Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Raines Magnet Debated

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Raines Magnet Debated

Article excerpt

Raines High School in 1991 adopted a magnet program of

focused instruction in mathematics, science and pre-engineering

that was intended to draw white students who could diversify its

overwhelmingly black student enrollment.

In its first year as a magnet school, 1991-92, the

1,677-student high school in Northwest Jacksonville attracted 21

white students.

The next year, none.

And for the next three consecutive years, 13 white students,

according to Duval County public schools data.

Yet Norma White, the retired coordinator of magnet programs

for Ribault and Raines high schools, testified yesterday in

federal court that the program could be considered a success. At

least during its first year.

"We were able to get students to attend the program," she

said.

Last year, Raines had 98 percent African-American student

enrollment, making it one of the most racially lopsided schools

in Duval County.

Magnet programs, a foundation of the 1990 accord between the

Jacksonville branch of the NAACP and the School Board that ended

nearly 20 years of forced busing of students, dominated

testimony for the second consecutive day yesterday in a federal

court trial to determine if the schools should be declared

desegregated.

U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges is presiding.

On cross-examination of White, NAACP attorney Michael Sussman

focused on her assessment of success. "By the end of the second

year, the white students were no longer there. You knew that

when you said the program was successful?"

"Yes, there was a decline," White responded.

White was among several current or former school employees who

testified about experiences with magnet programs that have not

attracted enough students to racially balance their schools.

But they all testified they tried extensively to make such

programs work, including showing prospective parents

professionally produced videotapes that tout school facilities,

and providing space for after-school day care at magnet schools,

so working parents won't move their kids out.

An African-American parent who testified for the school

system said she was satisfied with school facilities, and with

the academic and social education her children were receiving in

their magnet schools, which continue to have predominantly

African-American enrollments.

"My perception is we are not going to fix this in one year.

We're in it for the long haul," said Nancy Snyder, until

recently the assistant superintendent for elementary schools.

How much effort is enough?

According to the desegregation agreement, the school system

must operate all of its programs in a non-discriminatory manner

"calculated to achieve the maximum practicable desegregation. …

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