Race: the unspoken issue in the North Rowan debate

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Sarah Nagem
Salisbury Post
While people might not want to come out and say it, some school officials and supporters of North Rowan High School say race is surely part of the reason North Rowan High School is struggling.
North has the county’s second-highest percentage of black students ń 46.6, according to school numbers.
Salisbury High School’s student population is 50.1 percent black.
That might be telling in terms of an old redistricting debate. In 2006, the school board considered sending students who lived in the well-off Country Club Hills and Eagle Heights neighborhoods from Salisbury High to North.
Salisbury parents quickly objected, and the school board scrapped its plans.
Later, school leaders shifted attendance lines and sent about 100 students who lived in a minority neighborhood from North to Salisbury.
But compared to some other Rowan high schools, North remains a bit of a melting pot. And that’s just fine with Karen Carpenter, a school board member who represents the northern district.
“We tiptoe around the issue of race in our schools,” Carpenter says. “It’s a sticky issue.”
Her son, who is white, graduated from North a couple of years ago. He quickly made friends with black students at school, she says.
“These kids think nothing of it,” Carpenter says. “It’s the adults who think something of it.”
North Principal Rodney Bass says the school’s diverse student population doesn’t create problems. The students “mesh” well, he says.
For Jean Kennedy, one of two black members of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education, race isn’t important.
Kennedy taught English at North Rowan for more than 30 years. Her two daughters graduated from North and went on to college.
But like it or not, school board member Bryce Beard says, race is usually a factor. It played a part in the debate a couple of years ago, and it still does today, he says.