04/06/04 — Criticism of school board answered

View Archive

Criticism of school board answered

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 6, 2004 2:03 PM

School board members say they are upset by innuendoes and misinformation about the school system that is coming from disgruntled community groups.

Ever since the Wayne County board announced its $82.5 million construction plan two weeks ago, the school system has been the subject of media reports about racial imbalance.

Last week, the Concerned Clergy said the construction plan did not adequately represent the needs of the six central Goldsboro schools. The group then joined the NAACP and announced a civil rights complaint would be filed asking for an investigation into the board's practices.

No comments were made about the complaint during Monday night's meeting, but several members took issue with the way the board's efforts have recently been publicized.

"I was saddened when I heard that our board worked on our facilities plan for seven hours," said board member Rick Pridgen. "That really bothered me because we have had 15 months that we have put into this.

"Our presentation to the county commissioners was not something that was put together in seven hours."

Pridgen said that references to news media did not include the News-Argus.

Board member John Grantham agreed.

"It's been in the making for years," he said. "Because we had one final meeting that lasted seven hours, it was assumed that's all we took to work on the plan."

Board member Thelma Smith said that she is concerned about public perception of the school system.

"I have a grave concern about misinformation that's going on through the news media," she said. "I think a disservice is being done to the schools, our teachers, principals and our parents."

She said that she has received numerous calls from parents and teachers who are upset about how the schools in central Goldsboro are being portrayed.

"I heard that the scores in the central attendance area are plummeting," she said. "That's the furthest thing from the truth.

"The schools in the central attendance area have been making greater gains than a lot of other areas simply because they have farther to go."

She said the reports are hurtful to hard-working teachers in the school system.

"Somebody needs to lift them up and give them the support for what they do for the children every day," she said. "I would be glad to talk with anyone who doesn't know and wants the answers."

The open transfer policy has been blamed for some of the racial imbalance problems across the county. Slight changes to the policy were recently approved by a board vote of 5-2, the dissenters being Shirley Sims and Mrs. Smith.

"I don't really like the transfer policy, never did," Mrs. Smith said. "But if we were to reverse it tonight, I wonder how many people who are using it would be able to go back to the places they're supposed to go."

She said that a lot of people who advocated against the transfer policy are themselves using it.

Pridgen said he had been interviewed by one TV reporter about the education received in the central Goldsboro schools.

"One of the questions that was posed to me was, 'Why is it that the students at Goldsboro High School can't get the same education that they get at the other schools?'" he said.

"One of the things I said was that they had a student who got into Princeton ... but they won't put that on TV."

Not everyone is opposed to the proposed construction plan, though.

Representatives from Grantham and Mount Olive, communities with new high schools included in the plan, applauded the school board.

James Cox, president of the Grantham High School Foundation, said that Grantham residents support the plan.

"There are many needs in Wayne County," he said. "It's a good plan for the advancement of Wayne County schools."

He said the board had shown leadership and professionalism in responding to the request for community schools.

"Such dedication should be commended and I thank you," he said.

Ray McDonald Jr., representing the Mount Olive High School steering committee, also appeared before the board Monday night.

He said that since the request for a high school in Mount Olive was made in January, his group had done everything that the board had suggested.

"We got organized, we got focused, we decided what we wanted, and we stated our case," he said.

McDonald said there has been a tide of support across the county and surveys have shown that community schools are a good environment in which to raise children and educate them.

"You graciously included us in your facilities plan," he said. "I came here to thank you."