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School official who became spokeswoman for black English resigns

August 6, 1997

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) _ The school superintendent who drew fire as the chief defender of black English, or ebonics, said Wednesday she is resigning to take a job in the private sector.

Carolyn Getridge said her departure had nothing to do with the furor over ebonics.

``I have not regretted one day,″ she said of her three years as superintendent.

The school board last year unanimously recognized black English, or ebonics, a combination of ``ebony″ and ``phonics.″ Black English is characterized by its use of the verb ``to be″ _ as in, ``He be going to the store″ _ and multiple negatives, such as ``Didn’t nobody see nothing.″

Critics slammed the district’s move as legitimizing slang and ``dumbing-down″ education.

And they attacked the board’s resolution because it asserted that ebonics was genetically based and implied that black English would be taught in schools. The lawyer who drafted the resolution later resigned.

School officials maintained they were just looking for ways to reach black students, who make up about half of the district’s 52,000 students.

Getridge, who is black, did not formulate the policy but became its chief public defender, appearing on talk shows and giving news interviews. She repeatedly cited a need to turn around the poor achievement record of students in the nation’s urban public schools, especially black students.

Getridge said she was resigning to accept an unspecified job offer with Voyager Expanded Learning, a for-profit educational group based in Dallas. She made $130,000 a year in Oakland.

The executive director of the Oakland teachers union, Peter Haberfeld, gave Getridge mixed reviews.

``She was great with PR, a very talented bright person, and she worked hard,″ he said. ``But the results are far from dramatic.″

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