Many Black Students Stay Home on Day of Benchmark Exams in Brinkley

BRINKLEY, Ark. (AP) - Brinkley school superintendent Randy Byrd says he doesn't know if school attendance will be back to normal today. Yesterday, about three-fifths of the black students in the district stayed home on the day Arkansas benchmark exams were given.

Some black community leaders said the boycott of classes was an effort to call state officials' attention to racial problems in the district. They say those problems include the absence of any blacks among the administrators who will run the district in the upcoming school year, and unfair treatment of black students in the schools.

Byrd agreed yesterday that the absence of blacks among the ranks of the administrators in the 2007-2008 school year is a problem. But he said the boycott stems mostly from a boycott organizer's marriage to an administrator who will be demoted because of budget cuts.

Byrd said the district has a total of 842 students. Of that total, 60 percent are black -- about 500 pupils. About 300 of them stayed out of classes yesterday.

The superintendent said the district has six administrators this year, two of them black. But budget cutbacks resulted in elimination of three of those jobs for the upcoming school year, including both posts now occupied by blacks.

The Reverend Oscar Conyears is married to a middle school principal who will lose that job when it is eliminated. Conyears accused Byrd of being a racist. Conyears said that, after a lifetime of being black, he knows when someone's being fair and someone is being unfair.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)