Contending that the Georgetown County schools have failed to abide by federal Justice Department rulings dating back to the 1990s, NAACP leaders aired those concerns during a Tuesday meeting at the Georgetown Public Library.
Topics discussed were hiring practices of the district, including recruitment of minority teachers and nepotism; the expulsion rate among black students, particularly males; funding for the Coastal Montessori Charter School that opened its new building Nov. 16; and equality of funding throughout the district that spans more than 1,000 square miles and serves more than 9,000 students.
“We want to make the community aware of these items,” said Marvin Neal, who in January will become president of the Georgetown County Branch of the NAACP. “This has been going on for a long time.”
Justice Department officials came to Georgetown for two meetings, one on Nov. 15 at Dickerson AME Church and a second at Hopewell Baptist Church on Nov. 17. However, the Hopewell meeting ended when a school district official would not excuse herself.
“That was like the fox attending a farm meeting with the chickens and not leaving because the fox lives on the farm, too,” said Steve Williams, a retired special education instructor and school administrator, who attended the Nov. 15 meeting. “We wanted community members to feel comfortable in talking and not feel pressured.”
A Justice Department lawyer who attended both the Nov. 15 and Nov. 17 meetings was not available to comment Wednesday about the earlier meetings.
Neal, Williams and audience members at the Nov. 29 meeting said they also would like to see the school district combine Browns Ferry and Plantersville Elementary schools into a new school, rather than taking funds earmarked to upgrade the schools as part of a $165 million bond issue voters approved in the November election.
“Rather than keep painting and wiring the old building with new technology, renovating the buildings to help make them energy efficient, we could better spend the money to build a new school,” Neal said. “We’re building schools in the Waccamaw Neck, we need to look at combining schools in the Carvers Bay area.”
The bond issue was approved by the Board of Education on June 21, with money targeted for tennis courts at all four high schools — Waccamaw, Andrews, Carvers Bay and Georgetown — and expanding the gyms at the high schools to include a weight room.
School district statistics lend some credibility to the concerns about minority hiring. For the 2016-2017 school year, the school district hired 19 minority certified personnel — teachers, administrators and specialists — and 77 whites to fill positions.
Pam Walker, who taught in the district, provided some insight into the problems that existed in the 1990s. “Georgetown and Pleasant Hills were going to get computer labs, and Chopoee was to get a kitchen to teach the students how to cook hamburgers,” she said of the all-black high school that was closed when Carvers Bay opened.
While agreeing that much of the population and money in the county is centered in the Waccamaw Neck, Williams says he intends to make sure that the students at all Georgetown County schools get a fair shake.
“I’m here to tell you that the struggle continues,” added Williams.