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School board right to look at racial balance

A meeting was held Tuesday night in the Thomson High School auditorium to discuss the growing racial unbalance among our elementary schools. I would like to start this letter by thanking the McDuffie County School Board as well as our elected officials for addressing an issue as controversial and delicate as rezoning our public schools.

As a parent of twoİchildrenİthat attendİThomson Elementary School, I cannot help but notice the growing imbalance between the racesİwhenever I attend a school function.İ While the student body at TES shifts towards an African-American majority, the opposite is occurring at our two other local elementary schools. If this trend is allowed to continue, one can only view this as a step backward for our community. Unfortunately, zoning is an issue that will not go away for our public schools any time soon.

We must strive to make all of our schools attractive to all of our citizens for several reasons.

The first and foremost reason is our children. No child, whether black or white, should be subjected to a school environment where there is an obvious unbalance in the racial content of a classroom. We should strive to promote the most balanced learning environment possible for our children.

The second reason that this issue should be addressed is an economic one. I personally know of several families that have moved in the past few years so that their children could attend one school or the other. I also know of people who have moved into this community and not bought houses in certain parts of the county because of which school they would be zoned for. I have actually seen and heard of houses for sale promoted as being in the "Maxwell District," as if it makes the house more valuable. I have heard of Thomson Elementary referred to as the "inner-city school." If this is allowed to continue, we could begin to see a decrease in property values based solely on which school the property is zoned for.

The third and last reason for action being taken now is the image that we project to people that are considering moving to our community. Both industry and individuals look long and hard at the local schools before deciding to locate in a particular area. We must make our schools as equal as possible in order to make our community as attractive as possible.

Anytime you talk about relocating students, you are bound to upset some people. There is no way you are going to be able to please each and every person involved in a system the size of which we have in McDuffie County. There are two proposals before the school board. One would shift the current boundaries of the school zones so that the racial make-up would be more equal. The second would allow non-resident students to attend McDuffie County schools for a certain tuition.

I would encourage the school board to adopt both proposals. The first would provide for an immediate fix to the racial imbalance that we currently face. The second would allow to better control future imbalances by placing out-of-county students where needed in order to maintain a balanced school.

We should be proud of the way our community accepted integration. We must not, however, assume that all of our problems were solved in the 1960's and 1970's. Racial equality is an issue that we may very well have to address for years to come. If our community is to avoid the problems that affect other communities in our area, we are going to have to address the issue of race head on.

Again, I would like to thank both our community leaders as well as our citizens for taking up such a delicate issue.

Scott Swann



Web posted on Thursday, March 4, 2004


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