01/11/06 — Board says it's time to address inner city issues

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Board says it's time to address inner city issues

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 11, 2006 1:59 PM

Wayne County Board of Education members said Monday it is time to do more than just talk about the challenges facing families who live in Goldsboro's inner city.

Gangs, drive-by shootings and generational problems with public housing are interferring with children's ability to learn and families' ability to survive, board members said Monday.

Board member Rick Pridgen said he recently was approached by a father whose children attend Carver Heights Elementary School.

"He spoke about how they'd run to his bed at night, afraid because of gunfire outside," Pridgen said, adding that the children were then unable to pay attention in school because they had been awake most of the night.

"I really feel for some of these children, what they have to face when they go home at night. If we need to meet with some councilmen or commissioners, I certainly wouldn't mind. We have got far more than just diversity issues that are facing our schools."

Board member Thelma Smith said schools are not the only ones facing consequences from the inner city safety issues.

"At Dillard-Goldsboro Alumni (building on Poplar Street), the past 15 to 20 years we have had a WAGES satellite program for children. But this past year, the people had to move, not because the facility was not good, but they couldn't send their children out to play during the day because of drive-by shootings in the daytime when the children were there," she said.

"Some will tell you now that we don't have a problem in the city. Evidently, their heads are in the sand."

Mrs. Smith said there are all kinds of faulty perceptions out there.

"We do have gangs. Some don't think that we have a problem. I can't believe that you can ride up and down the streets of Goldsboro and not see that we have a problem," she said.

"We need to clean up the area; it's an eyesore. Any way you want to come into Goldsboro, it's an eyesore. Maybe because of dilapidated buildings, unoccupied buildings. ... This is one of the reasons that people want to move out."

Many have already moved out of the city, prompting yet more misperceptions, Mrs. Smith said. These have ranged from the need for diversity in the inner city schools to the belief that students and staff in those schools are underachievers, she said.

"We have lost enrollment from time to time, not just from whites, (but also from) people who are leaving the area, and I think it's because of the safety in the inner city. I have a special concern about it because I do know that there's good education going on in that area. I'm in and out of the schools in the central attendance area all the time. Our teachers are working hard, sometimes twice as hard as others."

She said it is hard to convey that message to the public because the environment and surroundings are so negative.

"We can't do anything about it because we didn't plan the layout of the city. For some reason, we have an abundance of people that are gathered in some areas, because of economic situations that people are running away."

She said no one can stop people from moving to other areas, as that's their right. But that doesn't mean that those who helped create the environment shouldn't be a part of cleaning it up so that it will become a safe place where others will want to come and live.

"We're going to appeal to anybody out there that hears what we're saying tonight to come together and let us form some kind of committee to clean up this place and make it attractive," she said.

Shirley Sims, vice-chairman of the board, said that whatever is done to make the environment safe will spill over into the schools. It will be up to the city and county to take a look at the situation and create plans to make the city a safer place to live.

"We need to stop the foolishness. These children are not able to clean up these streets. Stop talking about the children and the schools. We need to talk about cleaning up the environment," she said.

Ms. Sims said she had nothing against public housing, except that what started out as a transitional solution has not worked as was originally proposed.

"We have generations of people in there now," she said. "We need to do something to clean it up. The whole burden is on the backs of the people who are paying taxes."

Ms. Sims proposed the board form a committee to develop a resolution and submit its findings for approval. Reading from a statement, she said the committee would then ask that the city of Goldsboro "take steps to improve the climate and safety issues for families that live in the area and to be able to attract other citizens to live, rear and educate their children."

Board Chairman John P. Grantham appointed Mrs. Smith, Pridgen and Pete Gurley to the committee.

Gurley said he supported everything that other board members had said.

"I have been an advocate for years that we need to do something in the central attendance area - make a safe environment, give tax breaks, whatever, to bring folks in that area to live - if we can draw some resolution to show that we're in support of something like this," he said.