Two members of the Montgomery County Board of Education clashed yesterday on the question of whether actions of the current board majority have increased integration of the schools.
Board member Marian Greenblatt, reacting to what she called a negative perception of the board's actions toward minorities, released enrollment figures that she said showed that the number of schools exceeding minority enrollment guidelines decreased from 22 last year to 16 this year.
Board member Blair Ewing, who in recent months has been the lone dissenter on the board, criticized Greenblatt for using statistics to obfuscate actions that he said cut at the "heart and mind" of the black community.
"The figures still show that integration has improved," Greenblatt said. Greenblatt criticized the media for promulgating what she termed an unfair and selective impression that the educationally conservative board majority is unfair to blacks.
"No matter how much we do, the press says over and over again we're trying to segregate the schools. That's just not true," Greenblatt said. "The data speaks for itself."
Greenblatt also said the number of schools with more than 64 percent minority enrollment--at which the board is required to begin desegregation actions -- had been reduced from from nine to four.
The board policy is that when any school's minority enrollment exceeds the county-wide average -- currently 25.4 percent -- by more than 38.7 percent it must begin desegregation actions. The 38.7 figure was adopted last year. Previously, desegregation efforts began when minority enrollment exceeded 50 percent. The new guideline allows minority enrollment to rise to 64.1 percent before desegregation actions are taken.
George Fisher, director of planning for the school system, said later that three additional schools -- Eastern Junior High and Georgia Forest and Kemp Mill elementaries -- exceed the guidelines this year, making 19 the correct number.
Greenblatt later said she had used a 1981 enrollment list to make the comparison and neglected to check for schools that exceeded the guidelines for the first time.
Three schools on the list of 19 -- Montgomery Blair High, Eastern Junior and Montgomery Knolls Elementary -- were all involved in actions of the board that critics said set back integration efforts. The board sought to alter attendance boundaries at Blair and Eastern, both in Silver Spring, but the action was overturned by the State Board of Education, which said it violated the local board's own guidelines on integration. Earlier, the board unsuccessfully proposed breaking up the pairing of high-minority Montgomery Knolls and high-majority-area Pine Crest elementaries. Critics said the plan would have resulted in a dramatic surge in the minority population at Montgomery Knolls.
Ewing criticized Greenblatt's interpretation of the statistics, citing several actions he said sent a message to the black community that the board was unconcerned about the education of black children.
Ewing listed abolition of the board's minority relations monitoring committee; changing a mandatory black culture course for teachers to a voluntary course on all cultures; increasing the percentage of minority enrollment at which the board must act from 50 percent to 64 percent; a failed proposal by Greenblatt to forbid closed school sites to be used for public housing; distribution of campaign literature by some board candidates that criticized busing, and the attempted closure of Rosemary Hills Elementary School, which has become a symbol of voluntary integregation efforts in the county. The Rosemary Hills action also was reversed by the state board last summer.
"Those examples have nothing to do with integration," Greenblatt said.