THOMASVILLE -- Thomasville City School administrators testified one after another Tuesday in the lawsuit involving the NAACP and the school system.
Director of curriculum Cheryl Hay was called by defense attorney Jerry Lumley. Hay has served the system in several positions, including assistant principal at MacIntyre Park Middle School. She testified to placement factors, the levels of instruction, the weight given to parent/guardian requests and school policies, among other issues.
NAACP attorney Thomas Henderson reviewed statistics and questioned the witness on patterns.
"How do you explain some of these classes being all black?" Henderson inquired after reviewing several of the classrooms by levels.
"Some of it was from parental requests. There are several variables," Hay said. She continued to explain how the students were originally placed through teacher recommendations, classroom performance, test scores and by requests from parents/guardians.
"When Ms. (Sherrell) Newton came in '96-97 (as MPMS principal), she proposed to change the way grouping happened for homeroom and the end of the day, correct?" Henderson continued.
The witness responded, "Yes."
"You also had additional criteria for algebra?" the plaintiff's attorney inquired.
"We used the Orleans-Hannah test and students who had a qualifying score of 85 percent and above were primarily those who go on to algebra," Hay said. "It's not cut and dried. None of this is cut and dried. We only use that as one of the factors."
Henderson continued to say that Newton wanted to deviate from that procedure as well.
"This was not well received, and I received phone calls from parents," the witness stated. Hay continued to say that Newton wanted to lower the qualifying number only for the black students.
Before she was dismissed, the administrator also responded to discipline questions, including whether teachers excessively referred students to the office for discipline measures.
"Teachers referred students when they could have been dealt with in the classroom, but this wasn't limited to white teachers referring black students or black teachers referring white students," Hay said. "Students were referred for being disrespectful and talking back, but that's the nature of middle school kids. They want to explain, they want you to hear their side of it."
Henderson also noted that the registration letters to parents did not mention the use of levels in the school and that the school never constructed an expectancy table, that they only used the Orleans-Hannah manual for guidance.
Lumley then called Scott Elementary School Principal Mary Friesen to the stand. Friesen, who has been employed by the system for 15 years testified to information gathered from a 2000-01 class rooster she created by using the OSIRIS school information system.
"During the plaintiff's case, there was testimony from an expert that you had classes that were in majority white, can you tell us about that?" Lumley asked.
"In our Project Child class we had 10 white students and 15 black students," the principal said as she explained that Project Child, a looping program, carried a group of students together from the third through fifth grades and that the program was in effect prior to her assuming the leadership role in 2000-01 school year. Friesen also stated she used the reading mastery results to place students.
"Do you use race as a factor?" Lumley asked. "No," she responded. "Do you try to keep the whites in one class?" Lumley continued. "No," the principal again responded.
Under cross examination by NAACP co-counsel Paul Dieseth, Friesen was asked if the level of math became a factor as the students continued on to middle school and she responded yes.
Called next was MPMS principal Gene Christie, who was hired by the system in 1980. The majority of his testimony revolved around discipline issues. Lumley began his questioning by focusing on issues brought up by the plaintiffs.
"Are you familiar with an incident that happened at Thomasville High School where supposedly a white male was in possession of a gun and the testimony from the plaintiffs have stated there was no discipline issued and then shortly after that a black female was in possession of a knife and she was suspended?" Lumley asked the former THS assistant principal in charge of discipline for several years.
After admitting knowledge of the incidents in question, Christie explained that the white male did have what appeared to be a BB-gun in his vehicle on school property one day after leaving the campus for participation in another school program, then returning to serve detention on another issue. Christie continued to say that after the white male returned to school he was placed in in-school suspension and the proper steps were taken to refer the student to the board of education for punishment. The male was suspended and reassigned to the alternative school.
Christie continued to say that the black female was in an argument with another female and was waving a knife during the incident.
"She had a knife and was waving it in a threatening manner. She refused to give us (administrators) the weapon," Christie said. "When the girl (who was being threatened) got away we had to chase the black female. She was using profanity, waving the knife around and running from us."
The principal stated the black female was expelled from the school.
"Did you ever find or have reason to believe, or see evidence what-so-ever that your teachers were referring students in a discriminatory manner?" Lumley asked. "No," was the witnesses response. "Did you ever treat a black student differently than a white student?" Christie again responded "No."
Superintendent Dr. James Cable's testimony followed Christie's. Cable stated that he was hired by the system in 1981 and has served as superintendent since 1998.
"This lawsuit has been pending through your entire tenure, is that correct?" Lumley asked. Cable responded, "yes," then testified about extra-curricular activities, facilities, equipment, funding, the closing of Douglass Elementary School, accreditations, curriculum, teacher evaluations and transportation.
The defense attorney questioned the witness about several testimonies made by the witnesses for the plaintiffs. After stating there was no extra-curricular activities limited to students by race, Lumley referred to an allegation by one of the plaintiff's experts in reference to the quantity of computers in each of the elementary schools.
"Dr. Gorden said Jerger had more computers then Scott or Harper. Is that correct?" Lumley inquired.
"No," Cable said as he read numbers from an inventory sheet prepared under Cable's request. "Harper has 188, Scott has 156 and Jerger has 132."
Cable continued to explain that the school's budgets are based in part on allotment sheets prepared by the state and the money must generally be spent in the area and in the school for which it was designated. He also stated that monies were received from grants, and local, state and federal levels, much of which is determined by student population. The superintendent also concluded that the schools that were eligible for Title I funds (Harper and Scott) received hundreds of thousands of dollars extra in their budgets for those programs.
"The bottom line is: You are required to spend by school as in the allotment sheet?" Lumley asked. "Within the confines of the expenditure tests," Cable responded.
In addition, Cable confirmed that all of the city schools were accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and he was not aware of any of the SACS standards that had not been met.
The defense will continue to call witnesses today in the third floor courtroom of the U.S. Post Office on Broad Street.
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