Education

Public forum: Should Halifax County school systems merge?

Posted December 3, 2013

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— 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.

Gary Grant, with the Coalition for Education and Economic Security Should Halifax County school systems merge?

“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.

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  • daveb715 Dec 4, 2013

    KIPP succeeds because students are challenged and parents are involved and support discipline. Merging school districts will not alleviate the problem with the schools. Challenging students to suceed, good teachers, and parental involvement from an early age will. What role does the community play in supportying Halifax County schools? Do the businesses speak to the students, serve as mentor, provide summer jobs, volunteer? What about the community college? What about the churches? The responsibilty for successful schools is everyone's in the community not just a BoE or a teacher or County Commissioner. Complain yes but offer concrete suggestions on how to improve the education system. Throwing more money at a problem doesn't solve the problem.

  • wdkanesfan Dec 4, 2013

    nighthawk is 100% correct. Weldon does not want this merger either.

  • OleNCNative Dec 4, 2013

    Anyone from Halifax County knows that the apprehension towards this merger is predominately about race: Halifax County and Weldon City schools are 90%+ black whereas Roanoke Rapids City Schools are 60%+ white. The media's reluctance to recognize this factor driving this debate is only one example of the insidious racism continuing to plague education in the county, in the state, and in the nation.
    sophalchenda

    There is a tinge of race. After all, RoRap was built by the cotton mills. When the town was being built, black people weren't allowed to have those jobs. That's what RoRap is a predominately white town in the middle of a primarily black country.

    However, the real reason Roanoke Rapids townfolk don't want to merge with the country schools is because those school year after year produce the worse students in the state. Who would want to subject their kids to that kind of 'educational genocide?' After all, Roanoke Rapidians pay extra tax to pay for their city schools.

  • nighthawkcp Dec 4, 2013

    Funny that Weldon City Schools does not want to merge with Halifax County Schools either. A predominantly black and low income district with very similar racial and socioeconomic makeup as Halifax County. Indeed it has an even higher minority student population and higher rate of students eligible for free or reduced lunch. Funny that Weldon with more disadvantaged & minority students that even Halifax County schools, at 8th grade test levels they are doing almost 2-3x higher test scores and getting close to the same scores as RRGSD.

    Lets call it what it really is; race baiting being used by the Halifax County School Board to engender animosity for the purposes of a power grab from the Weldon & Roanoke Rapids towns. Charter schools like KIPP and Weldon City Schools are proving that race and income does not have to be a factor for success. Halifax County residents voted against the proposed supplemental tax and I hope we can vote out these board members who have only excuses.

  • 68_dodge_polara Dec 4, 2013

    I know little about Halifax, Roanoke Rapids and Weldon City schools. I'll just offer this warning. The Durham County schools weren't bad until the city and county schools merger but now their all awful and dangerous. Our property value has increased since the merger. Here's the thing, they had no plans to address the problems with the city schools only to merge them some how hoping that the county schools would improve the city schools. Why did they think this would work?

  • sophalchenda Dec 4, 2013

    Anyone from Halifax County knows that the apprehension towards this merger is predominately about race: Halifax County and Weldon City schools are 90%+ black whereas Roanoke Rapids City Schools are 60%+ white. The media's reluctance to recognize this factor driving this debate is only one example of the insidious racism continuing to plague education in the county, in the state, and in the nation.

  • westernwake1 Dec 4, 2013

    No. Look at what a disaster the Durham city / county school system merger was.