04/15/04 — Kenan, North Duplin school consolidation ideas sought

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Kenan, North Duplin school consolidation ideas sought

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on April 15, 2004 1:58 PM

WARSAW -- A Warsaw businessman says his pro-consolidation group will entertain any ideas for a solution to problems in the James Kenan school district.

Warsaw Chamber President Jim Harris said his group wants to consolidate James Kenan and North Duplin high schools, because the county has a serious problem in the James Kenan High School district. He said he feels the county's student transfer policy, or lack thereof, has allowed the James Kenan district to become "segregated" over the past several years.

He said his group wants everybody to acknowledge the problem and work together to solve it. The group is formed mostly with non-parents. Most are business owners who know they need to do something with the schools to attract business into the area. Some members of the group who are parents are sending their children to private schools.

"We have a good elementary school, and the percentage of excellence is rising at the middle school, but it's hard to keep the white people in there," he said.

The school board has received two study recommendations to consolidate the James Kenan and North Duplin high schools. One was in 1984 and the other in 1991.

"My question is why didn't they do it then, and why not consolidate now?" he said. "All we're asking them to do is consider it, and if they do not choose to do that, offer us an alternative solution to the problem that's equal to or greater than the study."

"We're open to any suggestions they have," he added. "Obviously something has gone south. Let's learn from what we did or did not do and work together as a team from now on, and forget what anybody may or may not have done in the past. You can solve problems if you truly want to work together on them."

The five schools in the James Kenan district, combined, are 26 percent white. The two schools in Kenansville are in the James Kenan district. Warsaw Middle School, with a student population of 192, is 7 percent white. The elementary school, with a student population of 524, was 15 percent white in October, but three more students have left the school in the last two months, said Harris.

"We want to stop that white flight," he said. "They found ways to transfer to other places. The school board is working to stop any more, and it's doing a good job."

North Duplin's district is 57 percent white, and East Duplin is 64 percent white. Wallace has a fairly decent mix, he said.

If the two high schools consolidated, the racial mix would be 40 percent white, 44 percent black and 16 percent Hispanics.

Now, James Kenan High School, with 605 students, has 55 percent black, 26 percent white and 17 percent Hispanic students. North Duplin High School in grades 9 through 12 has 66 percent white, 20 percent black and 13.6 percent Hispanics.