Preparing for 60th anniversary of Central High crisis: Questions | Arkansas Blog

Preparing for 60th anniversary of Central High crisis: Questions


HOME PAGE: Of website created for 60th anniversary of school crisis.
  • HOME PAGE: Of website created for 60th anniversary of school crisis.
The city of Little Rock, the school district and the National Park Service will announce tomorrow plans for the 60th anniversary of the Central High desegregation crisis in September.

The planning includes a "branding" campaign and a website. Events are already underway. The website has an extensive list of events to come, from music to marches to lectures to exhibits.

Press from around the country and world undoubtedly will check in, though perhaps not as many as at the 50th, or even the 40th when President Bill Clinton and Gov. Mike Huckabee held wide the doors at Central for the Little Rock Nine (eight still living) and the museum that is now a part of the National Historic Site was dedicated..

"Reflections on Progress" is the theme of the website. In that spirit, some facts sure to inspire questions come the time:

* Federal law now finds disfavor with devising means to achieve racial balance in schools.

* The school district where federal troops were required to put a handful of black students in a single high school, is now overwhelmingly black.

* The Little Rock City Board essentially segregated the city years ago with a decision to allow westward expansion to occur outside the Little Rock School District.

* The school district no longer has an elected school board, its majority-black board abolished by the state of Arkansas.

* The state Board of Education has helped further segregate the school district with proliferating charter schools.

* A white member of the Board of Education angrily told a patron asking for return of local control that he was sick of hearing about the Little Rock School District.

* The current City Board includes white members who favored the school district takeover and who voted against a resolution urging a return of local control.

* The neighboring Pulaski County School District just fired a superintendent and lawyer for mentioning the possibility of a boundary change that would combine majority white western Little Rock with the Little Rock School District.

* Suburban cities have outstripped Little Rock in growth thanks to people fleeing Little Rock and what are perceived as substandard schools.

* A majority of Little Rock police officers, particularly white officers, don't live in Little Rock, in part because they find the schools unsuitable.

* The City Board is elected only partially from wards, so that the white business community can control the balance of power through three at-large seats.

* Central High itself remains a beacon of academic achievements, but its critics insist white students are favored in advanced placement classes while black students are steered elsewhere.

Quarrel with these questions, by all means. As a father of two Central High grads, I have some experience on which to base my resistance to the criticism mentioned in the last point.

The 60th is no time for celebration or cheerleading. It's a time for sober reflection about what those days wrought.

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