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White Residents Urge School Board To Reopen Schools

April 17, 1986

INDIANOLA, Miss. (AP) _ White residents are urging the Indianola School Board to reopen schools closed earlier this week in a protest over the hiring of a white superintendent.

″It’s time for Indianola to forget about black and white. We need to come together and call ourselves gray,″ Eddye Calhoun, a coach at Gentry High School, told a predominantly white crowd of about 150 Wednesday night.

″I want the students back in school for educational purposes and to bring our community back together,″ Calhoun said.

Paul Putnam, a spokesman for the group, stressed that the reason for the meeting was to encourage black parents to let their children return to classes and to urge the school board to reopen the city’s five schools, which have been closed since Tuesday.

The protest by black residents began March 25, the day after W.A. Grissom, a white assistant superintendent in a neighboring county, was named superintendent.

The board voted Monday to close schools indefinitely after nearly 80 percent of the more than 3,000 students continued to boycott classes.

Blacks say their protest, which also includes a boycot of white-owned businesses, will continue until Robert Merritt, a local black principal, is named superintendent. The district’s enrollment is 93 percent black.

Grissom has said he plans to begin work in Indianola on July 1 as called for in his three-year contract.

In other developments Wednesday, lawyer Tommy McWilliams said a group of white bankers and businessmen plans to tell the school board it would be in the best interest of the community to get Grissom to resign.

And Rep. Aaron Henry, president of the Mississippi chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the organization supports efforts to get the school board to reconsider Grissom’s hiring.

Another state NAACP spokesman warned Wednesday that if a black assistant superintendent isn’t hired by the Starkville school district, residents may stage a protest similar to the one in Indianola.

If a black is not hired, there will ″not be any peace or rest″ for the district, which is about 50 percent black, said Morris Kinsey, head of education for the state NAACP.

He said his group has ″targeted″ Starkville and other school districts with predominantly black enrollments but few black administrators.

Starkville Superintendent David DeRuzzo said Wednesday a black will be strongly considered to fill the position left vacant by a black administrator who took a post with another district.

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