School Choices Defended Parent Involvement Said Boosted by Plan

By MacDonald, Mary | The Florida Times Union, September 9, 1997 | Go to article overview

School Choices Defended Parent Involvement Said Boosted by Plan


MacDonald, Mary, The Florida Times Union


Jacksonville public schools will have more parent

involvement, community participation and lasting desegregation

because the system gives families choices in where their

children attend school, three School Board members testified

yesterday in federal court.

Cheryl Donelan, Stan Jordan and Billy Parker, three of the

five board members who voted in 1996 to ask for a court ruling

that the schools have eliminated all vestiges of discrimination

and segregation, said yesterday the school system has complied

with its desegregation accord with the Jacksonville branch of

the NAACP.

The NAACP has argued the School Board repeatedly ignored

techniques to help desegregate schools that were referenced in

the court-approved agreement, including capping enrollment at

schools to make room for minority students, changing attendance

boundaries, and limiting courses at schools to encourage

students to enroll at other schools they would help desegregate.

Yesterday, the three board members defended their decision to

not use more involuntary methods for desegregation.

"I read it as late as last night and I don't see anything in

there that says . . . forced busing," said Parker, when

questioned by Michael Sussman, attorney for the National

Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

About two-thirds of Jacksonville elementary, middle and high

schools had reached the racial balance goals for students by

last year. But many magnet programs installed at predominantly

African-American schools have failed to attract enough white

students to reach desegregation goals.

By October 1996, only three of 24 elementary schools

identified in 1990 as having the highest concentration of black

students had met racial balance goals of having at least 45

percent white student enrollment.

To be declared legally desegregated, the School Board has the

burden of demonstrating it has complied in good faith with the

tenets of the desegregation agreement. It requires school

programs, including student, faculty and staff assignments, to

be operated in a non-discriminatory manner designed to achieve

"maximum practicable desegregation."

Parker, who served as a principal at Forrest High School when

the school system was segregated in the 1960s, said he supported

the federal court order of 1971 that began nearly 20 years of

widespread busing of students because of the inequities in the

old system.

But he said he also welcomed the desegregation agreement of

1990, which ended forced busing. "It was obvious to . . .

Jacksonville at large that we were losing a lot of people to

neighboring counties, to private education. We were looking to

anything that would improve the situation. …

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