HALIFAX — With no official votes or opinions given, there was still plenty of action about public school district consolidation at Tuesday’s Halifax County Commissioners meeting.

Officials from the University of North Carolina Center for Civil Rights talked about their study “Unless Our Children Begin to Learn Together,” which focused on Halifax County Schools, Weldon City Schools and Roanoke Rapids Graded School District.

In a summary that took about 20 minutes, Elizabeth Haddix, staff attorney at the center, and Mark Dorosin, managing attorney, talked how the study came about, where data used came from and what needed to be done moving forward.

Dorosin said most people who have read the study said the data was not anything new to them but their feelings on the issue were vindicated.

Ultimately, he reminded commissioners they are the only elected body that makes decisions for all of Halifax County.

“To do nothing to address this is to embrace the legacy of racial separation,” Dorosin said.

Once the report was presented, five people spoke in reaction to the study and inaccuracies they felt it presented. 

With so many present for or against merging the three districts, the meeting was moved from its regular board room to the Superior Courtroom in the Historic Courthouse in Halifax.

In addition to those wearing red ribbons against consolidation, each of the superintendents, board chairs and school board members from Halifax County’s three public school systems were present for the meeting.

County Commissioner J. Rives Manning Jr. spoke, but in the capacity of a Halifax County resident, not a commissioner.

Manning challenged the report and said it was based on the thinking that the Roanoke Rapids Graded School District and Weldon City Schools District were gerrymandered.

“Gerrymandering is when you change the boundary lines,” he said. “Their basis for gerrymandering is incorrect. It brings into question the credibility of the report.”

Other speakers were Attorneys Ken Soo and Neal Ramee, who represented Roanoke Rapids Graded School District and Weldon City Schools; Stan Clayton, who talked about taxes and the school merger; David B. King, who talked about the school merger and Mike Beebe, a Halifax County Schools teacher, discussing economic and financial implications of maintaining the three school districts.

Halifax County Commissioners Chairman James Pierce admitted he did not have the answer on what needs to be done.

“We are going to have to figure a timeline and plan,” he said. “Consolidation could be the answer. We are going to improve the education of children in Halifax County.”

(12) comments


I never heard the word 'gerrymandering' before this article. When I looked it up, Wiki defined it was '...used to help or hinder a particular demographic, such as a political, racial, linguistic, religious or class group.' Dictionary.com defines it as 'to divide (an area) into political units to give special advantages to one group'. So basically if the districts were split up on based socioeconomics and/or ethnicity- to help one group and harm another. As such, it's wrong and needs to be undone...

pull your own weight

How can you undo something that was not done in the first place? The was the point. There has been no gerrymandering. Districts were set long before the racial make up of the schools became what they are today. My Mother went to Weldon in the 50's and 60's. It was quite different then but the district lines are the same. Regardless, you don't multiply anything by dividing it. You will not raise the level of a lower performer without lowering the level of a higher performer. Those who work hard to earn are tired of being expected to give it away. Where is the UNC study that compares such things as % of single parents, truancy, speech, and even respect between the 3 schools? No school can fix what the home doesn't reinforce.


I was wondering... when is the Officials from the University of North Carolina Center for Civil Rights going to conduct a study “On Our Children Begin Taught to Learn Together?” Why don't Elizabeth Haddix, staff attorney at the center, and Mark Dorosin, managing attorney, talk about how to do a study on getting parents from these other school districts to dedicate "Time with their children" like the parents in the Roanoke Rapids Graded School Districts? Collect that data and use that data to form a twenty minute presentation on what needs to be done moving forward. If they are not willing to address the parenting issues within Halifax County, I think they should leave my kids alone.


Judge Manning is correct, the district boundary lines were NOT gerrymandered. Prior to desegregation, there were THREE school districts, just as there are today, with pretty much the same boundary lines. In 1968, the United States Department of Justice required that all Halifax County Schools become desegregated during the 1969-1970 school year. After desegregation, many, if not most, of the white families that lived in the Halifax County and Weldon City school districts, did one of two things: 1) They moved into the predominantly white Roanoke Rapids school district OR 2) they sent their children to private school, namely Halifax Academy, which was founded in 1969, the same year the federal government required whole desegregation. If you look at the yearbooks from some of currently predominantly black high schools in Halifax County from the years shortly after desegregation, you will find that there were far more whites in those schools than there are today. Over the decade of the 70s, many whites moved their children out of the desegregated schools, of their own volition. This is the SAME thing that happens today. Consolidating the school district will do no more than solidify existing voluntarily segregated communities, or maybe even create new ones. The simple fact is, the government CANNOT make people like each other and want to live around others just for the sake of perceived diversity. Period. This also proves why forced desegregation cannot truly desegregate our community and schools.

Not that it really matters, study after study has consistently shown that desegregated schools do very little to improve student performance ( http://www.utdallas.edu/.../tsp.../wp_hanushek_2000_school_integration.pdf.PDF, http://www.duke.edu/~jcc23/cooley-jane-jmp.pdf )

Personally, I am of the same opinion as that once stated by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas: "We must forever put aside the notion that simply because a school district today is black, it must be educationally inferior." (MISSOURI, et al., PETITIONERS v. KALIMA JENKINS, et al. )


Gerrymandered districts are common and can be easily seen in the map lines. If its a bunch of crazy shapes, it was done for a reason that benefits the people drawing the lines.


Those who comment that the lines weren't "gerrymandered" simply because they've always existed the way they were are missing the historical shifts that have occurred in our area over the last 30 years. It's interesting to me that the lines of demarcation between the Roanoke Rapids Graded School District and the Weldon City Schools haven't necessarily changed in the last 30 years, but the size, shape, and populations of their respective cities have changed. Why is the area around Wal*Mart (predominately African-American) on Julian Allsbrook most definitely part of Roanoke Rapids City, but not part of the Roanoke Rapids Graded School District?

Or how a County Commissioner for Halifax County, who called into question the entire report because of its use of gerrymandering...ignoring almost all of the other horrifying information the report contained, cares for the educational well-being of the children in the city of Roanoke Rapids, but what about the rest of the county he serves? Do the children of Halifax County not deserve the same educational opportunities, funding, and benefits that those in the city of Roanoke Rapids deserve? Or do we as a community seriously believe that where you are born, how much money you have, or the color of your skin be the key factors in your future success in school and life?

Pull Your Own Weight suggests that "lower performers" will pull down "higher performers" if the schools consolidate, yet within the RRGSD there are both "low" and "high" performers on state tests (in fact, only 60-80% of their students are at grade level on EOCs). Amazing that the "low" performers from Halifax would have such a detrimental effect when those who are not being reached in the RRGSD as "low" performers aren't holding back their "high" performers. The only "low performers" I see in this whole mess--since everyone who knows anything about the way kids learn knows that, at the start, their are no "low" or "high" performing students...just low or high expectations for their abilities and differences in options for learning-- are those who pretend like the problems of the county don't effect the problems of the city, or those who refuse to do what's best for "all" children...rather, focusing on "my" children vs. "their" children, when the future of this county depends on every single child who goes to a school here.

Read the report...the evidence is irrefutable.


As a homeowner in Roanoke Rapids School district and a former teacher
at Northwest Halifax High School, KIPP Pride High, and KIPP Gaston College
Prep, I attended this meeting with great interest in our schools and
the direction in which they are headed. UNC’s findings—summarized
from their report, “Unless Our Children Begin to Learn
Together…”—sadly confirmed the stories I’ve heard and the experiences
I’ve witnessed working with children throughout Halifax County,
including Weldon and Roanoke Rapids.

Throughout their ten minute presentation, Mark Dorosin and Elizabeth
Haddix laid out their methodology, including their sources of facts
and data. Most revealing, perhaps, were the maps that outlined the
boundaries of Roanoke Rapids school district, boundaries that expanded
to include white communities and contracted to exclude black
communities. As the Center for Civil Rights report puts it, “By
endorsing and maintaining this segregated system, Halifax County and
the state are complicit in exacerbating the substantive harms of what
should be a by-gone era of racial oppression.” These substantive harms
are part all of our lives in Halifax County. All of our kids are being
underserved by the status quo.

Several years ago, I taught English and coached track at Northwest
High School. Occasionally, after track practice, I drove some of my
student-athletes home. As I pulled into the driveways and homes of my
black students, I realized they had white neighbors who attended
Roanoke Rapids, but lived closer to Northwest than my students.
Although the drive from Northwest into Roanoke Rapids is no longer
than 10 minutes, I felt as though I had traveled back to a time when
‘separate but equal’ and institutional racism were not only accepted,
but the norm.

After Mr. Dorosin and Ms. Haddix made their remarks, Commissioner
Manning claimed to have information that would discredit the report.
Like Mr. Dorosin and Ms. Haddix, Commissioner Manning had brought his
own maps; these, however, were brown and seemed to be in danger of
falling apart. In the early 1900s, he explained, the lines were drawn
to create schools for “both white and colored children.” Mr. Manning
discussed the many challenges of getting to school back then. He went
on to explain, “Gerrymandering is when you change the boundary lines,”
he said. “Their basis for gerrymandering is incorrect. It brings into
question the credibility of the report.”

To Mr. Manning’s point, I would refer him back to the UNC report
written by Mr. Dorosin and Ms. Haddix, and in particular, page 26 which
cites Haney V. County BD. Of Educ. (1969): “The contention that the
school districts herein involved are not segregated as a matter of law
is untenable. The short and quick answer to the argument that they
were created for purposes other than racial separation… is that it
patently overlooks the then-existing state laws requiring segregation
for public schools.” It doesn’t matter when the lines were drawn, or
by whom, or for what reason: they are a means by which black students
and white students are kept from learning from and with each other today.

Although Commissioner Manning’s indignity and seeming ignorance on the
matter of school segregation and racial oppression is scary, perhaps
the scariest part of Tuesday’s meeting was the portion of the crowd whom
applauded when Mr. Manning declared loudly, “There was no
gerrymandering,” as if the accusation was that he personally changed
the lines to exclude our darker skinned brethren and he was only now
being vindicated. As much as I wish it were not the case, this issue
is much larger than Commissioner Manning. This is not about our egos
or being right; it is about educating our young people who don’t
choose where they live.

Sadly, lost among the pointless declarations Tuesday were any
suggestions for eliminating or even lessening the segregation from
those who were opposed to consolidation. I do not understand how our
residents can accept what is continuing to happen to our children.
Not only are we failing to empower them with the academic skills they
will need to succeed in life, we are also robbing them of the civility
with which they ought to view and treat others. Recently, we asked
some middle schoolers what they thought about combining all three
districts into one. One 12 year-old boy said they shouldn’t. His
reason? “Those people are just really different.”

I think we can all imagine this sentence coming out of the mouth of a
black or white child that age, but these children are a product of our
education. This is the fear that our current system has instilled in
many of our young children, particularly those in Halifax County
schools. Yes, this fear goes both ways, but it is not, as some would
argue, a reason to stay separate. If we don’t all embrace all of our
kids, we are destined to keep pointing fingers and talking loudly
until someone forces us to accept a change to our system without our

Mr. Pierce said unequivocally during the session Tuesday that Halifax
County would take steps to improve the educational system for all
students. I hope that is truly the goal of our leaders and not,
instead, rationalizing the oppression of the past or attempting to pin
blame on others. As Halifax County residents, North Carolinians, and
Americans, we are better than this. Certainly, our kids deserve
better than this.

Josh DoBell
Roanoke Rapids


It doesn't matter whether "gerrymandering" is the right word or whether the district lines were ever changed for the purposes of segregating schools by race. The fact is that dividing Halifax County into 3 school systems creates unnecessary expense and bureaucracy. It also separates children from their neighbors at a young age, which might well lead them to believe that people who live in certain communities or have skin of a different shade are fundamentally different from them. This is not something schools, or any of us, need to be teaching children. It doesn't matter how the system got like this, what matters is that it is wrong and hurts the community on many levels.


We the people, moved into the City of Roanoke Rapids to keep our children from having to go to the county schools. For this lack of a better word, benefit, we the people, have paid the higher taxes, to include school taxes. I hope that if you consolidate the school systems that you also make everyone in the county pay the higher taxes.

Emily S

I resent the use of "we the people" in reference to residents of the Roanoke Rapids. I, too, moved to Roanoke Rapids. I also happen to live within the Roanoke Rapids Graded School District. It is silly, yet necessary to draw this distinction. As a resident, a teacher, and an American, I am saddened and ashamed each time I walk or drive past the Roanoke Rapids High School football field surrounded with barbed wire. I once caught myself comparing the barbed wire trim to the fences surrounding prisons. I then realized that this barbed wire wasn’t meant to keep people in and therefore is clearly meant to keep certain people out – an eerie similarity to the district boundaries.
I was at the meeting Tuesday, and was obviously appalled at the reaction of J. Rives Manning and those there to support his views. I found it easy to dismiss his antics as they seemingly lacked logic and reason. I am not terribly worried that he will be taken seriously enough to harm the county anymore than those who choose to stay silent.
What troubled me most were the speakers who presented what could easily be mistaken as well-thought out and reasonable arguments. The argument most frequently presented against protecting the right of EVERY child to a sound basic education is “This will be expensive and we’re already poor”. David King went one step further to acknowledge that strong schools can be a factor in attracting businesses to the area, but in the end it’s the almighty dollar that rules. Sadly, his statement is likely true. Worse, it reveals the mindset of many in our county: “Of course the children are important – almost as important as money.”
“We the people” of Halifax County created and continue to support the poverty in our county. Without the opportunity to learn from our neighbors – literally and figuratively, we are robbing our children of the academic and social education they require for success as people in today’s world. I refer directly to the children in Halifax County, Weldon City, AND Roanoke Rapids.
Some have lived here for only a short while and may feel it is not their “fault”. You’re right. This is not our ‘fault’, but it is absolutely our problem. You may not have personally drawn the lines. You may not be descended of anyone who did. You may not even be from this region of the country. Who is at fault is not the issue. The fact is that these are our children. This is our county. For that matter, this is our COUNTRY. Therefore, this is our problem and we are charged with the rare opportunity to make a significant difference in the lives of generations to come.
If you choose to put money ahead of the education that every single American child is promised, this is a burden you must live with for the rest of your life. But do not implicate those of us who fight for the education of ALL children, without our consent.


There is no need for merger. Just attend the school of your choice! There are many doing that in the Roanoke Rapids Graded School District. There are many families that are citizens of the county, other counties, and even Weldon. However, the most appauling is the fact there are a few teachers and several office personnel doing the same. This is not hearsay, it is a fact! Names have been given and NOTHING is done! So why worry, just do as the others do...oh wait, you may get turned in and actually approached about this if you are not "Someone"! I have a neighbor doing this! I am sure RR does not care because they are getting money for this!


I would encourage Mr. Dorosin and Ms. Haddix to look at the 2 school systems in their OWN TOWN AND COUNTY before coming to Halifax County and telling us how to run things. The Chapel Hill schools are considered to be among the best, and these two "advocates of justice" haven't released any reports about the fact that those schools are separate from the Orange County Schools, which are not considered to be all that great. Hypothetically, if these two have children, where do you think they (would or do) send them? Better yet, they should move to southern Halifax County and enroll their children in the schools. That way, their argument would show a true commitment to justice and what is right. But it's easier to come into someone else's neighborhood and enable the Harvey agenda. By the way, will Mr. Harvey EVER write another NAACP notebook column about the good work that his association does, or will it just be continued assaults on the RRGSD and the city of Roanoke Rapids.

Ask yourself this: Which schools in this county have the most racial/socioeconomic balance? Without a doubt, it is the RRGSD. But the NAACP and others want to hold the RRGSD responsible for the failures in their own schools. I guarantee if merger occurred, the worst school district would have the most say in how the new system would look. And that alone is reason to stay away. The same folks that have misspent public funds and then failed to account where the funds went should not be in charge of any new unified district. For more info, see Mrs. Johnson, your county commissioner, who was in a position of authority when all of these mistakes took place in her district.

What have the Halifax county schools done to encourage Caucasian american children in their attendance areas to attend their schools? Is it the fault of the RRGSD that the NUMEROUS caucasian american children living in the HCS district attend private schools, homeschools, or charter schools? Certainly not. Halifax Academy is almost the size of the Weldon City Schools. There are plenty of kids living in the WCS and HCS districts. The truth is, the proponents of merger really don't want these Caucasian american kids in their schools.
They just want the power and control.

By the way Emily, there's barbed wire around the football field at every high school in this county. It's there to prevent vandalism and possible injury.

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