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|Monroe City School Board was aware of course problems|
The Monroe City School Board was warned "some years back" about apparent disparities in course offerings at the three city high schools.
That's according to school board member Jesse Handy.
"We were told we needed to close that gap and make them legal," Handy told The Ouachita Citizen. "Now we're being told we have to."
The Ouachita Citizen first report about disparities in course offerings at Monroe City Schools in it Aug. 21 issue.
A consent decree the U.S. Justice Department recently proposed to correct the disparities in course offerings at Monroe City Schools is under review by school system officials. At issue are questions over why advanced placement courses and the like are offered at Neville High School but are not in place at Carroll and Wossman high schools.
The proposed consent decree is expected put to rest Justice Department concerns that students at Carroll and Wossman high schools are at a competitive disadvantage with students at Neville High School.
Enrollment at Carroll and Wossman are almost entirely black while the racial make-up at Neville is more evenly divided. Sixty percent of students at Neville are black and 38 percent are white.
School board member Vicki Krutzer said she was somewhat surprised when disparity in course offerings was brought to light earlier this year. That was the case because, as of February, school board attorney Doug Lawrence told board members Monroe City Schools could begin the process of closing two civil rights actions the Justice Department brought against the city school system years ago. Those civil rights actions, which date to the 1960s, led to the integration of Monroe City Schools. They also involved the Justice Department forcing the city school system to comply with integration orders.
"Our attorney asked the board if we wanted to file for unitary status because everything was kosher with the Justice Department," Krutzer said. Unitary status means a school system has met all criteria a consent decree called for and any open federal cases related to that decree can be closed.
"Then we had a new U.S. attorney assigned to our case and Mr. Lawrence informed the board she wanted to come down for a visit and just get to know the system."
Allison Brown, a trial attorney with the Justice Department, visited the city school system in March. Her visit led to an April 1 report in which Brown identified a number of differences, or disparities, among course offerings at city schools.
Lawrence revealed the city school system was pursuing a new consent decree at a regular school board meeting in August.
Krutzer was quick to point out the city school system offered similar classes at all area elementary and high schools, but administrators at those individual schools determine their own schedules and their own course offerings.
"The principals made the decisions," not to offer certain classes, Krutzer said. "The district never made any decisions."