Suit filed to stop Martin school merger

Published 4:51 am Friday, February 8, 2008

By Staff
Attorney says consolidation a civil-rights violation
Staff Writer
On behalf of residents of Bear Grass and Jamesville, an attorney has filed a ream of affidavits and a motion to place an injunction on a decision by the Martin County Board of Educations to close those towns’ schools.
The “complaint for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief and motion for preliminary injunction” was filed in Martin County Superior Court Wednesday by Greensboro attorney Robert Hunter. A group opposing the school board’s wish to consolidate the four Martin County high schools to two had Hunter on retainer in case the consolidation was approved. That plan was approved 4-2 Monday when the school board met at the Martin County Auditorium in Williamston.
The group, called Concerned Citizens of Bear Grass and Jamesville held two rallies at the Senator Bob Martin Eastern Agricultural Center prior to the vote to raise money to hire Hunter. It was repeatedly promised to the school board and at the group’s rallies that the motion for injunction would be filed shortly after a vote to consolidate.
The basis of the motion is that the school board’s decision to consolidate will deprive students of Bear Grass and Jamesville high schools of their constitutional rights to a sound basic education. The move will send students from the smaller schools to the larger Williamston and Roanoke high schools.
An affidavit from Bear Grass resident John Wobbleton was filed with the motion. Wobbleton says in his deposition that moving students from smaller to larger high schools is inconsistent with studies that show students learn better in smaller schools.
Shawn Mebane, whose 7-year-old nephew lives in Williamston but attends school in Jamesville for special-needs education, also entered a sworn statement opposing consolidation.
Martin County Schools Superintendent Tom Daly has said that the plan to consolidate was one solution to address aging and unsafe school buildings at Bear Grass and Jamesville and to use less space to house the county’s declining student population. Daly and members of the school board who favor consolidation have said the move would save the school system money by having to maintain fewer facilities.
With the board’s vote Monday, Bear Grass and Jamesville high schools will be closed beginning next school year. The board also voted to abolish all school colors, mascots and names and to allow the two consolidated high schools to choose replacements next year. Another amendment to the consolidation motion will refund money to parents who have purchased class rings for rising seniors attending Bear Grass and Jamesville schools.