Local News

State Superintendent Responds To Segregation Claims

Posted March 25, 2004

— In 1964, schools in Goldsboro were segregated. Now in 2004, they are segregated again.

The student body at the six schools in the Goldsboro city limits are almost 100 percent black. The state school superintendent said Goldsboro is not alone. He said it is happening across the state and it needs to change.

"It's a terrible failure, and it's a terrible shame that we've gone this route," Superintendent Mike Ward said. "Diversity is more than just a desirable element of the school environment. It's part of the education itself."

Ward said he blames a shift in demographics, but also judges who refuse to uphold race as a legal basis for school assignment.

"With the courts increasingly not supporting race as a basis for student assignment, it becomes increasingly difficult for schools to maintain diversity and that's a shame," he said.

The state has sent four assistance teams into Goldsboro schools since 1998. With their help, the schools have made some dramatic improvements in test scores.

"If the schools are succeeding in providing high-quality education and kids are scoring well on end-of-grade tests, then I become less concerened about diversity," said Howard Lee, chairman of the state school board.

Lee said he would like to see counties like Wayne partner with counties like Wake who made the diversity shift successfully.

"I don't think Wayne County can do it alone," he said. "Wayne County needs support at state level, but from systems that are strong enough to be of help to them."

Ultimately, Ward said school board members need to be willing to take risks.

"It takes effort and it takes political courage," he said.

Lee said he plans to recommend that the state school board come up with a plan to help school districts foster diversity.

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