This Black History Month, the Globe is saluting people from Massachusetts who have made a difference.
Edith Bazile is long retired from Boston Public Schools, but she still spends her time there, challenging leaders to offer better educational opportunities to Black and Latino students and those with disabilities.
“When are we going to stop the madness?” Bazile, a past president of Black Educators’ Alliance of Massachusetts who taught and supervised special education in BPS for 32 years, asked at a public meeting last year. “Adults are creating policies that shut our, particularly Black students, out. Black students are our most underperforming students, not because they’re not capable, but because they have not gotten an opportunity.”
Despite Bazile’s criticism of BPS, Superintendent Brenda Cassellius has often tapped her for help.
“She never misses an opportunity to remind us of our moral obligation to prioritize the way we serve Black students — and all students, especially those with disabilities,” Cassellius said.
Bazile’s mission stems from her lifelong experience with BPS. Growing up poor in Roxbury with 13 siblings in the 1950s, Bazile was taught to value education; her father couldn’t afford books, but he made his children read textbooks gleaned from his orderly job. Bazile was the first one to attend college. Some of her siblings dropped out of BPS, she said, pointing to their all-white teachers’ low expectations of Black students. Others landed in special education where their needs, and talents, were ignored, later becoming institutionalized, unemployed, or drug-addicted. Bazile’s teachers told her she wasn’t smart. She remembers writing a poem in 7th grade; her teacher, believing Bazile incapable, accused her of plagiarism and ripped it up.
Working for BPS, Bazile pushed for more literacy services for Black male students and fought their over-assignment to separate, under-supported classrooms for supposed behavioral problems when they really hadn’t been taught to read, a problem she says continues today.
“As a school district, we need to do better,” Bazile said. “There’s money to fund programs so we don’t have these problems where students don’t get an education and we perpetuate the wealth gap. But we’re going backwards. That’s where I feel the urgency — but I also do have hope.”
Naomi Martin can be reached at email@example.com.