12/02/04 — Schools agree to meet with commissioners

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Schools agree to meet with commissioners

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

Some Wayne County school board members hope meeting with the county commissioners will be a good first step toward ironing out their differences. But one school board member said she hopes it will not be a repeat of previous meetings where she said that nothing was accomplished.

Board member Shirley Sims said she recalled meetings held in years past, as well as extensive studies into problems in the county and school system.

"I don't know why we would have to reconvene and give it a new title," she said. "The same kind of problems that we're talking about, they were talking about."

At its meeting Wednesday night, school board member Rick Pridgen suggested two meeting dates for the boards to come together, either before or after the holidays.

But he said his suggestion was more than a response to the commissioners' recent proposal to form a 20/20 Vision Committee to study student racial imbalance and school construction needs.

"I think we have got several issues we need to discuss before we start talking about the 20/20 vision plan," he said. "We have things to iron out before we start talking."

Mrs. Sims said she didn't even know what the 20/20 vision plan was, but it seemed like a repeat of what had been done before.

She said if anything new has surfaced, that would be different. "Why do the same things that the other one has not done?" she asked.

"Clear up one question," she said to no one in particular. "What is it that you want to do? If we could just find out what it is that we want to do in Wayne County, I think we could move."

Ms. Sims said she did not see the need for more meetings that might just be a repeat of what had been done in the past.

"Now you want to come together again," she said. "If you're not going to do anything but meet and eat, we need to know it because I believe I could spend my time more wisely."

J.D. Evans, chairman of the commissioners, said this morning that his board proposed the study as a way to make a projection of where the school system should be by the year 2020. The joint meeting will be a way to promote dialogue between the two boards, he said.

"We feel it's an opportunity to make some moves that may help alleviate a lot of the concerns that we have," he said. He also hopes to find money to build needed schools, he said.

He said he is optimistic that the meeting will take place before the holidays.

On Wednesday night, board member Thelma Smith made a plea for support from the community.

"Look at where our situation is in Wayne County," she said. "We didn't ask for this; we did not ask to be where we are."

She said that since 1969, when she was a teacher at Dillard High School and the call came for integration in the schools, she has watched the student population dwindle in the central Goldsboro schools. Some of it was due to families moving into the suburbs, for which there is a simple solution, she said. And it wouldn't cost any money.

"Everybody wants to be in community schools, right?" she said. "Everybody, just go to school in your community."

She said she also realizes it is not that simple and that you can't please everybody.

"Whatever the answer is, I don't know, but I do know we're trying to do the best that we can with the students that we have," she said.

Outgoing board Chairman Pete Gurley said he had several thoughts, but would hold them for the meeting. Others said they looked forward to the opportunity to talk with the commissioners.

Board Chairman Lehman Smith said the meeting was long overdue.

"We have been trying to set it up for the last year," he said. It had been delayed for a variety of reasons, he said, the latest being the election.

"It's after the election and I'm ready to move on with it," he said. "Perhaps we can reach an understanding for the good of the children in Wayne County and have a 50-50 partnership with the county commissioners."

Dr. Steve Taylor, superintendent of schools, said there are a lot of construction needs in the county and the meeting might move things along where that is concerned.

"I think it's time to move off center," he said.