Civil Rights Center says
racial imbalance can
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
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
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"
The board received a report from staff that showed black
students performing far behind white students on
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,
View chart covering the "achivement gap"
at all of Johnston's schools
A partnership to produce
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.
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
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.