12/01/09 — NAACP: City schools segregated

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NAACP: City schools segregated

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 1, 2009 10:58 AM

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Goldsboro resident and father of four Charles Wright speaks this morning during a press conference at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction in Raleigh at left is Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the state NAACP.

RALEIGH -- Wayne County Public Schools is operating a school district that defies the U.S. Supreme Court's mandate of desegregation, the state NAACP says.

The organization's president, The Rev. Dr. William Barber of Goldsboro, said at a press conference in Raleigh today that the NAACP will file a lawsuit to force the system to restructure its district lines to alleviate the problem caused by the Goldsboro High School district, which is more than 90 percent black.

County school officials issued a statement prior to the press conference, saying they could not comment on a lawsuit they had not seen.

"Wayne County Public Schools has not received any complaint from the NAACP, the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education, or the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Until the district actually receives a complaint, it cannot respond to any allegations or details within it.

The district learned of the upcoming press conference through contacts by the news media. However, the district has not been formally made aware of the specifics of the complaint."

Barber spoke at the state Department of Public Instruction building in Raleigh at 9 a.m. He said the Wayne school system's refusal over the years to properly address the problem posed by Goldsboro High's lack of racial diversity prompted the lawsuit.

"This action comes after years if talking, good faith efforts, attempting to get the Wayne County Public Schools to end its patterns of policies that have resulted in the creation of extreme resegregation and apartheid education within what is supposed to be a unified one county school system," Barber said. "For more than two years our researchers and legal counsel have looked at the data, patterns and harm produced by the policies of the WC school system and we have concluded, alleged and believe in good faith that the practices and policies alleged in our complaint are intention, they are carried out wih the knowledge of Respondent Wayne County School Board Inc. and they have adversely impacted, and will continue to adversely impact, members of the Complaining Class."

Among the allegations were lower graduation rates, higher dropout rates, suspension rates, more and meaner discipline, lower grade point averages, college entrance rates, college ambition rates and gifted and talented participation for and by black students and other students of color.

The complaint was filed "on behalf of all children assigned to the Goldsboro, N.C. central attendance district" and other children in the Wayne County schools "who are deprived of constitutional education by the policies and practices of the Wayne County School Board."

It further alleged that the county Board of Education has "undermined the rights of students that attend Goldsboro High School and parental rights, under the provision of No Child Left Behind Act 2002, including but not limited to the transfer policy, withholding Title I funding at GHS."

Goldsboro High was one of a handful in the state ordered several years ago to improve or shut its doors by Judge Howard Manning, who was charged by the state with improving low-performing schools. Although test scores and graduation rates improved enough to the keep the doors open, they did not do so enough to completely satisfy either local or state officials.

Recently, the school hired a graduation coach to help motivate students to finish with a diploma. And Principal Patricia Burden was joined by the former principal at Wayne High School Academy, John Twitty, in what school officials termed a "shared principal concept," to augment the effort.

"Each of the principals will draw on their strengths and work collaboratively together to make decisions that best benefit students," School Superintendent Dr. Steven Taylor said at the time.

Twitty serves as principal for administration and Mrs. Burden as principal for instruction.

Although school officials withheld comment, Wayne County Commissioner Sandra McCullen and school district administrator said she believes the school system has made every effort to improve the situation at Goldsboro High and the rest of the county's schools.

"We stepped up to the plate with courageous conversation about equity and excellence in the public schools," she said just before commissioners held their regular meeting this morning. "The issues of diversity and of race continues to be the dividing issues, but structures are in place to address them."