It was a little less than two years ago that an all-woman school board, led by an African American chair and co-chair, appeared poised to change WS/FC Schools for the better. They were the “equity board” that was going to address the alarming disparities between majority white, mostly suburban schools and majority Black/Brown, inner-city schools.
In a county dominated by a city divided by a highway that condemns so many on the east side of it to poverty and hardship, alleviating poverty and addressing inequity should be the highest priority. Winston-Salem/Forsyth County is, according to a 2015 study, is one of the absolute worst places in the entire country for social mobility. If you are born into poverty in our community, in all likelihood, poverty is going to follow you for the rest of your life. Improving third-grade proficiency scores and decreasing the high school dropout rates are important first steps towards a more equitable Winston-Salem, Forsyth County.
“For the four years I covered the schools there, I felt like every issue, struggle, and challenge could be tied back to blatant resegregation. There was never the political will to do anything about it. Hope that’s changing.” -Arika Herron
It’s going to take resources and political will to address the resegregation of the WS/FC Schools under Don Martin and segregation more broadly in WS/FC. Instead of focusing on reversing the policies that former superintendent Don Martin put in place 25 years ago, our historic school board has bickered amongst themselves and pursued their own individual agendas.
Despite having the future site for Ashley Academy selected and a huge injection of public and private money being spent on the neighborhood around the site of the future Ashley, the WS/FC School Board has stalled on Ashley. Brunson and Cook are also waiting for new schools. But a new gymnasium for Wiley Middle (that’s a prerequisite for RJ Reynolds’ field of vanity) is currently under construction.
“Commissioner Martin ran for office after he disagreed with county commissioners for not approving a 2012 school board referendum. After he won the 2014 election, he successfully voted as County Commissioner to change the debt service policy to allow for more bonds.”
Don Martin’s served as superintendent of the WS/FC Schools for 19 years. He retired from the school system in 2013 and was elected to the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners the next year.
On the Board of Commissioners, Don Martin (along with David Plyer) controls a substantial portion of WS/FC School’s budget. Martin still effectively has veto power to stop the school board when he sees fit. Don Martin and the GOP majority on the FC Board of Commissioners are indifferent to the needs of Winston-Salem, despite the county’s dependence on it.
I appreciate the Minister’s Conference and Action4Equity vocally opposing Don Martin’s reappointment. The school board made a huge mistake when they offered him a contract. But I don’t understand why the Minister’s Conference and Action4Equity didn’t actively oppose Martin’s pet project, the Kaleideum, back in early 2019. (Martin sits on the Kaleideum’s board. He should have recused himself from all County business relating to its funding.) Martin spearheaded Kaleideum’s $30.5 million downtown project through the Board of Commissioners. That $30.5 million could have been better spent on universal pre-K or a new school building for Ashley.
Unless progressive forces mobilize to counteract Don Martin and other conservative holdovers from a previous era on the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County will continue to be a segregated and increasingly violent place.