Public forum: Should Halifax County school systems merge?
Posted December 3, 2013
Halifax, N.C. — Should Halifax County Schools merge with Roanoke Rapids and Weldon City schools? That was the question posed at a public forum Tuesday night at Halifax Community College.
Supporters of the idea say combining school systems would be a step forward for education, especially for the county school system, which has struggled academically in recent years. Others disagreed and said the merger would not help all students.
“What can we do collectively to improve teaching and learning throughout this Roanoke Valley?” Roanoke Rapids Graded School District Superintendent Dennis Sawyer asked the crowd of hundreds gathered in the auditorium.
While each of Halifax County’s three public school districts has its own challenges and successes, the microscope of the state has been on Halifax County Schools. A 2009 court order mandated improved educational performance there.
“Until we can see quality schools across the county, real economic development is going to be an issue here,” said Gary Grant, with the Coalition for Education and Economic Security, a community advocacy group that organized the forum and supports a merger.
“We are a county with less than 8,000 students. If you just do the math and the logistics that it takes to support three school systems, it just doesn’t seem like responsible leadership,” said Coalition Chairwoman Rebecca Copeland.
Others disagree. Halifax County Commissioner Rives Manning says better leadership and money management is needed in Halifax County and a merger would not help everyone.
“I feel like it will hurt a big part of the students in Halifax County,” he said.
Whatever direction the county goes, many parents said they are looking for improvement.
“It just took a downfall, and nobody has ever been able to come up with what happened,” said parent Jonathan Merritt.
North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson also attended Tuesday’s forum and spoke about the importance of pre-kindergarten education.