/Cleveland board delays desegregation vote details

Cleveland board delays desegregation vote details

Editor’s Note: Mississippi Today has retracted an earlier story claiming that the Cleveland School Board approved a $3.6 Million proposal to finance a desegregation program. Monday’s meeting of the Cleveland School Board did not proceed with a proposal to levy a three-mill tax to raise $3.65million for school construction. This was necessary to implement its plan for desegregation. Jamie Jacks, the board attorney, stated that an alternative plan had been adopted following the session. James stated that the board voted on the alternate plan 4-1 with Tonya Short, a board member, voting no. She said that the public would be informed within 48 hours. Jacks refused to give details about the actions taken. Jacks sent Mississippi Today an email requesting the retraction of an earlier version. Jacks stated that “The new plan actually does not call for any new taxes or construction.” This special board meeting was called to discuss a long-standing federal lawsuit against Cleveland school districts. Jacks stated that the school board withheld information in order to provide the new plan to the plaintiffs and the Department of Justice in the school desegregation suit. Officials from the Department of Justice declined to comment. The plaintiffs are opposed to the original desegregation plan filed by the district with the court. The plan would combine the East Side High and Cleveland High, which are both majority-black, as well as consolidating the majority black D.M. Smith Middle and Margaret Green Junior High. The majority-black east end of town will not be used. However, the buildings on its west side would need expansion and improvement. School officials estimate that the plan would cost $3.6 million to add Margaret Green Junior High’s 9th grade wing, as well as other improvements to existing facilities. Sherry Shepard, a Cleveland resident and member of Citizens for Consolidation, stated Monday night that she and her group will continue to work together to ensure that the tax increases are voted on by the public. Shepard stated that “we don’t trust anything the board because they have repeatedly proven time and again that they lack integrity.” “Whatever the alternative means of obtaining money to build this Margaret Green Jr. High wing, we remain of the same opinion that the best plan for consolidating our school district is that proposed by Judge (Debra Brown) on May 13. Brown supported the assignment of all 9th-12th graders in the current Cleveland High or Margaret Green facilities to one high school, with East Side High School serving as the middle school for most of the district’s 6th-8th graders. She stated that it was wrong if there is a tax increase and it’s wrong when a donor puts the money over there. “It’s wrong no matter how you put it.” Community members have expressed concern about the district’s desegregation plans. They claim that the buildings on Cleveland’s east side are more modern and better equipped to house a greater number of students. The U.S. Department of Justice rejected the district’s plan to desegregate, saying that it “places all the burden of desegregation on black students and their families.”