Re-zoning meeting full of prayers, passionate speech - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Re-zoning meeting full of prayers, passionate speech

The special prayer meeting was called to cover the school district's rezoning plan. The special prayer meeting was called to cover the school district's rezoning plan.

A coalition of Huntsville ministers is injecting itself into the court battle between the US Department of Jusice and the Huntsville school system over the system's new student assignment plan.

A public prayer meeting was held to talk about the rezoning plan on Wednesday evening. The Greater Huntsville Interdenominational Ministerial Fellowship put the meeting together after sending a letter to the federal judge considering Huntsville's proposed plans.

The city school system submitted its plan to build several new schools and place the system's students within them. Their plan has been submitted to a federal court for approval, under the terms of a 1970 desegregation order. The DOJ is contesting the plan and has submitted its own student assignment plan.

Click here for previous coverage of the re-zoning battle.

Nine church leaders signed a letter criticizing the Huntsville City School Board's rezoning plan and its attempt to get the plan approved in court. Also signing the letter are Madison County Commission member Bob Harrison, city councilman Will Culver, State Representative Laura Hall and Huntsville-Madison County NAACP President Alice Sams.

The letter accuses the district of not including the north Huntsville community in drawing up the zoning plan. US District Court Judge Madeline Haikala let the letter be filed into the record for the case on April 15.

However, David Blair, the school board president, has said in the past that that's not the case and that all communities were invited to attend public forums, but when it came to actually drawing up the plan, it was a closed door, confidential meeting with lawyers.

The ministers offered a "position paper" Wednesday, attacking Huntsville school curriculum as unfairly distributed.

Members of the school board were present at Wednesday's meeting, but said they couldn't talk about the situation because it is still in court.

Carlos Matthews with the Northwest Huntsville PTSAs said parents' groups have had repeated chances to give input, dating back almost two years, and took issue with the ministers' claim that the DOJ's plan is preferable, or even different.

"We read both briefs and we think that the justice department is more equitable for us in the Huntsville City School system," said the Rev. Julius Scruggs of venue host First Missionary Baptist.

"I don't think it worsens segregation," said Matthews in reply to Scruggs' remarks. "Both the school system plan and the Department of Justice plan are about the same."

Superintendent Dr. Casey Wardynski had some quiet discussion of the district's plans, but faced a hostile crowd when he was actually invited up to speak.

The ministers acknowledged that they have had meetings with district leaders, including Wardynski, but didn't think he was listening to them.

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