Protesters Continue To Voice Dissatisfaction With Durham School Board
Posted August 10, 2002 7:24 a.m. EDT
DURHAM, N.C. — Dozens of protesters lined Durham streets Friday, circulating a petition calling for the resignation of Durham Schools Superintendent Ann Denlinger and school board chairwoman Kathryn Meyers. The petition comes a day after a school board meeting ended with the arrest of Durham NAACP leader Curtis Gatewood.
Some African American residents who were at the meeting erupted when members of the school board voted 4-3 to retain board chairwoman Kathryn Meyers. Many had hoped Dr. Regina George-Bowden, an African American member of the board, would be named the new chairwoman. After the results were announced, the crowd chanted "No justice, no peace."
Gatewood shouted his disagreement loudly and police took him away in handcuffs. He was later booked on second-degree trespassing charges and released on $1,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in court Sept. 10.
There are four white members on the board and three African American members.
"You have four whites and three blacks. You're never going to have a fair and honest vote," said Jackie Wagstaff, school board candidate.
Black community leaders said this is the same frustration they have had for the past seven years and want to see a change in leadership.
"They made it a black-and-white issue. We did not make it a black-and-white issue," protester Herman Davenport said. "It has been a black and white issue for seven years with that 4-3 vote and last night, they proved to us that that 4-3 vote is what counts to them. What counts to us does not matter."
Since Denlinger came on board in 1997, the African American community has complained about unfair treatment in the schools, but state records show in the last 5 years, African American test scores have improved by 15 percent in Durham.
Each July, the school board has a reorganization vote to elect a new chairman and vice chairman. This year, because the election was never held, some on the board wanted to keep the same leadership until the new members are sworn in at the end of the year.
"I think that's only fair with a majority of the board seats up for election. That's when the board should be reorganized," Kathryn Meyers said.
School board officials said it is not a black and white issue. They said their only concern is that students in Durham get the best education possible.