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Despite progress, desegregation order stays in place in Richmond County schools

Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012 4:24 PM
Last updated Monday, Oct. 8, 2012 1:09 AM
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With all the changes over 40 years in Richmond County schools, at least one thing has remained.

A desegregation order, established in 1972, remains on the books and affects areas ranging from transportation to hiring practices.

Although the racial balance of the city’s schools has shifted and most requirements of the order have been met, the process to remove it is more complex than black and white.

“These things are hugely complicated,” said Mike Dishman, a professor of educational policy and governance at Kennesaw State University. “People can view the order and say if we are (without it), you can get rid of the desegregation order so you can resegregate the schools – particularly the folks that remember the dark days when the desegregation order had to be put in place.”

Attorneys on both sides of Richmond County’s order met late last month to discuss the issue but are unsure when it can be resolved. School board attorney Pete Fletcher and the plaintiff’s attorney, Ben Allen, agree that the district has met most requirements but that there is still work to be done.

“The ultimate goal is to get it lifted,” Allen said. “This isn’t something that needs to go on forever. But change is hard for everybody.”

The lawsuit, Acree v. The County Board of Education of Richmond County, resulted in the order that outlined six standards the district had to meet.

Fletcher said he believes that, except for increasing student achievement and having classified staff, such as janitors and nutrition specialists, that represent the community, the requirements have been met.

In a recent interview, Allen would not discuss which elements of the order he believes are still unfinished. In 2011, however, he told The Augusta Chronicle that he agreed with Fletcher on the progress.

About 75 school districts in Georgia, including Columbia County, have desegregation orders still open. Columbia County Deputy Superintendent Sandra Carraway said her district has no intention of working to relieve the order.

The suit has been open since 1969, and though she believes officials have met the requirements for a desegregated system, Carraway said that having the order on the books does no harm and that the legal costs of releasing it would be a waste of funds.

Fletcher said when the attorneys are ready to petition the court to lift Richmond County’s order, it can be carried out several ways.

The attorneys could agree that all requirements have been met and present evidence to a judge to prove it. Or the attorneys could agree on what is left to be accomplished and present a judge with an outline on how those changes will be made.

“Even if the plaintiffs and school board reach an agreement, the court still has to hear evidence,” Fletcher said. “They can’t just accept a settlement.”

In addressing classified staff, attorneys must show that the employees represent the racial makeup of the community. In Augusta, blacks make up about 55 percent of the population but 72 percent of non-teaching school staff.

However, Dishman said the makeup of the staff is not as important as the diversity of the applicant pools and the efforts of the district to recruit a diverse workforce.

“In a system that’s almost entirely African American children, there’s going to be very little that a school district would do that would resegregate the school system.”

Demographics of the community have shifted drastically since the desegregation order was filed in 1972. The school system is now 73 percent black and 20 percent white; the school board members are evenly split by race; and the superintendent is the third consecutive black man to lead the district. But board member Barbara Pulliam said distrust still exists.

She said community members often still refer to schools as black or white, which can lead to some politics with the staff.

“Some of the community will get riled up if a black principal is at a certain school,” Pulliam said. “And it’s both ways. I think people would get riled up if there was a white principal at Laney,” regarding Lucy C. Laney Comprehensive High School.

Pulliam said the order acts as a safeguard for some people to ensure that equality won’t slip away. At the same time, she said, the community can’t ignore the progress the district has made.

To improve facilities for all students, the district spent millions of dollars in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds to rebuild deteriorating schools and renovate gyms and classrooms.

But some of the fear comes from things that are intangible, Pulliam said.

“There’s still discomfort, and Augusta has a lot of that,” she said. “In Augusta, it’s like you’re living in the ’60s. They have not come the distance they should be at this point in time.”

Board member Frank Dolan said the desegregation order advertises racial disharmony to the business world and discourages companies from locating in the city.

“Why would an employer come to a place that has an overlying desegregation order still in place?” Dolan said. “That would not be an attractive place to come to.”

Dishman said that it is not uncommon for school districts to have pending orders but that they can pose challenges to educational advances.

Desegregation orders prevent districts from doing anything to resegregate schools. But with school choice, such as magnet schools with a focus on a specific career field, it’s often difficult to get a balanced racial ratio, Dishman said.

Because of the preventive nature of the orders and the accountability given to districts, it’s not an easy burden to shake.

“It’s so easy to tell the lawyers ‘You should just do X,’ ” Dishman said. “Telling the lawyers you should just do X is like telling the doctor ‘Oh, they have cancer. You should just cure it.’ ”

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Little Lamb
46021
Points
Little Lamb 10/06/12 - 05:01 pm
7
0
Expenses

That's interesting about Columbia County's order. Ms. Carraway implies above that Columbia County is incurring no expenses now, but would have legal expenses to terminate the order. On the other hand, Pete Fletcher and Ben Allen have been appointed "special masters" of the court, and they are getting generous stipends paid by the school board just to "monitor" the progress of the system vis a vis the order. I'll bet if RCBOE cut off their stipends, they'd terminate the order right away.

Little Lamb
46021
Points
Little Lamb 10/06/12 - 11:16 pm
5
0
Dishman

From the story:

“These things are hugely complicated,” said Mike Dishman, a professor of educational policy and governance at Kennesaw State University.

This sounds like something that could have been said by Lt. Disher on the Monk TV show.

seenitB4
87180
Points
seenitB4 10/07/12 - 07:43 am
8
0
And the beat goes onnnn..

Desegregation orders prevent districts from doing anything to resegregate schools. But with school choice, such as magnet schools with a focus on a specific career field, it’s often difficult to get a balanced racial ratio, Dishman said.

When will we concentrate on education & NOT color of the kid!!!!

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 10/07/12 - 08:01 am
2
0
When will we concentrate on education & NOT color of the kid!!!!
Unpublished

When MLK Jr and John Kennedy are reincarnated. These two men would have fundamentally changed the course of America for good, both at home and abroad. That is why they are no longer with us.

Both were misunderstood by the average American, but most definitely and clearly understood by the New World Order.

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 10/07/12 - 08:04 am
2
0
The Race Issue is the most
Unpublished

powerful tool the "state" has ever had for the removal of individual rights and freedoms. Hence the "state" will ask you every day to document on every legal form or question, which race or ethnic group do you represent. Control by division.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/07/12 - 08:54 am
7
0
Nothing more

than a political game. If Richmond Co. was still in violation after 40 years the FED would have intervened long ago.

I attended RC Schools from 1960 to 1964 and again from 1968 to 1972. Desegregation was badly needed in those days. But we have come a long way in 40+ years. Richmond Co. is not what it once was demographically or racially. But some political and radical people see using white colored writing paper as racial and earn their living off long dead issues.

Another likely reason the desegregation order still exists is the additional federal assistance $$$$'s that come with the program.

Do a little research it is interesting to note that in many cases Student Grades Scores and Teacher Quality have improved quicker where BOE's have self rule. Those BOE's took the time and effort to get out from under the US Dept Of UN-Educations direct supervision.

Riverman1
83907
Points
Riverman1 10/07/12 - 08:47 am
9
0
The Reality

The reality is we once again have segregated schools. Richmond and Columbia Counties. And the reality is the black schools are once again performing poorly. If the Justice Dept would order the two counties to start busing kids over to the other, I wonder what would happen?

CobaltGeorge
158742
Points
CobaltGeorge 10/07/12 - 08:57 am
3
1
RM

"I wonder what would happen?"

I don't think you really want to know!

itsanotherday1
43131
Points
itsanotherday1 10/07/12 - 09:29 am
5
1
OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/07/12 - 09:44 am
4
0
Interesting concept

Riverman1 put forth About Inter-County busing.

Here Are Some Other Facts To Consider:
All County BOE's have to meet State Baseline standards.
All Teachers are certified by the state, hired by the local BOE.
All County schools have been provided the same levels of funding and materials.
Janitorial staff don't teach, so their racial makeup has NOTHING to do with the educational standards. (At least I hope)

So everything is and has been already in place to offer a equal standard of education.

But certain schools and students continue to do poorly. WHY?

So do we finally blame it on our students at this point?
Because it has nothing to do with Racial Issues anymore.

Are we headed for round 2 of the court ordered busing, but for the opposite reasons? If this be the case we will always be under some form of Court Order.

Either way it time to show the Parents and County Taxpayers the facts of WHY the court order still needs to be in place and is not being challenged in court after 40 years.

After 40+ years under the federal thumb, either our elected officials are doing it wrong or have other political/personal reasons to prolong this issue.

Bulldog
1324
Points
Bulldog 10/07/12 - 09:49 am
4
0
Reasons

The can of worms discussed here is just another set of road blocks. And people wonder why little Johnny can't read...

F4therTime
4656
Points
F4therTime 10/07/12 - 10:27 am
6
1
The money
Unpublished

Saved on busing costs alone would probably make up for most of the federal funds and then the schools could go back to teaching a proper curriculum instead of a federally mandated one. Just like anything else, whatever the federal government involves itself in goes straight to you know where in a handbasket...and people want them involved in their healthcare????

Jane18
12332
Points
Jane18 10/07/12 - 11:30 am
5
1
Government Involvement

Just like Chicago, it's never about the kids!

rebellious
20780
Points
rebellious 10/07/12 - 12:35 pm
5
0
LL Hit On It

The money provides no incentive for the lawyers to push for a lift of the court order. Follow the money!

dichotomy
32932
Points
dichotomy 10/07/12 - 12:49 pm
5
1
I really do not understand

I really do not understand this in RC. Apparently, even though blacks are the majority population, the majority voters, and the majority of students, the courts still feel they need protection.......from who....themselves? It's been 50 years. Even murderers get paroled. I think the chance of the mean white folks skewing the school system is well in the past in RC. The punishments the court imposed on the school systems certainly has NOT improved education for the blacks or whites. It's made a lot of bus companies and fuel vendors rich and has destroyed community involvement in their local schools, but it has not improved anything for anyone in the last 20 or 30 years since accomplishing the equitable distribution of resources (which was all that was needed to begin with).

YeCats
10766
Points
YeCats 10/07/12 - 03:51 pm
2
0
Acree might be the savior

Acree might be the savior that RC needs so desperately. Bring back community schools!

Get the Fed out.

socks99
250
Points
socks99 10/07/12 - 04:24 pm
3
0
Obviously desegregation

Obviously desegregation orders designed to end discrimination against students, staff and teachers have been turned on their ears to be used now as tools to reinforce pro-racist agendas in the public schools; they are to be jobs programs for the new chosen ones.

No doubt, plenty of our reining school bureaucrats are happy and comfortable with these modern accommodations and interpretations; one wonders if they'd be "all that" should there be real choices for parents and their children. Do they imagine black folk would send their kids to under-performing "black schools" should they have the means to send them to schools where teachers and administrators were not vetted according to race, and the system performed at a much higher level?

The only winners in the current system are a handful of racially motivated teachers and administrators; the losers, again, are those bearing the brunt of the new pro-racial agendas in the public schools, and that includes most of the students;

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 10/08/12 - 06:38 am
2
0
Two wrongs do not make one right.
Unpublished

Welcome to 1960. White schools are newer. White schools have stadiums. White schools have better teachers. White schools have newer books. White schools are more disciplined. White schools have higher grad rates. White schools have higher academic standards. White schools have all white students.

Welcome to 2012. There are no white public schools anymore. The public education system is in ruins. But the social architects are happy.
And was not the mission of the social architects.

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 10/08/12 - 06:52 am
2
0
Houston we have a problem !!
Unpublished

Some white and black public education students are actually learning more than they need to drive a tractor or run a spinning room. They have actually begun to enter college and want to know more of how government and society function. We must put an end to this new wave of higher learning. We need a "villain to attack and blame" for this phenomenon. Let's see, what shall we demonize to gain control. RACISM in the public school system. RACISM is the cause and must be eradicated. The federal government must come to the rescue of Black Americans and save them. Forcibly relocate blacks to the white schools who apparently do not want them and make them learn WHITE CULTURE. So now we must also demonized WHITE CULTURE and glorify BLACK CULTURE.

This will bring chaos to the existing system of public education system and allow the learning curve to be controlled at a minimum education level once again for all of members of the working class.

rmwhitley
5547
Points
rmwhitley 10/08/12 - 08:51 am
1
0
Ain't
Unpublished

gonna happen! It's as entrenched as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and Affirmative Action.

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