The Prince George's County Board of Education was urged last night to move slowly before acting on Superintendent John A. Murphy's proposal to accelerate the desegregation of county schools.
More than a dozen speakers, including parents and elected officials, complained at a hearing that residents had not been given enough time to evaluate Murphy's proposal, announced last Saturday.
County Council member Jo Ann T. Bell (D), a former school board member, said that she had read Murphy's proposal only that morning. "The superintendent's plan may be right on target," Bell said. "This is a lousy way to sell it."
Murphy's proposal calls for establishing 16 new magnet schools in the next school year. Magnet schools offer special programs -- including foreign language classes, creative arts and college preparatory courses -- to draw students away from their racially homogeneous neighborhoods and integrate the schools. Four more magnet schools would be added in the 1987-88 school year.
The plan for next year would also create more compensatory education schools, predominantly black schools that are given additional resources and smaller classes to compensate for what officials say is the inability to desegregate them because of their location. There would be five new compensatory education schools and five designated as interim schools in that program, meaning they would receive additional resources until magnet programs or other desegregation means are devised for them.
The county has been under federal court order to desegregate its schools since 1973.
Walter Redmond, speaking for the Equity Committee of the Prince George's Council of PTAs, said scores of parents are concerned that the school board will move ahead with a new magnet school program before the current program is evaluated in detail.
School board Chairman Paul R. Shelby said in an interview that he did not expect so many speakers to ask the board to move slowly in implementing Murphy's proposal, which the board is tentatively scheduled to act on at a March 6 meeting.
Additional hearings are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. next Wednesday at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt and March 4 at the Sasscer administration building in Upper Marlboro.