The group, which included no less than seven speakers, also complained that the way the naming process was handled by the Sampson County Board of Education infringed on their “civil rights” because the community did not have a voice in the matter.
Rubestene Fisher Potter, who represents the Charles E. Perry Alumni Association, shared her frustration with commissioners, noting the many accomplishments of the man for which the elementary school was named and how the new school could continue his legacy.
“Older citizens of the Roseboro community knew of and respected Rev. Perry — the man and the principal,” Potter stressed. “ ... we are here today because we believe in the name Charles E. Perry staying with the school as it moves to the Butler Island location.”
Potter also reminded commissioners that the community sat back and watched while other schools were built in front of the promised elementary school.
“As other schools were built, we waited patiently for a new Charles E. Perry Elementary,” she said. “Then finally, we were told the day would come. On Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010, at 9 a.m. in the morning, the Roseboro community gathered with all local leaders for the groundbreaking of a new Charles E. Perry school. The sign at the new location read, in bold print, Charles E. Perry; the program handed out at that event was printed to read: Groundbreaking for the new Charles E. Perry Elementary School; every elected official that spoke at that program referred to the new building as the new Charles E. Perry school, and there was much elation.”
But at a pre-board work session two days before Thanksgiving, Sampson County Board of Education member Roosevelt Wright formally pitched a suggestion for a new name for the school to members. A month earlier, he had suggested that the name of the school should be something other than “the new Charles E. Perry,” which was the working name for the school since its inception over three years ago.
“We have got Salemburg Elementary and we have Roseboro-Salemburg Middle School,” Wright explained. “Both schools will be flowing into that middle school and into the middle school concept. If we can do it as a board to go ahead and get that finalized, we can stop misleading folks into thinking the new school will be named Charles E. Perry.”
Days later, at the Board of Education’s monthly meeting (held at Midway Middle School), the name changed was approved unanimously, which was another sticking point with Potter and others Monday night.
“We read it in the paper and it said there was going to be a name change,” Potter said. “This meeting was held 20 miles away from Roseboro. When we called Monday (morning) to see if the name change was on the agenda, we were told that it was not on the agenda. Given that information, many citizens did not attend the meeting. But those who did attend witnessed the item being added to the agenda at the meeting; the board voted for the name to be changed to Roseboro Elementary School even though a representative from the alumni association requested a delay in the voting until the community could share some input. Without discussion, the matter was voted on and the name changed without any public or community involvement.”
It should be noted that Potter, along with Calvin Johnson Jr., spoke to the Board of Education before the vote took place. The vote was 5-1 in favor of the name change, with Mary Brown being the only one to vote against the measure.
Potter noted the issues in detail and pointed out that the name Charles E. Perry has brought international attention to the community as well.
“This really does speak to a civil rights issue,” she said. “Denying citizens an opportunity to actually continue to support an educational institution that is at the core of trying to address the serious issue of educational disparity. We should not be having to fight for the name of an institution that is a model for inspiring academic achievement for students and parents ...”
Other alumni members and supporters followed Potter with similar sentiments.
“It is an injustice the way things were handled,” said Stella Watson. “People talk about doing the right thing; this is about doing the right thing ... it is about doing what is right.”
“I was totally devastated when I read about it in The Sampson Independent,” said Rochelle Stuart. “I am a 1964 graduate of the school, and when I read it, I was angry; I am angry now.”
Stuart encouraged commissioners to “do the right thing” and keep the name Charles E. Perry.
Kathy McKoy agreed, adding, “We have been misled. It is only right that you amend this situation ... You all need to look closely at what is going on in Roseboro.”
Potter also presented a petition with over 600 signatures supporting maintaining Charles E. Perry as the new name of the Roseboro school.
No discussion or action was taken by commissioners Monday night.
Assistant County Manager Susan J. Holder said that the board will discuss the issue with system officials.
“We are going to make them aware of the concerns that they had about the naming of the facility,” she said. “It is obvious that it is important to them, and they are passionate about it so it is incumbent upon the board to convey their concerns with the Board of Education.”
Holder also noted that the name of the school has nothing to do with the USDA funding.
“It has no bearing on the financing,” she said.
Calls to Wright and superintendent Dr. Ethan Lenker were not immediately returned before press time Tuesday.
To reach Doug Clark call 910-592-8137 ext. 123 or send e-mail to email@example.com.