HSV City Schools files formal reply to DOJ rezoning plan - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

HSV City Schools files formal reply to DOJ rezoning plan

The public was told no questions would be taken following Monday's meeting. The public was told no questions would be taken following Monday's meeting.

The Huntsville City School Board has filed its response to the Department of Justice's rezoning plan. A special board meeting has been called for 8 p.m. where it is expected the board will go over the filing publicly.

[Read the summary document (PDF).]

The topic of Monday's meeting was the rezoning plans on the table from each party. Community members in attendance were told there would be no opportunities for public comment until the following week's meeting.

Superintendent Dr. Casey Wardynski presented the district's plan to the board in early February, which the school board signed off on. They filed the plan in US District Court the following day.

In late February, the Department of Justice filed a motion opposing the district's plan. They claimed Huntsville's plan did not desegregate schools. The superintendent claims just the opposite, saying the district's plan is more constitutional.

He claimed the DOJ's report contains factual errors, but had previously stopped short of further detail about the errors in the past. 

At Monday's meeting, school leaders claimed racial percentages discussed in the DOJ's plan are due to personal choice - demographic shifts due to people moving, for instance - rather than state actions. 

Wardynski said it is not the job of the district or the state to remedy changes in demographics that occur due to personal choice. He said that while the numbers may not be equal, under the district's plan, opportunities will be.

The board needs approval from the DOJ due to a decades-old desegregation order. That order stems from a lawsuit filed on behalf of Sonnie Hereford in the 1960s.

Hereford said he has yet to make up his mind as to whose plan is best and that Monday's meeting would help him formulate an opinion.

While Hereford's name is on the court filings, he did not sign off on the district's plan. Because it is a class-action lawsuit, the district had not legal obligation to do so. Still, he said he feels people have been deceived into thinking he was involved with the district's re-zoning plan. "Say that anyone who read that would think that I was involved in it and had no opposition to it, and that is not the case," he said.

Hereford said more could be done to have a better balance of races at each school. He said the DOJ made some very good points in their report. He said he expects clarification about the district's claims that the DOJ plans contain errors. "I would like to see a higher degree of integration," he said. "That is one of the points that the DOJ makes, is that the plan that Huntsville City Schools is putting forward does not promote a higher degree of integration, so I need to hear from Huntsville City Schools."

He said before the meeting that he wanted to know if the district agrees with anything the DOJ says, and why they are not doing more to encourage more integration.

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