Smithfield Postpones Vote On Resolution Asking Board Of Education To Fix Problems At Local Schools

Smithfield-Selma-High-School-FIVote Also Delayed On Spending $20,000 In Town Funds To Help UNC Center For Civil Rights Study Issue

The Smithfield Town Council has postponed the adoption of a resolution expressing their concern the Board of Education is doing little to address problems at Smithfield and Selma area schools.

The resolution was pulled from the agenda at the start of Tuesday night’s meeting.

Town Manager Paul Sabiston said the resolution was placed on the agenda at the request of Mayor John Lampe. However, Sabiston said because two council members were absent from the meeting, it would be better to wait until the council was in full attendance in June or July to consider its adopting.  Councilmen Roger Wood and Charles A. Williams were both absent. 

The resolution said “…the Smithfield Town Council is opposed to the (Board of Education’s) existing districts and general lack of proper funding for schools contained in the Smithfield and Selma Area Schools, which would continue the segregation of a disproportionately high number of minority and economically disadvantaged students at these schools, which contributes towards the impairing the ability of the students who attend these schools to receive a sound basic education guaranteed by both the North Carolina Constitution and the United States Constitution.” 

“The Smithfield Town Council encourages the (Board of Education) to redistrict these areas, provide adequate funding for the schools within those areas to address any and all needs of the current student population and anticipated future student populations, and to adequately fund the facilities for those same schools so as to guarantee those students a sound basic education that they are entitled to receive…” 

The resolution went on to say “…lower test scores that can and do result from segregated schools impairs economic development efforts of the Towns of Smithfield and Selma to recruit new business and industry and the creation of jobs for the citizens of Smithfield and surrounding communities.”

Also postponed was a request to use $20,000 in town funds to contribute to the UNC Center for Civil Rights to study the problem. 

Sabiston said the funds are currently included in the 2014-15 budget.

WTSB reached out Selma Town Manager Jon Barlow who confirmed Thursday there is a similar resolution on the council agenda for next week, however, there has been no request for town funds to help UNC investigate the local schools.

Concerned Citizens for Successful Schools Worried About Low Test Scores, Graduation Rates
In April, Susan Lassiter, Chairperson of Concerned Citizens for Successful Schools, said the group is concerned about low test scores and graduation rates at Smithfield Selma High School has now turned to the UNC Center for Civil Rights to do a preliminary investigation of potential legal remedies.

The self-appointed group issued a report indicating Smithfield Selma High did not meet expected growth standards for two consecutive years, and only 39% of the students were at grade level. The school was given a D grade.  No other high school in the county received a D grade.  And the majority of SSS students never reach grade level proficiency meaning they don’t graduate on tract for college or career training.

The report indicated a disproportionate number of students at SSS were minorities compared to other county high schools.  During the 2013-14 school year, 33.7% of 12th graders were black, 30.9% Hispanic, and 27.3% white. 

At Clayton High, 26.5% were black, 11.1% Hispanic and 55.9% white.  At Corinth Holders High, 14.8% were black, 21.6% Hispanic, and 70.1% white.  At Princeton High, 12.1% were black, 9.7% Hispanic and 75.8% white. 

Johnston County’s population, according to the US Census Bureau, is made up of 80.5% of white, 15.9% black, and 13.2% Hispanic.     

”Folks, we’re cheating these students out of sound educations. We’re cheating them out of opportunities for viable employment, especially when you think about their competition beyond our county’s borders for good-paying jobs,” Lassiter said.

Lassiter said she doesn’t believe this form of segregation is willingly going to change.  She said the Citizens Study Commission has started working with the UNC Center for Civil Rights to look at legal options “to address racial and socioeconomic disparities in Johnston County Schools. 

School Superintendent Says Millions Of Dollars Are Being Spent To Make Improvements
Johnston County School Superintendent Dr. Ed Croom responded to the groups allegations on April 23rd on WTSB.

Dr. Croom said he was appreciative of the work of the Citizens Commission and the school board “will continue to work with the self-appointed commission to improve instruction for the Smithfield area schools, as well as all Johnston County public school students.”

Among the steps taken by the Board of Education to improve Smithfield-Selma area schools include:

– Increased per pupil expenditure for Smithfield-Selma area elementary schools of $745.43 above the county average of per pupil expenditure

– Increased per pupil expenditure for Smithfield-Selma area middle schools of $1,597.86 above the county average of per pupil expenditure

– Increased per pupil expenditure for Smithfield-Selma High School of $895.99 above the county average of per pupil expenditure

– Implementation of the dual language program titled “Splash” which had demonstrated tremendous academic gain at a cost of $74,460.

– Implementation of the International Baccalaureate Program to the amount of $46,724.

– Implementation of the Academic Enhancement Calendar for $163,696 for South Smithfield and West Smithfield Elementary

– additional staff and teachers allotments at a cost of $3,682,254 provided in order to lower the student-teacher ratio, provide additional supervision, and provide additional support for academic growth. 

“The Board is very proud of the work the teachers in the Smithfield-Selma area schools have done and applaud their hard work and efforts in educating our children,” Dr. Croom stated. “The Board of Education looks forward to working with the commission in a collaborative way to promote public education in the Smithfield-Selma area schools.”