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School board chair responds to redistricting criticism


Monday we celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His life was dedicated to bringing an end to segregation and breaking down racial barriers. But the recent redistricting of New Hanover County middle schools has some parents concerned that the issue of race is still alive in the Port City. We sat down with the school board chair to ask him your questions about about last week's vote.

After 11 months of public forums, revisions and review the school board approved a map favoring neighborhood schools. It was a close vote; four to three with Dorothy Deshields, Elizabeth Redenbaugh and Nick Rhodes voting against.

"It would be diverse," DeShields said after the vote about busing students to balance socioeconomic factors. "It should have students from poor homes, median income homes and from rich homes and those children could feed on each other in a positive way. When you separate you're almost segregating the schools."

It's that concern that generated strong feelings among our viewers prompting 61 comments on the story on our website polarized over concerns about diversity, not only racial, but socioeconomic. One viewer wrote, "Neighborhood schools equal segregation." But another wrote, "This has nothing to do with race." And another: "Racism has been outed on the board... The children will suffer. We are responsible."

We sat down with school board chair Ed Higgins, who cast the tie-breaking vote, to raise some of your concerns.

"We are saying we don't care what race you are," Higgins said. "We are looking at contiguous school districts, and that's how we are assigning people."

Another hot button issue among parents on our website was whether neighborhood schools not only separated students by race, but also by income.

"When they go home, they go back in to the same neighborhood they came from," Higgins said, "and that's where the problem is. It's in the neighborhood. It is not in the school. And so again, my personal belief is by going to neighborhood schools, then hopefully we can change the philosophy of the neighborhood. Until that changes, peer pressure is going to continue to keep certain students from wanting to succeed"

One viewer agreed writing, "The best school in the world can not become a substitute for parenting."

We contacted the three school board members who voted against the neighborhood school option. Both Rhodes and DeShields did not return our calls. Redenbaugh was out of town.

Full interview here

Middle school redistricting map

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.


why are we not in our "neighborhood" school?

We are 3.5 miles from Noble, 4.5 from Roland Grise, and 9.5 from Williston. Which one again is our neighborhood school? Noble right? Wrong. The school board thinks it is Williston. Why? I do not know why? I guess I need to go back to school and learn math again. Perhaps someone can help me with the answer?

Black History

I say, put Black History in the schools. Let the world see how America has done an injustice to the African American race. It seems like many people do not have a clue of the true history, and that's both Black and White. So instead of looking down upon the people of color, learn and teach where they have come from. See how history continues to repeat itself. Where does it stop? Education is the key. My daughter was in 5th grade at Eaton Elementary a few years back and the day after Martin Luther King's birthday the teacher asked them if they knew why they were off the day before and the kids had no clue. Nor, did they know who Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was. For February (Black History Month), these schools will celebrate the darn cat in the hat before they will teach the kids anything about Black History. This type of education will enlighten us all! That's where you start.

What Planet?

What planet is this politician from?
People won't move to Wilmington because of this?
The only people moving to Wilmington right now are the ones who can afford homes out of the ghetto.. Thus I am certain they don't want their child to go to school 20 miles away in the ghetto when the parent could drive 4 blocks over...
Likewise I am certain that the single mother living in subsidized housing, working three jobs to support her family, would have significant transportation issues driving the same distance, and like it or not.. All races would feel uncomfortable.. All races have made it that way...
For Sparks to make the comments he made, shed light on the ignorance and racism that still exists to this day...
He should have said.. "White people.. you owe us something.. our children don't have it as good as your children so they need to be in your schools"...
How flippin ignorant...
I am a proud black man, who worked hard to go to NCSU, who has a good job and works hard for his family.. There is no way that I would a)Won't my child out of my neighborhood's school, and b)No way I would ever agree with the ignorant comments that have been made.
If I wanted my daughter to go to Williston, I would have moved in the Williston district.
Educated people choose houses by their school districts... Please sir, stop embarrassing our race.

I am an African american

I am an African american woman that did not grow up in Wilmington. I am from NY and when we moved down here, yes, I did look at the schools in area in which we purchased our home. I, also want the best education that is available for my babies. However, we must not look down upon those African Americans who cannot afford to move into a better district. It's not racist for the "politician" to want to change the thoughts of the "inherently racist" Wilmington. I am on both sides of the fence, but I can not sit here and say that I completely agree with, what is truly segregation. Yes, it does start at home, however, you do what you are taught.Has anyone thought to themselves, that if you did take that child out of the ghetto and gave them an opportunity in a better school, that it is a possibility that they would have that gleam in their eye that will want them to do better? The problem is that we need a more diverse administration. We need more dollars poured into the "ghetto" schools so that they will work on making the "gleam" appear. Your post is unbelievable and you should be ashamed!

You Have Failed To Take in Account...

...The fact that Wiliston is a magnet school. Magnet schools are set up to receive more funding than non-magnet schools. Our sick society will funnel more and more funds into these "magnet" schools to attempt to make them perform. They will also bus kids from more affluent neighborhoods in to bring the overall GPA up. It's a numbers game that has been played out for years. The race card players strive to keep the animosity fed by claiming that a school in the "ghetto" will be left behind if not more integrated. Faced with massive lawsuits, our black and white "honorables" play the numbers game very well. Oh yea, I've lived in "inherently racist" Wilmington for 20 years now and have never seen a "ghetto" here. Would you care to point the way?

The problem with taking a

The problem with taking a kid out of the ghetto so he has a chance of doing well, I may have to send my son in his place as a trade. If its not good enough for your kid, why should mine take his place.


Again..I ASK that Ed Higgins and every school board member that voted for neighborhood schools volunteered at least 1 hour a day at Holly Shelter, Williston and Virgo next year to show your support for better involvement in our schools..I dare YOU!!!

Do you

volunteer at the schools?

what neighborhood school

For all of you who seem to think all people who live in poor neighborhoods get welfare,have children in gangs and have no interest in their childrens education.I am the parent of two girls both of which attend public schools in new hanover county.I work two jobs,have NEVER received government assistence and am very involved in my girls education. We also live in a very poor neighborhood. One of then attend a year round school but will be in middle school next year. the other attends dc virgo and is in 7th grade.while they both currently go to schools outside their district,this has not been an issue so far. but now since they will be attending a school that is completely out of our way.I have come to realise that neighborhood schools are an option but only for those in better neighborhoods.How many middle schools are actually in low income areas,and how many of"our" children attend them.

Why can't kids just go to

Why can't kids just go to school in their own neighborhood? I mean if your neighborhood is mostly black/white/jewish/hispanic, so what?? If segregation exists in neighborhoods, that is because those people choose to live there, thus send their kids to school there! What is the problem?? If you want your kid to go to a different school, move! It is the guilty conscience of the old south trying to redeem themselves and nothing more.

I totally agree with you!

Guesty, you are ABSOLUTELY correct- I couldn't have said it better myself!! I would like to see someone argue those points..

True statement

From the story: "The best school in the world can not become a substitute for parenting." Nor should they be a substitute for parents. You can take the child out of the hood but for some you can't take the hood out of the child. When they see that mom & grandmamma are professional welfare recipients they lose the drive to succeed. Why try when I can get my check fo' free? Usually dad is gone, locked up or smoked up and can't provide any positive guidance. So busing cross town will not fix a lack of parental involvement. The parents won't come to the school when it is close, what makes you think they will drive cross town? Add the budget crunch where New Hanover County is forcing employees to take unpaid days but they can cough up the extra cash to fuel the cheese wagons to drive cross town?


100%. Volunteering in public schools for 10 years I can say from personal knowledge that Guesty is correct. Tutoring elementary students in reading I would ask them all some questions. 1. Do you read at home? 2. Does your parent read to you?

Answer was always "NO". Every child I tutored was non-white.

If you cant even read to your kid don't have them to start with.

Parents who are uninvolved in their kids education have low achieving kids. End of story.

What the h**l are you talking about?

"If you cant even read to your kid don't have them to start with.

Parents who are uninvolved in their kids education have low achieving kids. End of story."

So you're saying that children who come from a background where they are disadvantage should not only give up, but their parents shouldn't even have them? Are you even a person? How could you think that?

I'm a university student and I remember well in a political science class how my professor stated that same garbage. He stated that minorities who didn't have parents who could read to them and people from single-parent homes were at a disadvantage. But you know what? I am from that kind of home as well as several of my classmates. We raised our hands and corrected him on that matter.

I did not have anyone read to me as a child. My parent gave me a hooked on phonics kit and told me to learn on my own. And I did. I graduated high school with honors and now I am a junior at one of the best public universities in the world.

I also have volunteered with students who are aiming for college and racial backgrounds as well as economic backgrounds have no limit on how big a child or a person can dream. One student I helped came from a poor home with a single parent who was an immigrant. That child was the captain of the football team, the student council president, and wanted to go to law school. Is that your definition of "low-achieving"?

Those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds often have an even bigger drive to change the future so that their children won't have to go through the same hardships.

How can you look down on that and call yourself someone who cares about children?

If there a person has a drive for a better education, no matter what their background may be, then no one has the right to tell them no.

well said!

well said!

we buy our homes based on the school our children will attend

When looking for that perfect home to purchase the school's are the first thing that come to a parents mind. People choose where they're going to live based on this fact and this has never changed. Even young un married couples will look at the schools when looking to buy a home.. This is not new news, it's old news.

People have done this for over 100 years.. Has nothing to do with race... I was going to attend a school that didnt have A/C, guess what my parents did? They chose to live elsewhere....I/ we should not be punished becuase we had a choice and someone else didnt.This would not be fair.. The School district made the right choice for the tax payers.. End of story.

Middle School Redistricting

I totally agree. Families choose to buy their homes based on what school's their children will attend. I moved to my neighborhood right before my son started kidergarden because of the schools he would have been attending if we hadn't moved. I moved to my current neighborhood based on what elementary, middle and high school he would be attending. I also agree that we should not be punished because we had a choice and someone else might not have. Our children should not have to travel way across town to attend school when there is a school less than 2 minutes from their home they can go to. We actually live very close to 2 middle schools, so either school would have been fine with me for him to go to.

MS Redistricting

"We are saying we don't care what race you are," Higgins said. "We are looking at contiguous school districts, and that's how we are assigning people."

FALSE - the neighborhoods located in the NE portion of New Hanover County are not contiguous with the Holly Shelter campus. Not only is the distance 13+ miles, but I-40 separates the two. This is NOT a neighborhood map for those of us who reside in this area (whose children have now become economic and race pawns in this social engineering game). How many of you with children at any other middle school in this county (who thing Map 2C is "just great") have to drive 13 miles AND on an interstate to get to your child's school? Secondly, this school board deliberately selected 2 downtown satellites to attend the Holly Shelter campus - both of these satellites predominately include children who reside in subsidized housing projects. No thought or discussion took place regarding potential gang-related activity, and what is likely to happen when you take 2 rival gangs and put them in the SAME SCHOOL. Finally, the board's last minute changes to this map (which were significant changes for many of us), further handicaps the new, "state-of-the-art" middle school with a free/reduced lunch rate >60%.

I can't help but believe that the last-minute changes to and approval of Map 2C was nothing but a "gotcha" for 4 board members versus 3 board members. This board is derelict in its responsibility to the citizens of this community. What a sad day for our children....

Unless your child is a gang member....

...why would you even care about what happens "when you take 2 rival gangs and put them in the SAME SCHOOL."

The school board should plan redistricting based on "gang management?" Let's extend all coutesy to the Bloods and the Crips?

Do you see what I mean about tolerating behavior that handicaps an entire community? What is the community doing to stop gangs? Ever think of turning junior in to the police when you find him dealing drugs? Bringing home stolen merchandise? Bragging about a gang beating he took part in?

Nah! That might actually help the kid in the long run, and if gangs knew that the entire community wouldn't tolerate their behavior, they might move on or even die out...

...but here's a thought - do you think the board opted for 2C to prevent decent, hard working students who aren't on subsidized lunches from having to deal with gangs every hour of the school day?

Unless your child is a gang member....

Commonsense - my intent in mentioning the lack of discussion regarding potential for gang activity, was to make the larger point that Map 2C was created without the benefit of ANY discussion of its ramifications. The Board played with the map, moving neighborhood study areas around until they hit a F/R lunch rate that was generally <60% across all middle schools (apparently in an effort to satisfy some of the board members, who ultimately were extremely dissatisfied with the resulting Map 2C). The objectives and considerations of redistricting should extend beyond simply reducing these numbers.

In no way do I condone pandering to criminal elements of our community (if that's what you were implying), but the reality is that these elements do exist and their presence is well known within our school system (as evidenced by the school department's recent gang awareness initiatives).

How dare you tell the truth?

Let me add a bit of emphasis to Mister Higgins' remarks:

"When they go home, they go back in to the same neighborhood they came from," Higgins said, "and THAT'S WHERE THE PROBLEM IS. It's in the neighborhood. It is not in the school. And so again, my personal belief is by going to neighborhood schools, then hopefully we can change the philosophy of the neighborhood. Until that changes, peer pressure is going to continue to keep certain students from **WANTING** to succeed"

You could have also added "The parents don't care, the kids don't care, and pretty soon, the teachers stop caring because of the apathy they face on a daily basis."

Get rid of the unwed childbirth, the drug and alcohol abuse, and the acceptance and tolerance of crime and your neighborhood schools will get a lot magic!

This topic is like a dead

This topic is like a dead horse being beat with a stick. Let it go. It has nothing to do with where you came from or racism. If a child has the will to learn, then the school will provide the education required.

All teachers must meet

All teachers must meet minimum standards to teach. Granted, some are a lot better at what they do than others, but I am sure there is a decent mix at all schools of "learning" and seasoned teachers. That being said, ANY school should be capable of providing an education to any child WANTING to learn. As far as gangs go, this type of behavior has no place in an educational facility, as well as cell phones, bullying and the like. This sort of thing needs to be dealt with first and eliminated. This BS about busing to achieve balance is nonsense and always has been. There is such a thing as natural segregation. Pick 100 individuals who have never seen each other. Pick 25 each black and white men and 25 each black and white women, of all ages and economic stature. Put them in a room and tell them to mingle. Within 5 minutes, there will be dinstinct groups, based on race, gender and perceived wealth. Society has always been this way and always will be. Government forced "mixing" only breeds contempt from all, because it takes away the comfort zone that bonds individuals with those that they feel comfortable with. When I was in school, there was no such thing as integration. Each race went to his/her respective school and everybody got a good education. Neighborhood schools make sense. Consider the student who spends as much time on a bus as he does in class. A lot of time wasted that could be used to study.

RE: All Teachers Must Meet

Because you were happy with integration and feel it should remain that way to this day, I would assume you are advanced in age. Perhaps that would explain why you believe your example would work in this day and time. Actually, if you pick 100 individuals from the different backgrounds as you stated, you might be surprised to see they'll mingle amongst each other and not separate based on race or economic status, despite what they may be taught at home. There is still a large population of those with your closed-minded, keep it the way it was when I grew up mentality. However, there is even a larger population of those that see you for what you are aside from your skin color and financial status, and actually appreciate the opportunity to learn together and from each other. Perhaps there is a bigger picture now that the kids are mingling amongst each other and continue to grow more accepting to one another. It may be the MINGLING that most concerns the parents. Their only resolve is to create a way to keep them away from each other. What better way to minimize the issue than to keep them separate in schools. I think however its unfair to label anyone, or in this instance, any child, ghetto or welfare recipients,simply because they haven't been given the advantages of a nice home and neighborhood as you have given your children. I'm all for empowering folks to do better and to strive to offer more to their children, but at no time will I ever degrade the children for their parents' shortcomings. I've been vastly entertained by the suggestion in the post I've read that the parents (mostly single so I've read) should work hard to succeed and move their children out of the ghetto if they have a problem with neighborhood schools. The truth remains, if they were by chance to work their way out of the ghetto, you wouldn't want them in your neighborhood either. I wonder how you would then justify it. Of course, we know it has nothing to do with never does.

Well, "My View", you are

Well, "My View", you are correct to assume I am somewhat older, since I mentioned thet I was schooled before integration. Didn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. Maybe if you were in my age group and had experienced both eras, you might look at things a little differently. It is not so much a race issue as it is a cultural one. To most, success is defined by hard work and a comfortably existance. However, to many others, success is nothing more than a pair of basketball shoes, baggy pants and flashy chrome wheels.

RE: Well "My View" you are

HARD WORK....LOL!!!! You know nothing about hard work. I know nothing about hard work. If we research history, we'll learn what hard work means. What we will not learn is receiving the fruits of the labor. You were reared during a time of integration, I'm sure you know what I mean. Unfortunately, many of us have forgotten the struggles made on our behalf so that we have opportunities available to us today. And yes, it does grieve me to see those who don't take advantage of those opportunities. I agree, we sometimes tend to measure success based on materialistic things. While the formerly deprived may relish on appearance, simply because they don't know any better. The always fortunate establish success by status among friends via cars, boats, houses, vacation homes, travel ventures, jewelry, etc. Of course, their advantage has always been available, and there's always been fruit from labor, it just hasn't always been their labor. Regardless, its all materialistic. And neighborhood schools is far from a cultural issue.


It also doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what you are.

I agree with "my view" you

I agree with "my view" you are seriously too old and out of touch with the way things are today.I am one of those people who live in the"ghetto" have children who wear costly basketball shoes and have very nice "wheels" on my car.I am also a teacher who has to work two jobs to pay for all of these things. I have close friends of all races most of whom i met while in highschool.I feel that if you are going to say you are making neighborhood schools, then"all children" should go to the school closest to their homes and not just the children whose parents can afford to buy a home in a certain schools district.I currently drive one of my children all the way across town to school because it is an open enrollment school that does not provide transportation, so you think it is fair that next year she and her little sister will have to attend a school almost 20 mile from our home.Even someone with your limited view can see that, that is a little far away from my "hood".

Just a thought

Maybe if you didn't waste your money on your wheels and basketball shoes you could save some of that money you work hard for and move out of the hood. Kind of a shock but if you were to value your children more than your rims and image you would do whatever it takes to get out of a ghetto.

First off I work extremely

First off I work extremely hard to ensure that my children have what they need and that includes their education.Secondly since you do not know me or anything about me you do not know that i worked for Dupont for almost ten years before i was laid off.At the time i had my own home in Burgaw which i loss becacause i could not make working two jobs what i earned with one. So unlike some people i decided to work my butt off go back to school and get my degree in elementary education. I also had to live some where while i did this. I did not go on walfare abuse unemployment or sit around crying about my situation. I graduated in May of 2009 and am still working two jobs so my family can continue to reclimb that ladder we were once on.So if i want to use a little of my money to buy shoes for my children thats my choice.As for my RIMS they cam with the car.That does not change the fact that sending my daughters to a school twenty miles for our home in not a NIEGHBORHOOD scool.