08/03/08 — Duplin protest meeting moved

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Duplin protest meeting moved

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 3, 2008 11:02 AM

KENANSVILLE -- School consolidation foes on Tuesday are expected to protest the Duplin County Board of Education's schools' facilities plan.

In anticipation of a large crowd, the school board meeting has been moved from the board's regular meeting room to the larger, neighboring Kenan Memorial Auditorium.

The protest, expected to begin at 5:30 p.m. and last until the board convenes, will be confined to the knoll in front of the auditorium and the adjoining baseball field.

The board will hold a closed session at 6:30 p.m. in the O.P. Johnson Education Building before moving to Kenan Memorial Auditorium where it will convene at 7:30 p.m.

Plans for the protest were finalized Tuesday night during a meeting of North Duplin Jr.-Sr. High School supporters at Rones Chapel United Methodist Church, five miles southeast of Mount Olive.

North Duplin supporters, as well as ones from B.F. Grady Middle School near Albertson, have organized in their respective communities to protest the school board's plans to consolidate the two schools with James Kenan High School at Warsaw. Some people from the James Kenan area have also voiced opposition to the plan.

As proposed, a new high school would be built in the Westbrooks Crossroads community in the James Kenan district.

Opponents contend that driving distances would be too costly in terms of fuel and parental support.

"We are trying to find other land in case we have an overflow crowd Tuesday," said John Henry Carr, president of the North Duplin Jr.-Sr. High School Advisory Council.

Carr was hesitant to estimate how many people might turn out for the event.

"The hope is for a good, countywide turnout," he said. "People need to realize the county will have to pay so much for a new school that taxes will have to go up.

"It will take a hefty increase to pay for the school."

During this past Tuesday's meeting, signs and banners were made for the protest.

Carr said supporters are being encouraged to wear school colors and/or school-related clothing.

Efforts also are being made to involve students.

Carr said the protest would be more like a rally.

"It will be peaceful," he said. "We are not trying to create hostility with the school board. We are just determined not to accept what is being done by the board. We will fight it just as hard as we can."

Along with opposing the plan, school supporters were angered at the method employed to secure the 4-2 vote that approved it. The supporters have called it an "underhanded" tactic that allowed the board to vote without the public being aware of what was transpiring.

The facilities plan was not on the board's July 8 agenda, but was added at the start of the meeting by board member Reginald Kenan.

The vote prompted a July 11 meeting at the Calypso Fire Station that drew a crowd of close to 350 school supporters. It also generated three petitions -- one in opposition to the plan; one seeking schools Superinten-dent Dr. Wiley Doby's job; and one asking for a state Board of Education investigation of the local school board.

When the petitions were presented July 15 to the board more than 500 people had signed. Carr said he was unsure how many more signatures have been obtained.