09/08/06 — State board members tour Goldsboro High

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State board members tour Goldsboro High

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 8, 2006 1:50 PM

The state Board of Education shared positive impressions from their visit to Goldsboro High School this week and then heard from the state NAACP president about issues of resegregation in the central attendance area.

The board split the week in Craven and Wayne counties, where members held town meetings and conducted their own regular monthly meeting. On Wednesday afternoon, the contingent met with local officials to discuss turnaround plans for Goldsboro High School, and hosted a public forum that evening.

The state board toured the high school Thursday morning before convening at the central office.

Board member John Tate said he was impressed with the examples of leadership he witnessed Wednesday night, citing two students who spoke at the forum as well as GHS principal Pat Burden.

The students said they felt there has been a lack of respect and support from the community for Goldsboro High School.

"Those two young men, Jonathan Sykes and Burnie Best, that's leadership. I suspect we'll see these two move on to greatness," he said. "I salute them for their willingness to stand up for their peers."

He lauded the students for standing up for positive change and the principal's efforts to accomplish that. He said Ms. Burden's fervor "is admirable and it's right."

"I'm confident she will not rest easy until those children are scoring well into the 90s," Tate said.

State Board of Education Chairman Sen. Howard Lee said the board approached its visit to Goldsboro High school with an attitude of looking forward to the future. Then he veered from the meeting procedure by inviting a speaker to the podium.

"Generally, the state board does not invite people to speak before the board, but there doesn't appear to get a time in the history of the board when we have met in the home of a leader of the NAACP," he said before introducing local minister and NAACP state president the Rev. William Barber.

Lee also used the occasion to clarify remarks he had made several months ago regarding Barber's impassioned stance about Goldsboro High School. Lee said Barber had not advocated for the closure of the high school.

Rather, "what he advocated for is that Goldsboro should be one of the best high schools in the state and that's the commitment of this board," Lee said. Barber talked about his concerns over resegregation in Wayne County and the low test scores in some of the schools. He said those factors violated the rights of children and preventing them from receiving a quality education.

The problem in Goldsboro, he said, is not a lack of parental and community support. Some of it could be attributed to the open transfer policy, he said.

"Segregation prohibits growth educationally," he said, noting the "gross inequities" also exist in such areas as Greensboro and Charlotte, where schools struggle to retain good teachers and keep students in school.

Barber said the state board had only received a select snapshot of the local school system, from the morning's tour of the high school to the "staged program" the evening before. He said many were unaware of the public forum, while others continue to be afraid to speak out.

"The attendance area is existing in pre-1953" conditions, he said, with more than 40 percent of the students failing end of grade tests.

"If the heart is only working at 59 percent, you're sick," he said.

Barber said that what Superior Court Judge Howard Manning had done by imposing sanctions on schools like Goldsboro High School was in line with the message that he and others had tried to convey to the school system for years.

He also suggested that introducing a bond plan would just reinforce the resegregation.

"You can't pass a state bond and expect people to do right," he said, explaining that even with an integrated military base here and a population that is 50 percent black and 50 percent white, there are still 100 percent black schools in the middle of the city.

"It's unfair to even ask Pat Burden to fix that," he said.

Ms. Burden also spoke to the board, expressing appreciation for their interest in what is taking place at the school.

"I have not hesitated to ask for assistance from the state ... and we have received the assistance that has been offered to us very graciously," she said. "We are looking for great strides this year and will focus on improving student performance."

Board member Kathy Taft called the group's visit to Wayne County a good one.

"Our visit to Goldsboro High School has been very special," she said. "Most of the board members, all of them, go to a lot of high schools. We all said outside that we have never been to a high school where the students treated us with more respect."