12/01/04 — NAACP, Clergy group want input on proposed school committee

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NAACP, Clergy group want input on proposed school committee

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 1, 2004 2:00 PM

Concerned Clergy and the Wayne County NAACP applauded a proposal by the county commissioners to address racial imbalance and school building projects, but say they are cautiously optimistic about the outcome.

A public meeting is being planned for later this month by the organizations. The Rev. Dr. William Barber of the Concerned Clergy said the group was anxious to respond to the 20/20 Vision Committee proposal announced last week by the commissioners.

The commissioners voted to form the committee to come up with a plan by June for better racial balance in the central Goldsboro schools. The group would also recommend construction projects for the school system through the year 2020.

County Commissioners Jack Best and Atlas Price said today that they welcomed the support of Concerned Clergy and the NAACP and looked forward to working with representatives of the groups.

During a news conference Tuesday night, Barber said his group is pleased with the proposed 15-year plan, but "the reality is we're already 50 years behind.

"We can't wait another 15 years in this county for things to get better. Too much is at stake morally, socially, educationally and economically."

The minister said his prayer is that the plan will not become just another study. He said this is not the first time a study has been suggested.

"Over a year ago," he said, on May 19, 2003, "the Concerned Clergy and NAACP put forth a similar call for a Blue Ribbon Commission."

The idea was presented to the Goldsboro City Council, the county commissioners, and the Board of Education.

Sylvia Barnes, president of the Wayne County NAACP chapter, said credit for the idea belongs to the Concerned Clergy, not the commissioners. "This is nothing new," she said. "It's just that they decided that the time was right in their thinking.

"We will not sit by and let somebody else take the credit for what has already been laid out."

Price and Best said they agreed that the commissioners' idea was not new. But, said Best, "It's just time to get the show on the road. It's time that the county commissioners and the school board get this thing started."

Barber said that for the proposal to succeed, several things must happen.

He said all segments of the community must be represented. The dialogue must be frank but respectful and based on facts and detailed analysis. And the public must truly want change.

"We can't just have another study," he said.

He said that in 1994, more than 300 citizens came together and did a massive study, but it was shelved. In 1996, a school building study was done but no action followed, he said.

"We must move forward and not become bogged down with political minutiae," he said.

Barber commended Commissioner Price for taking action, as well as others on the board who supported it. He said that in addition to issues of "segregation" and school buildings, the study should be expanded to address achievement gaps in the schools among minority and white students.

"You can't have a problem in one part of the county and it not eventually fester and infect, if you will, the rest of the county," he said.

He called on the public to take responsibility both politically and morally.

"We have been talking about values recently in America," he said. "What's more valuable than the children? What says more about our values than the way we treat the children?

"We cannot continue to live in a city that has a first class fighter wing and first class integrated fighter wing and yet inside a city that has segregated schools."

Ms. Barnes said the NAACP was designed to be a watchdog in the community, and members want to be part of the proposed study committee.

"How can you have a study for segregation when the NAACP is not included?" she said.

"We know that something is wrong in the county. It's time to move forward, push forward and work toward making a wrong, right."

Best and Price said today that they agreed that the committee must be inclusive.