12/02/09 — GHS supporters ask for support, not just criticism

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GHS supporters ask for support, not just criticism

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 2, 2009 12:15 PM

Goldsboro High School is not a bad apple and the community should be more supportive of the school and its students, said a contingent of parents speaking before the school board Tuesday night.

The group filled half the board room, but only a handful spoke, including several board members.

They showed up in response to a newspaper story about community perception of the schools, where several local officials weighed in on the status of the city and county schools. The reference that drew the most ire was the "bad apple" comment made by Jimmie Edmundson, senior vice president of BB&T and affiliated with a group of business men formed to work on school reform.

Before public comment, board member Thelma Smith made her own remarks, noting that she had spent 25 of her 40 years in education at Goldsboro High.

"Once again, people make assumptions," she said. "Those who are targets of this don't get a chance to express how they feel. These are the parents and teachers and students. Everybody has an opinion and we respect that. But an opinion is all that it is unless you do something about it."

Diversity is a good thing, Mrs. Smith said, and insinuating that mixing at-risk kids from the city with their counterparts to improve the situation, was erroneous -- there are at-risk kids at all the schools.

"Watch what you say about our children," she cautioned. "They want to know they belong. They want to know you care. Give them an encouraging word. It will make them change their life forever."

Eric Reid, GHS football coach, called the publicity "disheartening."

"My job as a coach is to let the kids know that's just one person's opinion," he said. "(The students) are ambassadors. We have some fine young men and women there. It's a little discouraging to hear some of the words from grownups."

Reid encouraged people to get involved with the school "instead of going by what you hear," challenging them to visit the school and see for themselves.

Leatha Miller, a member of the school's PTA, also took issue with the "bad apple" comment.

"Many students that have graduated from Goldsboro High School have succeeded in spite of their circumstances," she said. "GHS has produced doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers -- and many even beyond -- professional sports players. So when you look at articles that have been written about the school in a negative connotation ... they're talking about our children.

"I encourage you to get behind GHS and all of the negative statements that have been made about it, we need to turn it around for some positivity because our children do have the potential to succeed."

Shirley Edwards, a member of a group called the Advocates and a volunteer at the school, agreed that the school has much to offer.

"There are problems at every school, but we must support all of the schools and we must stop letting people divide the schools," she said. "We're here to support Wayne County Schools and if you don't have a positive comment to make, keep it to yourself."

Trebor Jackson, a graduate and now parent whose son plays on the football team, serves as PTA president.

He commended the board for its efforts to support the school and encouraging students to do well.

Despite that, though, he said, "There's a perception problem there."

"These kids want to learn and they can learn. ... I'm very concerned because we have got several students and we have kids that have been striving to improve the atmosphere at GHS."

Jackson's own emotions became clear at one point as he paused, apologizing for his "passion" as he shared about students who "get the impression that no one cares about them."

"I commend you for all you're doing and keep it up," he told the board. "But in order to succeed we're going to all have to work together. Let's fight this fight together."

Parent and staff member Anjanette Reed is also an alumna of the school.

"We do want to work, we do want change, we do care," she said. "You need to come to the school, see what we're doing day in and day out and you will see what we're doing at GHS."

Board member Eddie Radford, who briefly served as an assistant principal at Goldsboro High, said the school might have changed a bit over the years, but still has much to be proud of.

Efforts such as the hiring of a graduation coach and making administrative changes are expected to make a difference, Radford said. One need look no further than the national arena to draw a comparison, he added.

"We have a stimulus plan that went out and (helped banks) and we didn't call them bad apples and they were failing," he said. "Someone had to step in and help them. That's what we have to do for GHS. I'm going to work to make that as good of a school as I can."

Board member Shirley Sims called it a "divisive situation" in the county.

"I don't know how we think we can encourage children through negativity," she said. "I don't understand why someone would make a statement about our children like that and especially from a person who has had us meeting with them to do some good things for the schools.

"I have a problem with people who throw rocks and hide their hands. We have got folks smiling to our faces with daggers at our backs."