UNC report focuses on schools in Halifax County

Posted May 9, 2011


— A report on the state of public education in Halifax County recommends merging the economically distressed area's three school districts into one as a "significant first step" to ensuring all children receive the same quality of education.

The three districts – Halifax County Public Schools, Weldon City Schools and Roanoke Rapids Graded School District – serve approximately 8,000 students but remain among the most segregated in the state, according to the yearlong study, released Monday by the University of North Carolina Center for Civil Rights.

"Halifax County cannot meaningfully address the educational disparities within its borders without first dissolving the district boundaries that have served since their inception to entitle whites and oppress blacks in the community," the report says.

In a county that is 39 percent white overall, nearly 100 percent of students at Halifax County Public Schools and Weldon City Schools are non-white, while Roanoke Rapids Graded School District is more than 70 percent white.

The former districts have some of the lowest-performing schools in the state and highest teacher turnover rates, the report says.

"The Roanoke Rapids City School District is predominately white, and the offerings there are way more than what these other two school districts receive," said Gary Grant, director of Concerned Citizens of Tillery, a community group that pushed for the report.

Schools in Halifax County have struggled for years with low-performing schools and financial issues. In 2009 Superior Court Judge Howard Manning asked the state to get involved to help improve test scores.

UNC report: Merging Halifax schools UNC report: Merging Halifax schools

According to the UNC report, by unifying the three districts, the county would be able to better attract and retain high-quality teachers and "create an environment conducive to true education reform by addressing old racial tensions and providing opportunities for meaningful integration and cultural responsiveness within the county's schools."

Weldon City Schools officials declined to comment Monday, saying they wanted to examine the report more closely.

Keith Hoggard, a spokesman for Halifax County Schools, however, said the district hopes county commissioners will carefully consider UNC's recommendation.

"The status quo clearly isn't working, and consolidating the three school systems could be a good situation," Hoggard said.

Dennis Sawyer, superintendent for Roanoke Rapids Graded School District, declined to comment on the report, saying district unification is a political issue, not a policy issue.

"As the current superintendent," he said, "my responsibility is to work within the governance structure that is currently in place to provide a high-quality education for students."


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  • CorrectMeIfImwrong May 11, 2011

    If you have the same teachers, same students, same area, and the same schools you are going to have the same outcome. The change is going to be these top positions (if the merger goes through). So of course this merger is not wanted because some of you are going to loose "Your Position". Stop making this SOLEY about the kids. This merger would be good for this AREA. Look at the big picture and stop looking at just your school.
    Just to point out:
    Yes, children learn from what is taught at home first, so if your kids are racist it because you are or have shown your racist character at some point or another. I have seen for myself kids who can't spell their entire name, read & comprehend a paragraph, and write incursive from all three districts. Make sure your kids know the basics. If the school does not teach them YOU (the parent/guardian) should teach them.

  • Not_So_Dumb May 10, 2011

    "we don"t want to be a part of the city school we just want to be on the save level."-j90britt

    Why? Why would you want that? Read the report. RRGSD has less money than HCPS. The report indicates that it isn't what is available that makes the difference, it is how it is used. RRGSD spends the least per student of the three districts but the most per teacher. Sounds like an action plan to me.

  • knowledge100 May 10, 2011

    Probably the most discouraging thing about this conversation is how it proves we still cannot discuss issues of race maturely and productively. So issues with a racial context (Halifax schools) take much longer to get to a solution. School merger so far has been characterized as rewarding black laziness or endangering white achievement. Neither really points to a solution outside of threatening to have white flight, as if the problems of the black community are contagious. The fact is the no school system can control everything that affects a child's education (especially parental involvement). Halifax can only make sure they are not part of the problem themselves. If merger is part of how they get there, then lets explore the pros and cons. If not, let's find some intelligent answers that don't involve grand misconceptions and stereotypes we have about other races.

  • j90britt May 10, 2011

    we don"t want to be a part of the city school we just want
    to be on the save level. If there was not so much racism
    in the community maybe we would be on the same track. Some of our kids are just as motivated as the so- call special kids(whites). Just as there are bad performing black kids there bad performing white kids, but you just keep themaway from the public eye.we only want schools in our neighbor just as good as the graded schools.

  • CrankyMan May 10, 2011

    This is akin to declaring an invasion of one's civil rights simply because a neighbor has a larger, better built house - envy outweighs discipline which results in entitlement. It's easier to take thy neighbor's stuff than work hard to provide for your own. Simply living in the same neighborhood shouldn't guarantee entitlement. If the city system did not exsist, what would be the results of this UNC study? What, then, would the Center for Civil Rights propose for the recovery and survival of the Halifax County school system? NCDPI's unbiased teaching coaches, a judge's declarations, gobs of tax money, and all of the other deadend support that has been poured into Halifax County has not succeeded in producing positive results to this day. Courtesy of the UNC Center for Civil Rights, the new Halifax County Schools Motto: "Since we can't step up to your level, we'll drag you down to ours."

  • mustainemad May 10, 2011

    pull-your-weight, RIGHT ON!!!!

  • CWH_RRHS_73 May 10, 2011

    The report accuses the RRGSD of gerrymandered district lines to exclude black students. The district lines were created well before "Brown vs. Board" and have not been moved since. It has been the understanding of Roanoke Rapids residents that ANY movement of the district lines would trigger an almost automatic desolving of the school district to include it in the HCPS district.

    The city school districts have been under attack by the NC DPI since the 1st Hunt regime back in the early 80's. I remember Hunt's edict..... "100 counties... 100 school districts"

    What the state needs is more school districts, not less. Put control of the school districts back in the hands of the communities.

  • Plenty Coups May 10, 2011

    trune-"GCP does NOT actively recruit ANYONE. There is a waiting list, if you are interested in having your child attend, you go to the front office of the school and sign up. That's the extent of the "recruiting"."

    KIPP schools do perform well for many minority students. However, they DO have high attrition rates. They admit that themselves. The more motivated students do perform better under their system but their system still can't reach the unmotivated students. Students who want to attend their schools are the ones whose families care. In regular public schools, those students are required to attend by law, motivated or not. There is no dropping out. As an example, when they tried to take over a poor performing public school, they failed and gave up. They also don't meet the needs of gifted students.

  • pull_your_weight May 10, 2011

    The general consensus seems to be that many, lower performing kids do not receive enough support and encouragement at home. So long as low income families receive subsidized housing, free food, free cell phones, etc, why would they value the need for education as a means to improve their situations? I love how our lawmakers continue to cut funding in education but NEVER mention cuts to the welfare system.

    By the way, why do all kids need to go to college? Why not have vocational high schools? The world needs electricians, brick layers, hair dressers, etc. Perhaps a better skilled labor force would help attract manufacturing to the area. Just crazy thinking on my part. It will be far better for these groups to spend the coming years and lots of dollars trying to force a useless merge rather than address the true educational needs of all children in the county.

  • CWH_RRHS_73 May 10, 2011

    What a hatchet job....and WRAL is in on it too. The report/study is filled with half truths and assumptions. The UNC School of Law - Center for Civil Rights should be ashamed of releasing such a poorly written report and the Z Smith... Reynolds Foundation should demand their grant money be returned. The "Friends of the RRGSD" should go on the warpath and call on the carpet all parties involved in producing this useless report.