03/09/04 — Advocates see schools' improvement

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Advocates see schools' improvement

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 9, 2004 2:00 PM

The school board and its superintendent are to be commended for the way they have structured the school system in recent years, says one community group. But it says strenuous steps still need to be taken to complete the task.

Advocates of Goldsboro-Wayne County appeared at Monday night's board meeting, with Ulis Dawson as its spokesman. The group formed a few years ago to seek help for at-risk students in central Goldsboro.

Dawson said the advocates have had good, meaningful talks with the board on an individual and small-group basis for the last three years.

"The fruit of all our meetings with you has created an awareness that you are not only policy makers," he said. "You have graciously opened your eyes, ears and hearts to the wishes of parents, patrons and businesses that will also benefit from your wisdom and planning."

He said the board has performed an awesome task and is well on the road to "structuring a school district of which we can all be proud."

One outcome of its meetings with the board has been requests for recommendations from the advocates, Dawson said, some of which are being implemented.

"You have commendably united in efforts to operate above and beyond the six districts from which you came, and you now hear the heartbeat of parents and patrons who make appeals to create community schools," he said.

Nevertheless, he said, Wayne County is among those classified as a low-wealth community. "Will diminishing funds allow us to pay attractive teacher salary supplements and also bear the burden of maintenance that comes with the new community schools being proposed?" he said.

Dawson said a bond referendum under consideration could provide money for capital construction but the payback would place a lot of demands on future school boards.

He suggested that the board hired its superintendent because of his vision and plans to advance the education system in the county, thus making a periodic evaluation of his progress essential. But, he asked, upon whose vision for the schools does the board conduct its evaluation?

"Reference to him as 'secretary to the board' creates the idea that he must implement the board's plan instead of visionary plans he presented prior to being hired," Dawson said.

"Do we censure and crush the vision of highly trained professionals, or do we support their wisdom for making our schools and our children rank among the best in our state and nation?"

He also expressed concern about students and schools that did not make adequate progress as required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. He said one of the board's top priorities should be to provide exemplary teachers and adequate resources in the areas where inadequate achievement was determined.

"If you believe in the mandates of this federal act and agree to implement it in our system," he said, "then challenge yourselves to provide the best to those who need it most."

He asked that the board research and evaluate any approach necessary to better serve and educate children.

"You are our leadership group for education in Wayne County," he said. "Cast aside bias references such as 'my child, my district.'

"Give careful and analytical thought of the impact your decision to build community schools will have in our community -- educationally, culturally and financially."

Board Chairman Pete Gurley thanked Dawson for his remarks and said he appreciated the job the advocates have done.

Board member Lehman Smith applauded the group's approach to different issues.

"From what I have heard from this group, it's always been positive," he said. "They're looking for a better way for students in our county.

"As long as we can keep the momentum going and people really want what's best for the children in Wayne County, I think we'll be able to pull it off."