09/03/08 — Price: It's time to redistrict schools

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Price: It's time to redistrict schools

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 3, 2008 1:45 PM

It is "high time" Wayne County tackled school redistricting, Wayne County Commissioner Atlas Price Jr. said Tuesday.

He also voiced concerns during the commissioners' meeting that athletics are being allowed to supplant the classroom and that people think new buildings are the answer to all of the schools' problems.

School redistricting is an unpopular issue no one wants to talk about, but it also is one that could provide solutions to some of the problems facing the county's education system, Price said.

"(Redistricting) ought to be looked at if everybody is going to be treated right and your tax dollars spent fairly for education," the commissioner said in a follow-up interview. "It's a hot subject because so many people don't like it, but it is a fact."

"I beg you to look at the situation and not get excited about what I have said, but think about the way to do it," Price said during the commissioners' comments portion of Tuesday's board meeting. "I think it would be more beneficial for the Wayne County schools to do it than not do it. If we are going to have one school system, let's have one school system and be fair to all concerned."

The rest of the board was silent on the issue, and Price told the News-Argus he did not know if the board would endorse a formal request for such action.

A former member of the Board of Education, Price is not seeking re-election to his at-large seat.

"You know we merged (school systems) some years ago, but we really didn't merge," he said. "We still have two school systems and the answer to it is to redistrict. Nobody wants to do it, but if you do it and do it fairly where students don't have to travel any farther to one school than to another, it can be done. It will take time and some effort, but it needs to be done so that our educational system is balanced."

A balanced system, he said, would make it easier to cut costs by determining if some facilities could be eliminated. It would also help the county better determine if new buildings are needed.

"Until we redistrict this county, and do it fairly so you don't bus one group any more than you bus another, we are never going to be able to financially provide an education system," he said.

Price said the schools had not been redistricted after merger.

"We had two systems, Goldsboro School District and Wayne County District," he said. "Goldsboro merged, but Goldsboro didn't merge. In other words, you still have an inner school district."

The districts need to be "balanced out," he said

"When you think about redistricting, think not by race, not by any particular issue except doing it fairly," Price said. "Most people think of redistricting as you are going to bus the blacks out of Goldsboro and the whites into Goldsboro. That is not what I am speaking about.

"What I am talking about is redistricting and drawing lines around each school to match the number of students in that area so that everybody is treated fairly and rides about the same distance and you will cut down on the facilities you will need.

"And when you build one (school) you build it in a district to suit the district rather than just build a school. That is what I am talking about -- doing it fairly all over the county -- you will find your number of facilities will be less than you have got today and the cost will be less because your students, teachers and principals can get in other schools."

"You still have a line around Goldsboro," he said. "You don't need a line around Goldsboro. You need a line around Wayne County."

Redistricting wasn't the only school issue on Price's mind.

He launched his comments on school issues by saying that athletics are being allowed to supplant the classroom and that people think new buildings are the answer to all of the schools' problems.

"We all love athletics, but I think we are letting athletics get ahead of the classroom," he said. "The classroom, to me, comes first and then the athletics."

The ease in which students are reassigned from one school to another also should be addressed, he said.

Price said students from the southern end of the county attend schools in the northern end, while students from the northern part of the county are in southern schools.

He said students want to go where their friends are or where certain teachers are and they then get reassigned.

"Another thing that bothers me is it seems that we have all got to the place that we think brick and mortar, dollars and cents are the answer to education. It is not the answer. It helps, but it is not the answer."

He said the old saying about "getting above our raisings" holds true where facilities are concerned.