05/10/04 — Schools survey city parents about diversity

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Schools survey city parents about diversity

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 10, 2004 2:02 PM

School board members wonder if parents would send their children to central Goldsboro schools if the ratio of black and white students was more equal.

A survey was mailed out Friday to parents of public school students living within the city limits of Goldsboro but attending schools other than those in the central area. Those schools are Carver Heights Elementary, North Drive Elementary, School Street Elementary, Dillard Middle, Goldsboro Middle and Goldsboro High.

The school board instructed the central office to send out the survey.

Pete Gurley, chairman of the board, said surveys were sent to 600 city residents who send their children to schools outside of their assigned area, with another 2,000 surveys sent to people who live outside of central Goldsboro. 

The survey asks basic information about how many school-aged children are in the home, the schools attended and grade level, and the ethnicity of the children.

Then there is a yes or no question: "If the Board of Education could place your child in a class with a 50/50 racial mix, would you consider moving your child to a Central Attendance Area school?"

There has been ongoing debate about "white flight" from city schools and how the situation can be improved. The school system's open transfer policy and redistricting have been hot topics for years between the board and community groups.

During a recent board work session, the idea of surveying parents was mentioned as a way to find out whether residents would be willing to send children to the central Goldsboro schools if racial diversity was more balanced.

"There was some discussion, wondering if the people would come back if we had at least a 50/50 racial mix," said Board Chairman Pete Gurley.

Shirley Sims of the school board said she favored the survey as a way to see if the public wants to reconfigure the district lines. She said the survey is a simple way to respond.

"The community has an interest in trying to change the level of diversity in the central attendance area," she said. "We thought that we first need to consider the parents that live within the central attendance area, that for whatever reason have decided to enroll their children in other schools."

Prior to the city and county schools' merger in 1992, there was an unwritten agreement that the classrooms would be racially balanced. Ms. Sims called it a "50/50 split." She said it was not a true 50/50 division, but the intent was to assign students so that no class would be all of one race.

When the policy was discontinued in the mid-1990s, she said, "Parents started to have some concern. After the merger, we saw greater numbers of students being moved."

Stan Alleyne, public information officer for the school system, encouraged those who received survey letters to respond. A self-addressed, stamped envelope was provided.

"Like any survey," he said, "in order for the administration and the board to make decisions, it requires the strong participation of parents and guardians.

"Regardless of a person's opinion, we ask that they be willing to participate in this fact-finding procedure."

Gurley said that once the surveys are returned, the board will be in a better position to see what can be done.

Ms. Sims said, "This may not be the answer, but it will be a beginning, because we do need to know the true feelings of the people that still reside in the central attendance area."