03/30/04 — Concerned Clergy, NAACP group oppose school construction plan

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Concerned Clergy, NAACP group oppose school construction plan

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 30, 2004 2:01 PM

The proposed $82.5 million school bond plan would exacerbate Wayne County's problem with racial imbalance in the central Goldsboro schools, says a group aligned with the NAACP.

Concerned Clergy members on Monday challenged elected officials not to approve the plan. They said they would file legal and civil rights complaints against it.

The Rev. Dr. William Barber, pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church and a member of the Concerned Clergy, said the proposed bond program is more concerned with politics and pandering to certain groups than furthering educational opportunities for the children.

"This bond crafted in seven hours by seven board members is seven times worse than the proposal this same board enacted with the state bond money seven years ago, which is why we are still in a mess seven years later," he said.

He said the construction plan passed unanimously by the school board last week was geared toward certain communities at the expense of others, serving only to divide the county further. Of the $82.5 million, he said, only $3 million is earmarked for the central Goldsboro schools that are predominantly black.

The plan also calls for two additional high schools that are unnecessary, he said, it does not address the segregation in the central Goldsboro schools and will financially tie the hands of the county for next year 21 years.

In the 30 years since integration was introduced, Goldsboro has shown a steady decline in its city school population. Dr. Craig McFadden, assistant superintendent for accountability, said there were 8,000 students in the six central schools in 1970. When the city and county school systems merged in 1992, there were 5,000 students registered. Today, that number is 2,811. Of those, 2,685 are black, 41 are white, and 126 are other races.

Overall, the six schools have a racial breakdown that is 95.5 percent black, 1.5 percent white, 3 percent other races.

The Rev. Alton Smith, pastor of St. Mark Church of Christ and a Concerned Clergy member, recalled being at Goldsboro High School in the late 1960s when integration was introduced.

"We were told that the day of black and white being separated was over," he said. "We would not be living in a black and white world.

"Some 30 to 40 years later, we're right back where they told us we would not end up."

He said the black clergy group wants support from the elected officials.

"They have an open door policy," he said of student transfers. "It's time now for us to march through that door."

Sylvia Barnes, president of the Wayne County branch of the NAACP, said everyone should be a spokesman for all of the children in the county, even if it means voting some of the officials out of office.

"You'll be a spokesperson when we file a lawsuit," she said. "You'll be a spokesperson when we put our feet on the pavements so that direct action will take place.

"We're not taking a back seat. We'll stand up and be heard, whatever it takes."

Gerald Simmons, a retired teacher, said he does not support the bond and urged fair-minded and clear-thinking citizens to stand with the NAACP and Concerned Clergy.

"The central school district will not accept penny candy while the county eats Godiva chocolates," he said.

Johnny Barnes said he recently moved back to Wayne County and was "quickly learning the politics of Wayne County."

"I'm disappointed," he said. "I expected the county to be more progressive."

He said that if Goldsboro High School is almost 100 percent black, does that mean that the city is 100 percent black?

"We know that's not the case, so how is this happening?" he asked.

He said that Mount Olive and Grantham residents are concerned about community schools, while people in Goldsboro are allowing students to be transported to schools outside the city.

Wilbur Barnes said the bond plan doesn't represent all of the people. He said he is troubled by what the community leaders are doing.

"I don't see any of the City Council members speaking out on anything that represents people in the city that pay taxes," he said.

Barber asked why a school survey done in 1994 has never been discussed.

"We took it to the county commissioners Monday," Barber said this morning. "They said they have never seen it."

He said he planned to take a copy to the Goldsboro City Council today. He said the plan, conducted for the county Board of Education, recommended magnet schools and reassigning students, which could have prevented many of today's problems.

Charles Wright recalled another package of suggestions from a group of citizens that attended a discussion in Chapel Hill in 1992. Nothing ever came of that, either, he said.

Wright suggested that citizens from all over the county work together to find solutions.

"Let's look at successful states and find a model similar to ours," he said. "Find a successful model and copy it, because frankly I have come to the conclusion that our representatives are not going to come up with some good answers."

Thaddeus Washington lives in the county. He said this is not just a city issue, nor is it a black problem.

"It concerns all citizens in the community of Goldsboro," he said.

He said the school board has an odd way of supporting children in the school system.

"There is supposed to be concern for all the children of the county but their actions don't show that," he said. "They act like they all have their own personal agendas."

Several actions were recommended by the clergy group. Barber challenged the City Council and the county commissioners to reject the school board's proposal and call for a plan that meets the long-range needs of the city and ends the racial imbalance.

He said his group will file a civil rights complaint this week and has secured a consultant to review other legal options.

Meetings have also been scheduled with the chairman of the State Board of Education and the education committee of the N.C. House, as well as a public forum on Friday night at Antioch Baptist Church to voice concerns and map out strategies, he said. State NAACP officers and other state advocates have been invited to the 7:30 p.m. meeting.