Plaintiff Sonnie Hereford IV Speaks Out On City School System’s Rezoning Battle

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Shortly after Sonnie Hereford IV turned 6 years old, he became the first student in Alabama to integrate into public schools. Little did he know, more than 50 years later he would still be in the middle of a debate about segregation in Huntsville City Schools.

At a board meeting Monday, Superintendent Casey Wardynski explained his reply to the Department of Justice criticism of the district's rezoning plan.

"I think he made some good points, first of all that the DOJ didn't take into account the history of what's gone on around here," said Hereford.

While the NAACP Legal Defense Fund has said it does not oppose the district's plan, Hereford's mind is not yet made up.

"I need to study it a little further and go through all of the DOJ's rejection and see if I'm satisfied that Huntsville City Schools have responded appropriately to that."

The DOJ's criticism of the city schools' plan cites an overwhelming number of schools that are identifiably white or black.

But Hereford, much like Wardynski, says the racial makeup of a school isn't the most important factor.

"I'm not as concerned about where the lines are drawn for rezoning. I'm more concerned that we make sure once the lines are drawn, that we make sure that any student anywhere in the school system has equal opportunities for education," said Hereford. "I'm talking about the quality of the teachers, facilities, transportation."

Hereford may find the answers he's looking for.

The district's building plan would replace aging schools with 21st century facilities. Wardynski also implemented a new process for hiring teachers that places the strongest teachers in schools where they are needed most.

"That is a step in the right direction, [but] talking about it is one thing, making sure that it happens is something else," Hereford said.

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