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School’s outside lawyer disdains NAACP input in writing deseg report


The NAACP and Indian River County School District may be headed back to court due to a dispute over a report that is supposed to be submitted in federal court by Dec. 14, detailing efforts to comply with a 52-year-old desegregation order.

According to NAACP President Tony Brown, the report is supposed to be a collaboration between his organization and the School Board. But the NAACP recently discovered school district attorney Suzanne D’Agresta had already written the report without any input from the NAACP or the district’s own Equity Committee.

“We’ve contacted our attorney and are looking at our options, including possible litigation,” Brown said.

D’Agresta’s report doesn’t include any reference to a list of failures by the district or recommended steps for improvement that were submitted by the Equity Committee and accepted by the School Board during an Oct. 30 meeting, Brown said.

At that meeting, it was agreed the report to the federal judge would be a collaborative effort between the School Board, the NAACP and the Equity Committee, with attorneys for both sides would not be involved.

Brown said the NAACP recently sent an email outlining its concerns about D’Agresta’s report to Interim Superintendent Susan Moxley and the School Board.

Brown declined further comment and referred questions to NAACP attorney David Honig.

In a brief statement Honig said the NAACP has “completed a review of the outstanding issues for inclusion in the report, or as a separate statement.”

Moxley acknowledged the dispute, but declined comment. She referred further questions to D’Agresta, who Moxley said has been informed of the NAACP’s concerns.

D’Agresta denied any knowledge of the controversy during an interview on Nov. 26.

“Nope, this is the first I’ve heard of it,” D’Agresta said, contradicting Moxley. “I’m not aware of any problems.

“I haven’t heard from the NAACP’s attorney. He has my number and knows how to get ahold of me.”

D’Agresta also denied knowledge of the agreement between the School Board and NAACP to collaborate on the report – even though she was present during the Oct. 30 meeting when the agreement was made.

“I had an opportunity to work on the report two weeks early, so I did,” said D’Agresta, who did not explain why she didn’t inform the NAACP of her efforts.

The dispute comes after several months of cooperation between the School Board, NAACP and the Equity Committee to improve African-American student achievement, graduation and retention rates and the district’s efforts to recruit and hire more African-American teachers.

Under the leadership of former Superintendent Mark Rendell and a previous board, the district spent more than four years and $775,000 fighting a lawsuit filed by the NAACP to force the district to comply with the desegregation order, which has been in effect since the 1960s.

Since Rendell’s forced resignation in May, the current School Board and Moxley have exhibited a dramatic change of heart in working with the NAACP and complying with the desegregation order.

The Equity Committee, NAACP and School Board are tentatively scheduled to meet Dec. 9 to work on the report but Brown said that meeting is now in limbo due to D’Agresta’s actions.