Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

School Vote Delay Likely, Board Says

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

School Vote Delay Likely, Board Says

Article excerpt

Bowing to a federal judge's request, Duval County School Board

members said yesterday they expect to postpone votes next week

on major issues that are tangled in court-ordered desegregation

talks.

Board members and Superintendent Larry Zenke said they likely

will put off consideration Tuesday of two proposed building

plans, a set of proposed boundary changes and a plan to change

admissions criteria at three magnet schools.

U.S. District Judge Harvey Schlesinger, the mediator in

desegregation talks between the board and Jacksonville NAACP,

requested the delays after a 7-1/2-hour private meeting

Wednesday. The board could take up the issues at its March 5 meeting.

"He's requested that we postpone it until March," board member

Susan Wilkinson said, referring to one of the building plans.

"So what would you do if a federal judge asked you to do that?"

Board member Gwendola Jones said she also didn't see any other

options.

"I am not interpreting his remarks as a choice," Jones said.

The issues that probably will be delayed could play important

roles in the effort to settle the long-running desegregation

dispute between the board and the NAACP.

For example, the civil rights group opposes both building plans

because they focus on adding schools in predominantly white

suburbs to relieve overcrowding there. NAACP officials fear the

schools would hurt desegregation efforts.

With the sessions closed to the public and a gag order on

participants, it's unclear how much the NAACP and School Board

have discussed the issues during mediation. But Schlesinger

huddled with five board members and their attorneys for about an

hour Wednesday before making his announcement public.

U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges ordered mediation

last month after a nearly yearlong impasse in talks between the

School Board and NAACP. The groups held their first sessions

Monday and Wednesday and are expected to meet again during the

next two weeks.

If the talks are unsuccessful, the School Board and NAACP could

end up in a long, costly court battle. …

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