First Posted: 1/15/2009
LUMBERTON - Robeson County public schools are at a disadvantage and the only way they will improve is to join forces with residents and local colleges, schools Superintendent Johnny Hunt said Thursday.
“Do you think it’s fair that our children don’t have the same opportunities as children in Research Triangle Park?” Hunt asked about 50 people, including teachers, social workers and administrators, gathered at the Center for Community Action's office in downtown Lumberton. “They should have the same opportunities as any child … we have to do a better job working together.”
Hunt was one of several speakers at the initial meeting of the Robeson County Commission For a Sound Basic Education. The commission, a coalition school teachers, businessmen, parents and concerned residents, is still looking for members.
The purpose of the group, said Mac Legerton, executive director of the center, is to put “teeth” and “flesh on the bones” of the landmark Leandro court decision, which says that North Carolina is failing on its constitutional promise to guarantee every child the right to a sound, basic education.
“So that every time the words ‘every child’ and ‘sound and basic’ are spoken, we have determined what these words mean for our children,” Legerton said.
The group will monitor progress in county schools and lobby state and federal lawmakers about the need for quality rural education.
The group will be divided into small committees that each focus on issues such as parental involvement, school readiness, teacher recruitment and college preparation. Committees will meet once a month.
Legerton said that in 2007, the group will have compiled enough information for a comprehensive report on education in Robeson County.
The county faces many challenges to improving education, Hunt said. A former county commissioner, Hunt pointed out that the county must pay more than $13 million every year for Medicaid, making it unable to compete with other school systems in offering incentives to attract quality teachers.
He said the public schools system must form partnerships with Robeson Community College and The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
“I look forward to partnering with community organizations that help children,” Hunt said. “There shouldn’t be a child not getting an education or trade - electricians and plumbers make good money.”