School board convenes to discuss response to The Charger article


©Oxford Eagle

Photo Courtesy of Bruce Newman • The Oxford Eagle

Davis McCool, Editor-In-Chief

Following growing communal concern over an article posted Thursday by The Charger, the Oxford School District Board of Trustees held a Special Meeting today, to address “concerns stemming from the Charger newspaper article,” according to their notice.

During the meeting, the school board heard the comments of the attendees, drafted and edited a statement in response to the community’s feedback, and concluded the public meeting after moving to go into Executive Session, where the board is free to discuss matters in private.

Upon the close of the meeting, The Charger conducted an exit poll, and asked ten random community members who were present in the meeting if they were satisfied with the board’s statement. Nine out of the ten marked no; among them senior Xakylan Johnson, who was “not satisfied” with the overall nature of the meeting.

“I felt that it wasn’t productive,” Johnson said. “They made an agenda, but it didn’t address, to me, the specifics of the problem. The statement was not sufficient. It was a step closer to sufficient, but like I said, I think they didn’t address the specifics of the problem.”

Johnson also presented more questions that he felt the board left unsolved.

“It’s going to be very difficult for the district to get back to where it was with this community before the article came out,” Johnson said. “It’s not something that’s going to come out of the blue, it’s going to take time to think about and consider. The first step that they need to do is apologize to the community. I appreciate the statement, but what OSD students are going to get that letter and read it? How are they going to make us comfortable with coming back to school? There is a lot of tension between the students and the district right now.”

While the board deliberated on edits to be made to the public statement, Superintendent Brian Harvey remained relatively silent until the final edits had been made. Prior to the motion to go into Executive Session, Harvey addressed the public for the first time in the meeting.

“If my words or the phrase, separate but equal, hurt anybody, I am truly sorry,” Harvey said. “That was not my intention. We are here today talking about closing the achievement gap, because I have pushed hard, as a member of this school district for 21 years, for taking significant steps to do so.”

He also attempted to clear up a quote that he made in a September 1 interview with The Charger, in which Harvey said, “I certainly don’t want to go back to separate but equal. In reality though, this isn’t separate but equal; it may be separate but more.”

By using this quote, Harvey said, he was referencing the fact that “This particular school (An Achievable Dream High School) provides more days, they provide more hours. That is the aspect of the ‘more’ part of my quote.”

However, Oxford resident LaShaunda Sisk, also in attendance, did not believe that this apology was clear enough.

“We’ve said loud and clear that we don’t want this,” Sisk said. “He (Harvey) doesn’t need to be representing us, and he doesn’t need to be superintendent. It’s not the fact of being capable, it’s being willing.”

Johnson believes a more direct apology, and a clearer statement, is what the district needs to do.

“I want to hear an apology, and I want to hear a definitive statement from the district that this opt-in school idea will not be taking place,” Johnson said.

Update: At 1:06 P.M., the board went into Executive Session, to discuss a personnel issue. No action was taken.

Read the board’s full statement in response to The Charger article here:

Response to Concerns Stemming from the Charger Newspaper