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.”