Wake Ed

Group will hold Tuesday forum on Wake County school ‘disparities’

Barwell Road Elementary school teacher Yolanda Roman works with 2nd grader Eneida Guillen-Oregon learning subtraction with 10s and 100s during math period in Roman's homeroom Thursday, March 17, 2016. Barwell Elementary is one of two Wake County schools the Wake School system wants state permission to operate more flexibly like charter schools to help improve student performance.
Barwell Road Elementary school teacher Yolanda Roman works with 2nd grader Eneida Guillen-Oregon learning subtraction with 10s and 100s during math period in Roman's homeroom Thursday, March 17, 2016. Barwell Elementary is one of two Wake County schools the Wake School system wants state permission to operate more flexibly like charter schools to help improve student performance. hlynch@newsobserver.com

A group representing African-American children has scheduled a community forum Tuesday night to discuss “disparities in the Wake County Public School System.”

The forum, sponsored by the Coalition of Concerned Citizens For African American Children, will be from 6 to 8 p.m. at Martin Street Baptist Church’s Johnson Building, 1001 E. Martin Street in Raleigh. The school board’s two African-American members, Vice Chairwoman Monika Johnson-Hostler and Keith Sutton, are scheduled to speak at the forum.

The discussion comes at a time when low-income, black and Hispanic students in Wake County are lagging behind their peers academically. Black and Hispanic students are also suspended and arrested at higher rates than white students.

Wake’s gaps on achievement and student discipline mirror those in public schools in the rest of the state and nation. But the CCCAAC has been critical of the school board for not keeping up with the district’s long-standing efforts to keep school enrollments diverse.

The number of high-poverty schools in Wake has increased in recent years as the school board has cut back on efforts to use student assignment to balance school enrollments. Fewer students are bused for diversity now than in 2009.

“As Civil Rights advocates WE were seeking to maintain our diverse school system,” Calla Wright, president of the Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African American Children, wrote in an Aug. 24 email to school board members. “Secondly, as elected officials, it is embarrassing to know that we have a democratic school board who have made very little change in the student assignment plan.”

During this year’s school budget fight, CCCAAC urged the Wake County Board of Commissioners to withhold the school board’s funding increase until the group’s issues were resolved and addressed. The group made a variety of allegations, including that African-American and Latino parents are treated like they are unwelcome when they visit their children’s school.

The CCCAAC has had a difficult relationship over the years with Sutton, whose district represents much of Southeast Raleigh. But the relationship has warmed up recently as the group has voiced its frustration with the rest of the board and the growing number of high-poverty schools.

During last week’s board work session, Sutton said it was “unacceptable” that the new Rogers Lane Elementary in east Raleigh and other nearby schools have reading proficiency rates around 40 percent. He contrasted it with how the new Hortons Creek Elementary in Cary and the schools near it have passing rates above 80 percent.

Sutton also said his colleagues seemed to be less accepting of reducing school cleanings than they were of the scores at Rogers Lane and the other nearby schools. But Sutton has also been critical over the years of saying that student assignment alone can fix things.

“These students cannot wait on more jobs or more economic development, or what have you in the area,” Sutton said last week. “These are the kids who are hurting right now.”

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