12/13/09 — Perdue makes stop at Seymour Johnson AFB

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Perdue makes stop at Seymour Johnson AFB

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on December 13, 2009 1:50 AM

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Gov. Bev Perdue shakes hands with 4th Fighter Wing Command Chief, Chief Master Sgt. LeRoy Frink, after a base tour Friday morning.

Gov. Bev Perdue declined to comment on the NAACP's charge that Wayne County Public Schools is operating a segregated school district during a press conference on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Friday morning.

But she did acknowledge that the quality of education in the schools that surround the installation would be a factor in the event the Base Realignment and Closure Commission is reconvened.

The governor toured Seymour Johnson -- alongside 4th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Mark Kelly, elected officials and former Military Affairs Committee and Seymour Support Council head Troy Pate -- to familiarize herself with the airmen stationed there and the mission they execute at home and abroad.

But she spent much of her morning, she said, discussing BRAC.

"We really focused on the next round of base closures. That's always a reality for us in North Carolina and America," Gov. Perdue said. "They day we finish one (BRAC) we begin to look forward to the next one."

She did not specifically respond to a question about recent concerns about Golds-boro High School's lack luster graduation rate and how it might factor into future base closure decisions, but said both county and state schools need to improve.

"North Carolina has to do better. The school systems, not just here, but across the state, are not doing the job we should do with high school completion," she said. "I know that and you know that."

But she did hint at a solution: Getting the Governor's Office involved.

She referenced Halifax County schools -- how she stepped in when it was clear the situation within them was not improving.

"We've taken it over because it didn't get better on its own. After spending a day there I threw my hands up and I said, 'Not going to have it. Something's got to change,'" Gov. Perdue said.

"Wayne County and Goldsboro city schools know that those conversations are ongoing. And I think this (NAACP) court case is just another arrow in the quiver for folks here to decide what they want."

Her vision, not just for education in Wayne, but for the state as a whole, involves more diversity, something the NAACP stressed during its own press conference Dec. 1.

"(Diversity) is one of the most important parameters, I believe, in play in America's classroom. Diversity is a part of our life," she said. "I think poor kids and rich kids and kids from all races and cultures need to be mixed in because that's the world they are going to find themselves working in. We need the leaders of this state to step up and acknowledge that and make it happen for our children."

Gov. Perdue's press conference was not limited to the governor fielding questions about education.

She also talked about just how impressed she is by the professionalism displayed by Seymour Johnson airmen in theater -- and her support for the families left behind when they deploy.

"As I listened to Col. Kelly ... I realized how powerful ... the presence of Seymour Johnson is in the global arena ... and how much is at stake with these airmen, these airplanes and these fragile families," the governor said. "The norm here ... is I'm either coming home, I'm here for a bit getting ready to be deployed or I am deployed. That's the way the folks aboard this base live."