The battle over Sumter School District 17's attempt to build a new administrative headquarters might not be over after all, and it could be the first step in the consolidation process that could end up hurting poor, black residents, according to the Sumter County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The issue of District 17's administration building surfaced again Tuesday when the Sumter School District 2 Board of Trustees briefly discussed a letter it had received from Ferdinand Burns Jr., president of the Sumter branch of the NAACP, inviting Superintendent Dr. J. Frank Baker and Board Chairman Larry Addison to participate in a meeting with the NAACP and District 17 to talk about the building.
The District 2 board decided without a vote not to participate.
“I don't understand why we're involved in that at all,” said board Vice Chairwoman Karen Michalik, who, as a member of the Consolidation Transition Committee voted against the District 17 building. “This is a District 17 issue. ... We don't have a dog in this fight.”
Georgia NAACP: Suspension rates for black students out of line, says NAACP
Local and state NAACP leaders are concerned by a report showing that black students across Georgia were suspended from school last year at higher rates than their white counterparts.
“There’s a huge disparity in terms of gender, race and ethnicity,” said Jennifer Falk, the state education chairwoman for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Earlier this year, the NAACP asked the state Department of Education to compile a report examining the number of students in each county who had been suspended during the 2007-08 school year, then sort the findings by race, gender, age and whether students qualified for free or reduced-price lunches.
The report led to an NAACP analysis showing that there are often wide disparities between the percentage of a school system’s black population — including Bibb and Houston counties — and the percentage of overall suspensions of black students. The percentage of suspensions should generally mirror the student population, Falk said.
In Bibb County, the public school population is about 75 percent black and 25 percent white.
But among Bibb’s 5,327 suspensions, about 89 percent were black students and 9 percent were white students during the 2007-2008 school year.
“We don’t know why,” said Al Tillman, president of the Macon-Bibb County NAACP chapter. “But there’s a serious problem.”