Johnston County Board
of Education

report from January 8 session

Mark Dorosin

Civil Rights Center says

racial imbalance can be

fixed without more busing 

The co-director of the Julius C. Chambers Center for Civil Rights told the school board on Tuesday that racial imbalance among Johnston's schools can be remedied without busing students out of their districts.

Presenting "A Study of High School Attendance Areas, Diversity, and Capacity in Johnston County," Mark Dorosin showed board members examples of redrawn attendance boundaries that would keep minority-student enrollments under 50 percent at all eight of the county's high schools.

As things now stand, minority enrollments range from a high of 71 percent at Smithfield-Selma High School to just 28 percent at Princeton High and 29 percent at Corinth-Holders.

The center's examples of redrawn districts, Mr. Dorosin said, "are no different (from) what Johnston County Schools currently does: contiguous, proportionate, unified attendance areas where all students in the geographic area are assigned to the same school. There's no more busing under a plan like these than what you have now."

Even so, his presentation was followed by statements from two citizens who feared the Civil Rights Center's recommendations would lead to busing children long distances to schools outside their communities.

"We want neighborhood schools. We don't want busing," declared Denise Rentz, a mother of children who have attended West Johnston High School. She said her family "fled to this county 13 years ago from Wake County Public Schools' failed busing policies."

Darryl MItchell, chairman of the Johnston County Republican Party, echoed her concerns. "We've been deceived to think that moving a child from one school to another will change outcomes. There are no studies or statistics to support this claim," he said.

Both speakers drew applause from members of the audience.

Board Chairman Mike Wooten thanked Mr. Dorosin and the two speakers for their presentations. "We'll take all these comments under advisement," he said.

The Civil Rights Center's report was done by request of Concerned Citizens for Successful Schools, a local group headed by realtor Susan Lassiter of Smithfield.

Here's a link to the full report, including graphs and maps.

To read the prepared statements by Ms. Rentz and Mr. Mitchell, follow this link to a page on the school system's website where Tuesday's complete meeting agenda, with attachments, may be viewed.

Racial "achievement gap" report 

The board received a report from staff that showed black students performing far behind white students on state-mandated
tests administered during the 2016-17 academic year. For Smithfield-Selma High School, 27.5% of black students and 67.2% of whites scored "proficient." The "achievement gap" wasn't as bad for Smithfield Middle School: 34% for blacks, 52.6% for whites, but was wider at South Smithfield Elementary, 28.1% to 65.4%, and at West Smithfield Elementary, 20.8% to 51.9%. For all of Johnston County's schools, the gap was 34.3% to 65%. Statewide, it was 40.4% "proficient" among blacks, 71.3% among whites.

"We're failing," remarked Terri Sessoms, attending her second meeting as a new member of the board. She said there are "no specific plans" to address the problem within Johnston's School Improvement Plan. "We have a moral, legal, and ethical obligation" to close the gap, she declared.

View chart covering the "achivement gap" at all of Johnston's schools

A partnership to produce new teachers

The board approved a memorandum of understanding among N.C. State University, Johnston Community College, and Johnston County Schools to establish "alternative pathways" for local students to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in teacher preparation. One of the program's goals is to entice more Johnston County students to earn that degree and come back home to teach.

Middle school extracurricular policy 

The board amended the system's Extracurricular Activities policy to allow students in grades 6-8 to participate in "interschool" athletics, with the exception of football, which remains closed to participation by sixth graders. The policy previously had banned sixth graders from playing any sports.

Feb. 18 make-up day for most students

The board approved February 18 as the make-up day for most students who lost time in school because of wintry weather on December 10. Monday, February 18 was originally scheduled as a teacher workday.