05/16/10 — Sessions to gather views on equity in schools

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Sessions to gather views on equity in schools

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 16, 2010 1:50 AM

Two community meetings will be held this week to allow the public to weigh in on the fairness of educational opportunities in the public school system.

Staff from the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights will visit Wayne County as part of an investigation into whether all students in the district receive the same chance at a good education.

The visit is part of a follow-up on a complaint filed in December by the NAACP alleging "gross disparities" between poor children in the predominantly "white districts" as compared to the city's "black districts."

The Title IV complaint centered around reversing discriminatory practices in the school system.

DOJ and OCR will provide opportunities for parents and other community members to participate in one of two "listening sessions" planned for Monday and Tuesday evenings.

Input is being elicited in the following areas: school zoning and student transfers; discipline policies and practices; support for academic achievement and graduation; availability of resources, including extracurricular activities; and quality of teachers and administrators.

To date, no findings or decisions regarding the complaint have been made by the agencies.

The first community session will be Monday evening at the Wayne County Public Library on Ash Street, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Tuesday's session will be held at Rebuilding Broken Places Center, 2105 N. William St., from 7 to 9 p.m.

Ken Derksen, public information officer for Wayne County Public Schools, said that some members of the district's leadership team might attend the session, but in a limited capacity so that the public will feel free to speak openly about their concerns.

The district has had a long-held "good working relationship" with the investigating agencies, he added, and has been cooperative in efforts to gather data and information.

"We encourage the community members to come out and have their voices be heard," he said. "We want people to share comments with them."