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|Monroe City School Board plan answers racial disparity issues|
The Monroe City School Board approved a preliminary plan designed to adhere to issues raised by a U.S. Justice Department probe into racial disparities at Monroe City Schools.
At its regular meeting Tuesday, city school system officials presented the board with a seven-page outline detailing how schools would deal with inequities in course offerings at Neville, Wossman and Carroll high schools.
The Justice Department must sign off on the city school board plan to alleviate racial disparities in course offerings.
The city school board's move came after Allison Brown, a trial attorney with the Justice Department, cited the school system for failing to provide access to Advanced Placement, Honors and gifted classes at predominantly minority schools, Carroll and Wossman.
Brown determined those courses were offered at schools with a larger percentage of white students. That would be Neville.
Dr. James Dupree, superintendent at Monroe City Schools, said a key to answering Justice Department criticisms would entail making available high school academic outreach teachers at Wossman and Carroll.
The individuals hired to fulfill those roles at the two underperforming schools will assist in developing programs to enroll more students in advanced placement and honors classes.
Dupree told the school board creating those posts at Carroll and Wossman also would help improve lagging test scores at Wossman and Carroll.
School board member Mickey Traweek questioned why the positions were being limited to Wossman and Carroll when Neville would "obviously benefit" from the addition to its faculty.
"Why don't we put one at Neville, too?" Traweek said.
School board member Rodney McFarland scoffed at the suggestion.
"The shoe was on the other foot when Wossman and Carroll were wanting things the other school had," McFarland said.
McFarland pointed to what he called a pattern of Neville receiving special attention while Wossman and Carroll "suffered." Had board members worked more diligently to prevent that suffering in the past, according to McFarland, the city school system could have avoided the Justice Department insisting that a new consent decree be adopted by Monroe City Schools.
"Wossman and Carroll have been left out for so many years," McFarland said. "Now, we're so concerned, but you weren't concerned."
Instead of genuine concern, McFarland offered a different explanation.
"You've been made to go along with this," McFarland said. "Let's not be a hypocrite about it, and that's being point blank."
School board member Stephanie Smith also chided board members for "behaving like this just happened."
"Let's not act like this is something that's just starting," Smith said.
She reminded board members the problems identified in the Justice Department report, which led to the new consent decree, were consistently identified over several years. Smith also said "the warnings have been ongoing" from the Justice Department.
Dupree attempted to squash haggling by guaranteeing a similar curriculum post would be created at Neville High School "at some point," while pointing out that the plan the board approved to satisfy the Justice Department was intended to benefit all students in the city school system.
Under the plan approved Tuesday, the board would work to ensure a uniform distribution of courses at high schools throughout the city school system.
Also, school administrators will take a "proactive" role in encouraging students to enroll in college preparatory courses and honors classes.
Students will also be steered toward TOPS qualifying classes so the school system will graduate more college-ready students, according to terms of the plan.
If approved by Justice Department officials, the consent decree plan would go into affect immediately.
Dupree told the school board that implementing the plan will cost the system $245,000 per year.
In other business, board members unanimously approved creating an assistant superintendent post.
Dupree said the $94,000-a-year position was necessary to help facilitate the new goals and objectives of the consent decree.
The board also approved hiring a full-time public relations officer to handle media inquiries and public outreach for Monroe City Schools.
The system will pay $47,000 for that position.
Board member Vicki Krutzer cast one of two votes against the creation of a full-time public relations post.
"At this time, I feel like we need a supervisor to look into the music, the art, all the things that go into this consent decree," Krutzer said.
Traweek also voted against creating a public relations position.
Following the two votes to create the new positions, Dupree said he expected to have the jobs filled quickly so the new employees could begin assisting the system.
Meanwhile, the school board agreed to lower millage rates collected by the city school system.
By a unanimous vote, the board approved setting the 2009 property tax millage rate at 39.16 mils -- a reduction of 1.46 mills over last year's rate.