Some Biloxi parents claim discrimination behind school closure - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Some Biloxi parents claim discrimination behind school closure

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) – More than a dozen people gathered in front of Nichols Elementary School Friday to protest Biloxi Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul Tisdale and the school board's decision this week to close Nichols and two other schools.  They claim the vote had more to do with race than budget woes.

"We see some discrimination in how this matter was handled, in that the three schools that have been proposed to be closed all have black principals who have done great jobs," said Biloxi NAACP President James Crowell.

The parents also questioned the motive behind what they call a 'sudden decision' by school district leaders.

"This is apparent, a complete injustice. The school board waited and sprung this on the community at the last possible minute, although they've been looking at it for awhile," said Biloxi Ward 2 Councilman Bill Stallworth.

"We are very upset about it and we're going to take action by having a meeting Saturday.  We're going to file an injunction to hold this process up," said Crowell.

The protestors pointed to Nichols being ranked by the state as a 'Star School.'  Plus, the district spent $10 million to build it, and it cost another $5 million to restore it after Katrina.

"How do you reward excellence with a slap in the face by closing a school down? I can't understand it," Ethel Clay asked. 

Clay graduated from Nichols High School and she taught there.  She now has a granddaughter at Nichols.

"This is a school where you should stand up and say 'This is what we want every other school to strive for.'  Instead, you throw it away," said Stallworth.

"It does not make sense. They are exceeding every expectation that this area has to offer," said Meg Cordry. 

Cordry lives in D'Iberville, but pays tuition so her son can attend Nichols.  She is also the Biloxi School District's 2009-2010 Parent of the Year.

Dr. Tisdale was out of town Friday.  In a phone interview with WLOX, Tisdale said he had already discussed the school district's financial problems and drops in enrollment.  Tisdale said he had nothing more to say about the matter at this time.

Biloxi School Board President Kenny Holloway did not return our calls for a comment.

"Save our schools!  Save our schools!" the group chanted.

Many parents and community leaders will keep raising their voices and rallying support in hopes of keeping all three schools open.  They will hold a meeting Saturday at 10 AM at Faith Tabernacle of Praise.  The church is on Rodenberg Avenue in Biloxi.   

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