02/05/09 — Parents blast Duplin school mergers

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Parents blast Duplin school mergers

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on February 5, 2009 1:46 PM

KENANSVILLE -- A group of angry North Duplin High parents threatened to sue the Duplin County Board of Education if it decides to consolidate schools in the northern part of the county.

The parents spoke during the public comment part of the board's Tuesday night meeting.

The parents said they were drawn to the meeting when they learned the board was to receive a report from superintendent Dr. Wiley Doby about the school system's facility plan that would combine North Duplin High School, James Kenan High School and the B.F. Grady portion of East Duplin High School district.

The plan, when it was updated in 2008, sparked controversy among the parents of children attending the three schools slated for consolidation.

On Tuesday, North Duplin graduate Belinda King asked the board to vote again on the facility plan after calling into question how the board went about approving it in the first place. And after the board votes again, if it continues to pursue consolidation, she promised a lawsuit.

"Something is terribly wrong," she said. "This is not about a racial issue. This is about our children being yanked out of their school and shipped off to a consolidated school."

A North Duplin grandmother, Violet Goodson of Mount Olive, asked the board to set aside feelings and act rationally.

"This controversy needs to be resolved quickly," she said. "The current facility plan needs to be scrapped. We do need new facilities, but it needs to be done wisely. Some of you would like to make this a racial issue. It is not a racial issue. Smaller schools are better schools."

North Duplin is mostly white. James Kenan is mostly black.

North Duplin parent Wendy Brock said she is deeply concerned.

"You are making rash decisions," she said. "If this board had $100 million, it would be better spent on a new James Kenan High School and badly needed renovations at other schools."

Other counties support community schools, she said, pointing to Wayne County, which has moved toward the community schools concept.

"Southern Wayne (High School) is a prime example of a consolidated school that was a mistake," she said. "Why are you going back to an old trend that research proves was a mistake?"

North Duplin parent Jannah Pate said the teachers, students and parents at James Kenan High School have told her they want a new school of their own. A new school is badly needed, she said. But she said given a choice between consolidation and nothing, they would rather stay where they are in the old building.

She promised a lawsuit and a new private school in northern Duplin County if the board pursues consolidating the schools.

"We have a plan to build a private school in the North Duplin school district. The day the ground is broken for a consolidated school, shortly thereafter, ground will be broken for a new private school," she said. "There will be another lawsuit."

But Doby's report steered clear of the consolidated school issue, and the board did not even discuss the matter.

Instead, he focused on the possibility of using part of the federal economic stimulus money, which would not come close to funding a new $86 million high school, in other ways.

Specifically, he suggested a $18 million plan that would include renovations at Charity Middle School and a new elementary school to relieve the overcrowding at B.F. Grady -- a K-8 school that was not adequately funded, he said, and wasn't big enough to house its students when it first opened.