09/12/06 — Board records support for GHS principal, staff

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Board records support for GHS principal, staff

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 12, 2006 1:50 PM

The Board of Education threw its support behind Goldsboro High School Principal Patricia Burden and her staff during its meeting Monday afternoon and spoke out against leaders and community members who have been divisive against the public schools.

The board also discussed the State Board of Education's visit to Goldsboro last week to hold its regular meeting as well as a public forum at Goldsboro High School.

Board members said despite ongoing controversy over test scores at the high school, they back the school and its leadership. Calling Ms. Burden a "lighthouse keeper," they issued a proclamation charging her and her staff to "stay steady the course."

At last week's forum, several audience members expressed concern about the school. Students said they needed community support, while a parent urged the school board to provide facilities comparable to those at other schools in the county. A former teacher blasted the leadership at the school, prompting school board member Thelma Smith to argue that Ms. Burden had done much in the six years since she became principal.

Board member Rick Pridgen said Monday that it had been a learning experience to observe how the state board operates. Overall, he said, he heard nothing but compliments from the state contingent.

As for comments made during the state board's meeting Thursday morning by the Rev. William Barber of Goldsboro, state NAACP President, who said the visit had been "staged and planned," Pridgen said he disagreed.

"I think the gist of it, some people wanted to go down a different road. We were there to talk about Goldsboro High School and some of the things going on there. A few people tried to bring some other things into place," he said, adding that the local officials had handled it well.

Board member Shirley Sims said some of the negativity expressed at Wednesday night's forum and the subsequent state board meeting was to be expected.

"We need to be prepared for that," she said, noting that the school system's record should speak for itself.

Ms. Sims said that she is tired of the "back and forth talk" that has been going on for some time, especially between boards.

"I just pray to God that we will not allow the back and forth talk, telling the superintendent one thing, saying another in public, and another thing to county commissioners that continue to keep this thing turning, but ... you're not hurting Dr. Taylor. You're not hurting me or any member of this board when you do that. You're hurting the children of Wayne County Public Schools. I just hope that whatever way the good Lord can stop it, I'm ready for him to stop it."

Board Chairman John P. Grantham said that while one of the biggest problems with Goldsboro High School has been misinformation, another was with naysayers, especially from people in leadership roles.

"We have people that call themselves leaders and (they) have a message of gloom and doom," he said. "You don't need people telling you that you can't make it and you're depending on someone else for your success. That's what some of our leaders and officials, elected officials, are doing."

Board members Lehman Smith and Pete Gurley expressed appreciation to Ms. Burden and her staff for the way they have responded to some very adverse situations in recent years.

"I hope in the coming years that we can send you better prepared students when they leave the eighth grade ... and ease some of the pressure from you and your staff," Smith said.

Dr. Steve Taylor, who became superintendent of schools the same year he named Ms. Burden principal at Goldsboro High, agreed that she has had a tough couple of years.

"She's taken it like a trooper," he said. "She knows what her mission is, and she's trying to do it. ... She's giving it 110 percent, and that's all we can expect of anybody to do."

Ms. Burden said she appreciated the board's support and planned to share it with her staff and students. Positive things can always come out of trials and tribulations, she said, and having the state board visit the city and the high school were good experiences.

"I feel like we kind of made history on Wednesday night and Thursday morning," she said. "I just hope the state will take hold of what they saw and assist us."