“We Will Not Fail,” the green and orange buttons say. Mobile City Councilman Fred Richardson, who passed them out to students at LeFlore High School on Friday, believes in the message.
“Just because they put you on a list doesn’t mean you’re a failure,” Richardson said. “You have to determine that yourself. The only way you can fail is that you quit. Keep on going and you will not fail.”
Saying he wanted to do what he could to inspire students to excel, Richardson came by the school earlier this week and passed out buttons to LeFlore juniors taking the ACT test, which will now be used to rate schools under the Alabama Accountability Act. The state has previously used the now-jettisoned ACT Aspire test.
Schools scoring in the lowest 6 percent on that test among all schools in the state are considered “failing” under the act. LeFlore was one of nine MCPSS schools falling in that category this year.
On Friday, Richardson returned with more buttons for the entire student body. In an address before the students in the school’s gymnasium, he took issue with labeling schools like LeFlore as “failing,” drawing from his own past attending what he called “a failing school” in Conecuh County.
“Do you think that was enough to fail Fred Richardson?” he asked. “No. I graduated from the University South Alabama with honors.
“Nobody can fail you but you. You fail when you stop.”
Richardson said he would have more buttons made for other schools in his district, Mobile City Council District 1, that are on the failing schools list. “I will do everything in my power to inspire the kids so they will not be on the failing list next time,” he said.
LeFlore principal William Henderson said the school’s administration, teachers and students appreciate Richardson’s support.
“The buttons indicate that there’s a partnership, a unified single goal that our students are not failures,” Henderson said. “That message needs to be communicated to them, and it needs to be reinforced. Through the buttons, we see a community official reinforcing that, we see our community reinforcing that, to let our students know that just because there’s a label applied to a building … I don’t think any child is a failure.”