering that there is too much homework."
The seventh year of full-scale desegregation has just ended in this humid port city on Florida's west coast. The school program goes on with hardly a flicker of dissatisfaction.
A decade ago, America's front pages were heavy with the stories of violence and friction in schools under court order to desegregate. The occasional example of, say, a Boston still makes the front page, and racial isolation persists inmany school systems.
But there is also a quieter side is the desegregation story. In one city after anothe rthe pill has been swallowed and children are being allowed to be children, together.
None of which is to say that Tampa has not felt stress since 1971 when U.S. District Judge Ben Krentzman wrote the order for racial balance in every school - 80 percent white, 20 percet black, to refeclt the population.
Nor would anyone say that the millennium has come to Hillsborough County. Except for isolated cases of fights and racial tauntinga at the start, the integration plan went smoothly. One reason seems obvious: whits, with a substantial majority in every school, od not feel threatened.
The burden of the plan rests on the blacks. They complain about, but accept the requirement that they spend more time on buses than whites. There is discontent over what is seen as blased discipline of black pupils.
Some parents still resent their loss of identity with all-black schools. But people get along.
in a way, the vignette of the distraught white mother and the smiling father symbolizes the story of another Southern community accepting change and making a reasonable success of it.
It is a story repeated with variations in dozens of small and medium-sized school districts across the ountry, where segregated classrooms and second-rate education were synoymous in therecent past. Charloote, Miami, Nashville, Jacksonville and Indianapolis also have achieved broadscale desegregation with minimum up-heaval.
A reality is that school desegregation just is not the political issue it used to be. A politician can't win enough votes to matter by opposing desegregation. The annual flury of anti-busing amendments in Congress has died to a trickle.
Tampa - 22nd largest school district in the country - is not unique.
"Public education here is alive and well" commented county Superintendent Raymond O. Shelton. "We have had stability. There was trauma involved but relative to other places, we came off well. Most of our probalems now are young-prople problems and not race problems. We spend our summer planning for the school year instead of being in court. There is another side to this. In Tampa, as in other places where segregation is a part of the past, the talk is now about the meaning of schools. A conversation with anuone - parent, student, teacher - may start off on desegregation. But almost invariably, it ends up as a conversation about learning and discipline and teaching. Maybe this was inevitable - quality cannot be discussed in a sensible framework umtil the physical separation is ended.
Throughout the Tampa system, basics and remedial work are being stressed. Advanced programs for brighter students have begun. As one of the apparnet results, scores on standardized tests are rising steadily - in a county that had been uniformly below national norms. Blacks seem to be staying in school longer and more seem to be going to college, although there are no statistics to prove it.
Actually, Superintendant Shelton said, school officials are "prouder" of the intendified educational program then they are of desegregation. Nobody suggests that desegregation perse meant better schools. But they do put first things first. "The black students are better off then they were because all students are better off," Shelton said. "At least, it is no longer a valid criticism that there is unequal opportunity."n Hillsborough County, the old line of separate-but-equal was mostly myth. The stories of inadequate, ill-equipped black schools before 1971 are legion. When desegregation came, and white youngsters were headed to previously black schools, weekend miracles occured. Sod was trucked inot green up the schoolyards. Librarians were added. Air-conditioners were ought and plugged in. Fences were erected, science labs installed, vocational facilities expanded. A look Back
It is one thing for the superintendent to talk about progress, still another thing for the old-line trouble makers, as the civil rights agitators were known, to pronounce progress.
Robert Sauders and the Rev. A. Leon Lowry, men who got all this started when they began pushing an N.A.A.CP desegregation suit in 1958, stand in restrained awe of what has happened. Saunders was state field secretary and Lowry was state president. Their sons broke the the color barrier in Tampa schools.%YThat NAACP suit was fought and delayed by school board for 13 years. An occasional yielding for token breakthroughs kept full-scale desegregation away for mor ethan a decade. It is lost time that never will be regained.
"As far as the court order is concerned, they have carried it out to a tee. We are now dealing with other types of systems discrimination" said Saunders, who is now the county's equal-opportunity officer. "But one would be hard put to say that learning conditions have not improved here."
Added Lowry: "We're on our way....Overall, one wouldhave to say there is equality in the calssroom, in the basies, in athletics. But there may be a little difficulty in things like cheerleading, perhaps, or in the school club. So students say there seems to be a little inequality."
Well, the times changes, and so does a perosn's ability to make an impact. In 1976, Lowry became the first black ever elected to a county-wide ofice when he defeated two white candidates for a seat on the school board. Only 8,000 of his 43,000 votes came from blacks.
But the Tampa story is more than a story about black and white. It also involves a large Latin population, which experienced a more subtle prejudice for years in the white-dominated school system. Few Italians, Cuban-Americans or Spanish-Americans rose to become principals. Latin teachers usually taught in Laiin schools. Kids from the Latin neighborhoods went to programs, to ease their difficulties with learning and languages.
Beautiful irony. The first Tampa elementary school to undergo large scale desegregationwas in Ybor City, the Latin-quarter, in 1962. The principal Joe Yglesias, was thrown to the lions, as it were.
Months before, he had been told he would never go higher than assistant principal because he had a "foreign" name. Yglesias reached out and jerked the necktie of th official who told his that. "You SOB," Yglesias said. "Your parents were only two boats ahead of mine." End of an assistant principal's carrer, or so it seemed. He got the booby prize at Ybor school, then made it work with no big problems. Today he seeks out and administers the federal grants for the entire sustem, about $30 million a year.
So the Latino's role has changed too. Nowhere is the picture of equal opportunity any clearer thanat Jefferson High, a multimillion-dollar, air-conditioned school built in 1973 toreplace theold Jefferson, a traditional haven for Latins. The New Jefferson
The new Jefferson, built on the edge of a black neighborhood on the west side of Tampa houses close to 2,000 students, mostly from low and lower-middle-income families. About 40 per cent of them are white, 25 per cent black, 25 per cent Latino and 10 per cent Oriental. The principal is a Latino. His assistant, a woman, and the dean of boys are white. The head football coach is black.
In the hallways, and at the lunch tables, black tend to hang out with blacks, Latins withLatins, whites with whites. The black students are active in sports, but administrators worry that the blacks show little interest in most other after-school activities, despite efforts to encourage their participation.
For most kids in the classrooms of Hillsborough County the memories and agonies of educators and parents who lived a rebolution have little relavance to the integrated schools they take for granted.
Nana Reeves, 16 and black, typifies what is happening here. She can't remember what it was like to aattend on all-black school. Seven yeats is a long time. She earns top grades and knows she must work hard. At Thomas Jefferson High, she is Nina Reeves and nothing more.
"Jefferson is the best high school in Tampa for race relations," she said." Integration eliminates prejudice and gives you a chance tomeet other people." She wishes it would take as well on some teachers as it has on students."I think some of the teachers don't wantto give you what you deserve. I got a D in biology, but the teacher changed it to a B after my mother complained about it," she said.
Bon Anderson, 18, a black senior, is a B student with an eye on college. He lives four blocks from the school, yet doesn't stay around after the bell rings. "There is some socializing between blacks and whites, but I'm just too busy for it," he said. "I have homework every day."
Juan Ramos, another senior, talks about Jefferson with a sparkle in his eye. "There just aren't any problems with blacks and whites here.We have god relations, and I think the teachers have been great," he said. "I've always gone to desegregated schools, but there haven't been many problems. The Bouncing Ball
Everyone at Jefferson agrees on another point. A successful sports program has had an enormous impact on general school attitude. A key figure is Clarenace White, the black football coach, a winner whose team has been a state finalist. White, too, is representative of another development in the county. Unlike many other districts, which unloaded their black educators. Hillsborough retained black teachers and administrators in top positions when desegregation came. There are 23 black principals today, conpared with 19 in 1971. There are more than 1,000 black teachers, compared with 700 before. The only black principal in the county's II high schools, Sam Horton, was at Jefferson until he was promoted to the county office this year.
In the old segregated system, White way asn assistant coach at a black school. Today he is Coach White, heading a staff or three blacks and six whites, roaming the halls between his drivers-deucation classes, keeping kids on their toes, commandint respect.
Principal Menendez moved to Jefferson this year after running a tough juniour high, where racial tensions kepta parents' human-relations group going at full tilt. At Jefferson, he worries, although that con be taken also as a sign of normally. "I used to go to the junior high with anxieties each day, but here I have no problems," he said.
"The parents don't come out because things are going so well here," Mendendez said. "It's almost apathy..." A Teacher's Concern
Nathaniel Hill, a young black teacher of English who came to Tampa in 1970 after teaching in a small, all-black school in Alabama, is articulate on the subject of the way thigs ought to be. "I wouldn't want to change back to what we had here, but I want a change from what it is," he said, "Something better must happen now."
The school is too big, and we 'act' with each other. The blacks don't fee wanted and we don't go to the teachers' outings... But black teachers also have their hangups, and many black students I just don't reach."
"I think integration was too fast for the balck teacher. You had rapport with your students in the black school. You were a mother, a father, you instilled morals. We black teachers have passion, and we can't show it. Here, you can't hug a child. You are not to dot it. You'd be annihilated if you did. Students must feel some compassion fromtheir teachers. You're reluctant to even touch a child on the shoulder. I don't have a problem, but this atmosphere has taken th effect out of teaching," Hill added.
They are ondifferent wave lengths but 16-year-old Steve Facer, a white junior, would agree with HIll in part. "I think the eliques - the balcks staying together, hthe whites staying together - effect the quality of the school and the quality of spirit. People stay together bexause they live together, " he said.
"I'd like to learn more, but the classes are boring. English is my main gripe - It is fun, but they don't teach anything, just show films.The blacks sit together, and you can't concentrate because they disrupt, but then the whites also disrupt. Yeah, I think segregation has affected the quality, but for better or worse, I don't know. Burden of the Bus
Among Hillsborough schools, Jefferson is unusual in that its whites pupils are more apt to be brought in on buses than blacks, many of whom live within walking distance.
Elsewhere in the county, the largest burden to desegregation is carried by the black student with little complaining. The average black will e bused 10 of his 12 years in school; the average whit e, 2 blacks have surrendered their identity, the sense ofsecurity, success and recognition that their community schools provided. Under the Tampa plan, the black student will remain in the minority no matter what school he or she attends - always outnumbered about 4 to 1.
Actually , the school bus has always played a large role in getting the county's 115,000 pupils to class. Before desegregation, 37,000 rode buses. Now, 60,000 ride.
"The longest bus ride for intergration in the county is 13 miles," said K. L. Bing, a black assistant superintendent who drew up the desegregation plan and still oversees it. "We hve them riding even farther for nonintegration.To achieve the establishment our plan calls for, we have to bus mora blacks then whites.
"It is burden but a good burden that the blacks have to bear. A vast majority of the blacks accept it because they understand it is necessary. There was no question about the in-equality in one schools before."
Albert Davis, the father of nine, is chairman of the Tampa NNACP's education committee, which keeps a watch on school developments. He has some misgivings, but he sees more good than bad coming out of county school program.
"I have criticisms, but I'm not saying my ideas are a solution. Desegregation has been smooth in Hillsborough County, because of a willingness on a part of the community," Davis said.
He continues, "I try to understand the schools' point of view, but I wish there were a way they could understand the parent - not to protect tradition or special interest, but to assist the parent in a responsible way. The plan has placed a tremendous burden on the black for adjustment, and it hasn't been as demanding on the white student or parent. It seems to me that no sympathy is offered when a black seems to recoil from this social demand."
Living in the same home, Davis has seen his children assigned to four different high schools - the farthest eight miles away, the nearest two miles. "I know, all parents don't have this many children, but I wish there were another way," he said.
Singing 'Dixie' One of those schools that was "rediscovered" by the school board in 1971 is an elementary school in Progress Village, a black subdivision about eight miles from Tampa. The school at Gibsonton, a white community six miles away, was built from the same plan, with only one difference: Gibsonton had a library, Progress Village didn't.
Progress Village has a library today, and if ever a school were a principal's pride and joy, that is what this school is to Sweetrix Williams. Most of her 35 years in the county school system, 18 as a principal, were spent in those "second-rate" black facilities.
Under the desegregation plan, her school, like other black elementaries, became a sixth-grade center. White children from nearby communities are bused there for a year. Blacks from Progress Village walk to the sixth grade, but ride buses to first-through-fifth grade schools elsewhere.
Cumbersome, perhaps, but that's the way it is. There are 550 kids in the sixth-grade center, and Williams considers every one her own.She's had to do a lot of earning and adjusting, and so has every adult connected with the place.
The pupils are too busy to worry about adjusting. A music class is putting on an operetta, a tour of American history. A vivacious black boy sings the lead. The kids hold hands. They sing "Dixie" and "Sing Out for Brotherhood" with equal zest. Black and white kids get equal attention in a small remedial reading class, where an aide assists the teaching specialist. During a special activities hour, five boys - three whites, two blacks - can't get into silent reading, so they jump at a chance to go to black history.
Norman Smith, Williams' assistant, is a white who had to adjust. He was assigned to Progress Village eight years ago - a year before classroom desegragation took place. "If an end to busing meant going back to the way it was, I wouldn't want it. In my first year, I was a minority and I know how it feels," he said. Black Nickels
Smith, who grew up just a few miles from Progress Village, tells a story on himself. When desegregation first came, a white lunchroom worker told him that a black child was discovered loring nickels by holding them in his hand. Smith said he didn't know it that could happen, but he would find out. Turned out the boy got the nickels - blackened by phosphate dust - from his father, who worked at a nearby mineral loading dock.
"There I was, a college graduate, and I didn't know about blacks," Smith said. "Early on, we teachers went through a black and white sensitivity program. A serious effort was made here, and we all realized we are humans and Americans, and not red, green or white, or whatever."
E. L. Bing, the man who orchestrated the mechanics of the desegregation plan after a long career as a principal in the county's rural black schools, sees all this as prelude.
"I like to think that there may come a day when our schools here and others in the South will be like super private academies compared to the school of your northern cities like Philadelphia, Washington and New York," he said.