First Missionary Baptist Church in Huntville, AL Calls a Prayer Meeting to Help Mend Division Between City’s Black Leaders and Schools Officials

An overflow crowd packed First Missionary Baptist Church on Wednesday for a prayer meeting about Huntsville's schools. (Contributed by WHNT News 19)
An overflow crowd packed First Missionary Baptist Church on Wednesday for a prayer meeting about Huntsville’s schools. (Contributed by WHNT News 19)

An overflow crowd filled First Missionary Baptist Church Wednesday night to pray for peace and equality in Huntsville’s schools. But did the prayers help mend the rift between the city’s black leaders and its school officials?

No, it did not, Laurie McCaulley, school board member for north Huntsville, said this morning. McCaulley is notably the only black elected official in Huntsville who supports the school system’s desegregation efforts.

McCaulley said board members and Superintendent Casey Wardynski were not invited to the gathering by the Greater Huntsville Interdenominational Ministerial Fellowship, but by Mayor Tommy Battle, who was also there.

She characterized the disagreement between the two sides not as an argument, but as “different representations of the facts from different groups.”

Mending fences with school officials was not the point of Wednesday’s meeting, say some of those behind the opposition to the rezoning plans. City Councilman Will Culver said the point of the prayer meeting, hosted by the Greater Huntsville Interdenominational Ministerial Fellowship, was to take the politics out of the argument.

“What they were doing is trying to look at the best interests of the students — and when I say students, I mean all of our students across the city — and to pray for their well-being, and for the administrators of the district,” Culver said.

Several of the ministers joined Culver and fellow Councilman Richard Showers, Alabama State Rep. Laura Hall and Madison County Commissioner Robert Harrison last week in signing a letter to the federal judge considering the city’s desegregation plan. The letter argued three things: that the school board did not include north Huntsville in planning the zone lines, that those zone lines further segregate black students and that the curriculum in north Huntsville schools is not equitable to that of other schools.

Rev. T.C. Johnson, whose signature is also on the letter, said that Wednesday’s meeting was more about officially stating the Ministerial Fellowship’s position for the north Huntsville community.

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Source: AL.com | Crystal Bonvillian | cbonvillian@al.com 

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