Dis-Integration: Part 3
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That's performing well but it's educational results are poor. What is long views experience. Tell us about the wider struggle in other districts facing huge challenges launches in particular ethnically diverse areas without the economic clout found in richer and whiter parts of the country. We're back with reporters. Alexa Huda and Louis Wavy of the Texas Tribune Longview Independent School district was on the March for the past ten years it had made big strides integrating black kids into schools and providing more access to equitable education to repeat it was a huge and marked improvement what then to do with this success in twenty fourteen. Superintendent James Wilcox and other board members saw this as the moment to petition the Federal Court and have long view released from certain parts of the federal desegregation order by James's estimate. It was more than a little outdated. It was a dinosaur for a pyramid or whatever you wanna say something that in our mind and lost its function because it's totally different district dimes change age demographics change. It was not what it was forty seven years ago demographics in East Texas have changed. There's it's been a massive shift in the racial breakdown of the Long Beach School district since the federal government first issued the desegregation court order. We weren't able to find the numbers on the demographic breakdown in the long view district before nineteen seventy-three. We did learn that the district went from being about sixty five percent white thirty five percent block doc and point two percent Hispanic back in nineteen seventy three to one that had become twenty four percent white forty eight percent black and twenty eight percent Hispanic by two two thousand eight the Hispanic population in the district had increased by nearly a third. That's a huge demographic shift and those Hispanic students deserve to receive the the same benefits and quality education as the other kids in the district aw remembered Ned Williams elementary. We I mentioned it in the second episode. It's the majority black and Hispanic school where students for thriving academically well we visited the school and we met teacher Sharon Collins. She's been a teacher in the long district for nineteen years and she's seen a lot of change range when the Hispanic population did increase in llanview did bring those children to school more and you could see you you you you you can feel what people feel outside of the school about different individuals coming into their community where this community and they it was like ah it was like a separation outside the school. Sharon Collins and other teachers at Ned Williams work to create a welcoming space for Hispanic students who who were already facing challenges `accessing teachers and schools capable of addressing the needs of bilingual students for Sharon. It was about helping to create community. Eighty once they came in at school are hoping the everybody's born here. We don't treat eating one different. We're here to help every child learn in that. Should it'd be off my focus creating that space also meant sometimes having uncomfortable conversations in class. We don't care about what's outside the school at first. I we didn't want him. Bring a lot of that deep thing into school because what was going on outside and then we had to come to understanding that hey we're gonNa have to talk about what south outside the school so that when they come into school we have to get the tears to change the thinking outside of the community. We have them know that hey it's okay. This is a good thing that's happening. We need to have this and it's okay if you feel resentment or anything about that but I don't want that to come come into this school so if I can build family inside the school that exist outside the school also so that helped out that community now think that less than some of the the feelings people had or the fear they might have had it changed it in understand that happens no matter what if if it was an African American family going into a predominantly white neighborhood you have to get to know that person and not be afraid to go up to them and say hello sewing south welcome to the community that same thing that our kids had to do you had to welcome them into the community in the welcome into school and once that happened it a blend together and it'll will be our in the long view school district is going to need more people like Sharon Collins as it moves forward and board members willing to fight to continue making strides to ensure black Hispanic and other students of color are receiving an education on the same level as their white peers longview has come a long way but progress still needs to be made laid back in two thousand sixteen more than half of white students were graduating prepared and ready to excel in college the numbers for Black and Hispanic Students Sixteen percent and twenty three percent respectively. The picture of inequity gets worse when you take a look at the results from sat act exams on those tests forty three percent of white students in the twenty sixteen graduating class. We're ready for college but only two percent of black and three three percent of Hispanic kids. Were all too prepared again at forty three percent of white kids college ready but only two percent of black kids. We're ready for college and just three eight percent of Hispanic kits so while nearly half of white kids could stay the course and have a shot at going to college. Hispanic and black students weren't receiving an education that would give them a chance to even be accepted into college. These numbers there from two thousand sixteen the following year in November of twenty seventeen gene the school board and a five to two decision voted to ask the court to release the Long Beach School district from the federal desegregation order completely and in June in two thousand eighteen judge Robert Schroeder complied with their request Superintendent James Wilcox spearheaded the effort when you're introduced are already kept certain requirements and you just meet those and as I said when those requirements were put in place longview was ninety percent Caucasian district now we're proximity eighty percent minority district so the hoops that were put in place forty seven years ago. You are not the saying still the judge who lifted the order acknowledged that long view while having complied with the order quote to the extent possible still had a long road to travel in order to achieve true integration among its students now the minority in the district white students still outnumber black and Hispanic students in advanced placement courses and as we just said graduating ready for the next step in life without the federal order in place the Long Beach School Board it is now completely at the helm of the schools within the district and whichever way they go so goes the fate of black and Hispanic children in those schools school board member number Troy Simmons who has been fighting for black children to have a quality education for thirty years voted in favor of removing the district from federal oversight but it doesn't stand by by that decision today. I regret it because of where I am now not not that I thought it wouldn't be challenged later but I I was hoping that there would be enough resistance in our community that we wouldn't have people trying to roll back those progressive things that we've done but clearly in the era of trump nothing sacred any more and so I you know I am I am. Leering express that to my board I am. I am leary of of what will happen because we don't have a Justice Department now Department of Justice that will that will in my opinion fairly look at the concerns that we might have in the district superintendent. James Wilcox is more hopeful about the impact. The removal of the order could have we're going to do what is best for students all students in the district and actually the status serve the desegregation order didn't factor into what we did the goals and the direction that we sent we complied with the paperwork and we did what was best for all students in the district. The members of the long view school board say they intend to make strides to tackle the inequality is still prevalent flint within the school district in August of twenty eighteen with the help of a fifteen million dollar grant from the Department of Education. They agreed to a desegregation plan but here's the thing without a federal desegregation order in place. The only people making sure it's followed are the school board members board members who could change. Ted Beard is on the board now his was one of two dissenting votes in the appeal to the federal courts to drop that desegregation order. We chatted padded with him back in August at longview highs. I football game of the twenty eighteen twenty nine thousand nine school year. That's one of the things that I'm not. GonNa say I fear that's just one of the things that need to be as a board collected. We need to be cognizant because the board it can change the direction can change in the those at ultimate affected are going to be the students board member. Choice Simmons is also worried about that and he's torn about potential retirement knowing the impact it could have on children in the district choice currently the longest sitting board member with more than thirty thirty years of advocating for equality in education under his belt. I'm literally tired of this battle this fight. That never ends so I don't know yet. I really don't know I have a lot of faith enough superintendent at a lot of faith. You're in the core of our board. The way operates but I also know that one chains one blip one one glitch can turn board into something completely different and basically destroy the thing that we built and he's in these in these past years in doing this. I realize it and so that makes me hesitant about not seeking reelection an and and and that in itself is is Irt depressing for me because I realize whoever takes it's my place is going to be a neophyte new. They're going to be fighting in Dr Fighting for things that we've talked about but not knowing how and so for that for that reason. I I am torn between what I'm GonNa do about choice. Simmons was torn ready for someone else to continue the long fight for equality in the end. He decided it had to be him for just a little while longer. He ran for another three year term. In two thousand eighteen Elliot's Wavy and Alexa are investigative journalists with Texas Tribute a nonprofit nonpartisan media organization that provides free news data and events on Texas public policy politics government and statewide issues there entire investigation into the desegregation of schools across the state of Texas appears as a special special series in the paper. You can also catch up with the entire podcast series wherever you get your podcast just search for this integration disintegration is a collaboration aberration between the Texas Tribune and one a from w. a. m. u. and NPR thanks to I n Maitra Natalie Chote and Michael Ray of the Texas Tribune. Thanks also to one as Lindsay Foster Thomas Jake Cherry Rupert Almond and especially not the producer of the disintegration podcast Morgan Gibbons. I'm Joshua Johnson. Thanks for listening thanks.