Education

Groups push for school district consolidation in Halifax

Posted August 25, 2015

— Advocacy groups that filed a lawsuit Monday against the Halifax County Board of Commissioners over local support for Halifax County Schools said Tuesday that the county's three school districts should be merged into one.

In the 38-page lawsuit, the groups allege the commissioners have maintained an inefficient system that creates obstacles for local children that counters North Carolina's constitutional guarantee of a sound, basic education to all students.

"They act like some of our children are more entitled to a better education that others. Just by happenstance, that behavior that is displayed – that entitlement – seems to be along racial lines," said Rebecca Copeland, chairwoman of the Coalition for Education and Economic Security, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Halifax County's three school districts serve a total of about 7,000 students. The enrollment in Roanoke Rapids Graded School District is 65 percent white, while Halifax County Schools is 85 percent black and Weldon City Schools is 94 percent black, according to state Department of Public Instruction data.

The plaintiffs contend that the Board of Commissioners has rigged the distribution of local sales tax revenue to benefit the Roanoke Rapids and Weldon districts at the expense of the county district.

"It's economically insane. It doesn't make any sense to have three (districts) in a county this small," said Rev. William Barber, state president of the NAACP, another plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Copeland said the lawsuit is unrelated to a recent state takeover of Halifax County Schools.

The State Board of Education last week assumed control of the district's finances and all new hiring decisions, saying the school board was meddling too much in school operations. The state has been working with the district under court order since 2009 to improve student performance.

"Every effort that could have brought us change has failed," Copeland said, adding that she and others are aware that uniting the three school districts won't solve all of the county's education problems.

"We don't want anybody to think that consolidation is a magic pill. It's not a silver bullet, but it is a necessary first step," she said.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Vernon Bryant declined to comment Tuesday on the lawsuit until he and his colleagues had a chance to review it. He said the board would likely discuss it at a Sept. 8 meeting.

Halifax County Schools Superintendent Elease Frederick said she supports lawsuit but declined to comment further.

2 Comments

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  • King Mopar Aug 26, 2015
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    It's that bad, and it's all about the parents-vs the students. Look at KIPP, a majority black school in the area, with parents who actually give a hoot, they have some of best scores in the STATE, not county, which is one of the poorest. 100% of their students the other year got into college, no other school in the county could boast that, not even Halifax Academy. It's called DISCIPLINE and parent involvement--and if you don't have that, you can't get into KIPP....period.

  • King Mopar Aug 26, 2015
    user avatar

    It's about Roanoke Rapids High, which back in my day, was 90% white and had the best scores in the county. District lines were drawn to keep poor white/blacks in the city to go to Weldon, even though paying RR city taxes. I think Weldon used to be majority black, simply due to the population, I know Northwest used to have a fair mix, but now is mostly black, same as Southeast. Rural whites send their kids to Halifax Academy, if they can afford it, but they have some blacks now too, but not back in my day. Black families simply could not afford the private school fee. The reputation of the schools have alot to do with what families do with their children. Some can afford to do better, others can not. Add into this that you have alot of kids coming to school, who simply don't have any home raising, or come from bad homes. It is rampant here, and reflects on the child. Teachers are scared to even come to work.