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State Asks NHCo. School Board: Did Redistricting Fuel Segregation?

By Roderick McClain

10-07-10 – In order to maintain funding allocated to disadvantaged students, New Hanover County Public Schools must certify compliance with the Current Operations and Capital Improvements Appropriations Act of 2010. The act contains a provision that forbids contributing to increased segregation of schools on the basis of race or socioeconomic status. But before the district can respond, warring school board members must make peace accords.

Last week the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction sent a letter to each school district in the state. The letter asks every superintendent and school board chair to certify whether or not the district has policies contributing to segregation. If segregation is cited, the district is set to lose about $750,000 in funding this month. School board member Don Hayes says the district is in compliance.

"I'd like somebody to define segregation for me. We have no segregated schools. We have some schools that have a higher concentration of one race or another, but to me, there is no separation of races, which is what segregation is."

Board member Elizabeth Redenbaugh disagrees.

"Ogden Elementary has 684 students and only 16 of those are black. Conversely Freeman Elementary has 331 students and of those 30 are white. We have created high poverty high minority schools, and on the flipside, low poverty, low minority schools."

The board and its attorney are scheduled to meet next week to determine their next step; meanwhile, three quarters of a million dollars hang in the balance.