By Bobby R. Henry, Sr.
It’s been a long time coming, but Blanche Ely High School has finally gotten a new principal. Tavures Williams was appointed principal by The Broward School Board (they got something right) on Tuesday, July 19, 2022 on his 33rd birthday. Williams’ appointment was met with clenched power fists held high in the air, loud and thunderous cheers, and tears of joy.
Williams is a 2007 Tiger graduate and comes from a long lineage of Ely alumnus.
Williams’ mother, Chiquita Blue, also graduated from Ely in 1990 when James L. Jones was the illustrious principal. His grandmother, Mrs. Alice Blue, graduated in 1966 and she still has a home in the surrounding community. At the time of Grandma Blue’s graduation, Blanche General Ely was principal. Now, how cool is that!?!
After the School Board appointment, Principal Williams reported to the school campus for his first official moments as Leader of the Tiger Pride. He, his wife, mother, grandmother and other family members were greeted by the community in grand orange and green Tiger style… with wide smiles, blowing horns and shaking pom-poms. Pompano’s Vice Mayor, Beverly Perkins, joined the festivities to show the support of the Pompano government.
Williams’ appointment is special because he is the very first Ely Alum to become principal of Blanche Ely High School. Wade Edmond, a long time Pompano resident served as principal from 2005 to 2008. Wade’s heart beat for his neighborhood school of Ely, but due to desegregation, he was forced to attend and graduate from Coconut Creek High School.
Another fact that makes Williams appointment so special is Wade Edmond was principal when Tavures Williams attended and graduated from Blanche Ely High School.
As the new principal, Williams has committed himself to improving the academic experience for students and using lessons learned as a Florida A & M University Rattler to rebuild the school’s sports programs and interscholastic and extracurricular experiences. He promises that Blanche Ely High School is going to be the “Baby FAMU of the South” and revels in the fact that he shares his college alma mater of FAMU with the school’s namesake, Blanche General Ely. Mrs. Ely attended and graduated from FAMU in 1926.
Blanche Ely High School suffered greatly with low academic performance this past school year due to a huge void in the mathematics department. The school reportedly operated for an entire year with five math openings. This resulted in a dismal student performance in math. The passing rate for the school’s Algebra End of Course exams was a shockingly low five percent. Parents and community activists complained to the then principal, Dr. Karlton Johnson and district officials about not having math teachers for students, but their cries were like a tree falling in the woods with no one around to hear it. Superintendent Cartwright direct appointed Johnson to a district director job which paved the way for Principal Williams to assume the Tiger Throne.
In 1970 the Broward School Board closed Pompano School of Color, now Blanche Ely High School, as it made decisions in response to the federal desegregation order. Unfortunately, schools in largely Black neighborhoods faced a disproportionately negative impact due to school desegregation. It resulted in Black students experiencing the trauma of leaving their neighborhoods and being bused into White schools where they were often grossly mistreated because they were not welcome. It also led to Black teachers and administrators losing their jobs… a few of the unintended… or maybe intended consequences of school desegregation.
Blanche General Ely stood up to the Broward school district and refused to accept the closure of the Pompano School of Color. She and her assistant principal staged a brave act of civil disobedience by reporting daily to the school campus for work, dressed in professional attire in protest. She also wrote letters each day from 1970-1973 to legislatures and even the Pope campaigning to have the school reopened. Mrs. Ely and other community leaders filed a lawsuit against the School Board, and in 1974 the case was settled and the school reopened as an integrated school.
The Pompano School of Color was renamed Ely High School in 1974 in honor of both Blanche Ely and her husband, Joseph Alegenon Ely. They both contributed greatly to the Pompano community. But in 1999, the school’s name was updated to Blanche Ely High School as a sole tribute to her unwavering commitment to the school during the period of desegregation.
Broward Schools has plans to begin the process of right sizing the district by looking at under-enrolled schools and repurposing them. The Pompano community is dedicated to ensuring that Blanche Ely High and the schools in the community are not targeted for closure when there are other schools throughout the district that are significantly under-enrolled, as well.
But that is a fight for another day. For today and the coming days, weeks and months, the community of Blanche Ely High School is proudly celebrating their new leader as he walks in the legacy of Blanche General Ely. The collective community is eager and stands ready to help him to create a legacy of his own. Mr. Tavures R. Williams has the unwavering, collaborative support of the community and Ely Alumni. You just can’t hide that BEHS Tiger Pride!