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Group fights to keep schools fair and equal

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By Andrea Blanford

PITT COUNTY, N.C. (WNCT)- A group fighting for the rights of minority students in the east says a local school board needs to do more to bring equality to our schools.

Pitt County Schools has been under a court order for years to reach Unitary Status or get rid of the traces of segregation.  The Pitt County Coalition for Educating Black Children says a recent redistricting plan didn't do that.  They want to make it better but they say school board members simply won't talk to them about it.

President of the Pitt County Coalition for Educating Black Children Ozie Hall says Pitt County Schools is wasting its money.  "If the parties cannot talk then the only thing we'll do is spend money on lawyers,” he said.

Since the group sued the school district in 2005, the school board has been charged with achieving Unitary Status or getting rid of any hint of segregation in the schools.

In an effort to do that the board used data-driven maps and a series of public hearings to reassign students this past school year.  But in the end, Lake Forest Elementary opened its doors with 80% minority students.  "A racially identifiable black school with a low performing reading proficiency composite of 46%” said Melissa Grimes 2nd Vice President, PCCEBC.

The coalition took the issue to court and after a recent ruling-Superintendent Dr.Beverly Emory says the board will likely have to prove it did the right thing.

"I feel very comfortable that we can show that we used our board policy for assignment."

The coalition disagrees.  "Engaging in policies that segregate black students in 2012 that under-resource them and you're gonna defend that?” said Hall.  “How do you defend that?"

Group leaders want to work with the board to come up with a new plan to reach Unitary Status.

But Emory says it's a legal matter and board members are being cautious.  "Our board feels like we have to work with the entire community not just one group over another to achieve Unitary Status."

Hall says it isn't enough.  "If we can't sit down and talk then we can't make an progress on this."

Pitt County Schools has until this December to prove it has reached Unitary Status.  Emory says the school board hosted four open discussions this spring.  She says there was little participation.

For more information, visit the Pitt County Schools webpage on Unitary Status here: http://www.pitt.k12.nc.us//site/Default.aspx?PageID=375

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GREENVILLE, N.C. - A group fighting for the rights of minority students in the east says local school board members need to do more to make schools fair and equal.

The Coalition for Educating Black Children spoke out just a short while ago at the Pitt County Board of Education.

It’s all about Pitt County Schools’ duty to achieve unitary status. The district has been under a court order for years to get rid of any hint of segregation in the school system.

Pitt County Schools passed a redistricting plan for this past school year in hopes of achieving unitary status.

But at the end of the process, the new Lake Forest Elementary School in Greenville opened with more than eighty percent minority students.

The Pitt County Coalition for Educating Black Children took the matter to court and just this month the Court of Appeals Fourth Circuit ruled essentially that Pitt County Schools still carries the burden to work toward unitary status.

The group leaders say they want to be involved in the process, but the school board is spending unnecessary amounts of money on lawyer fees instead of talking directly with them.

9 On Your Side’s Andrea Blanford went straight to the Pitt County Schools Superintendent Dr. Beverly Emory to get a response.

She says the school board has been open to the public to try to get feedback on unitary status. The board has hosted four open discussions already his spring.

We’ll have more on what she had to say coming up tonight at 5 and 6.

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