Thursday, April 14, 2011

Craig Phillips, 88, worried about NC schools

A. Craig Phillips, 88, former N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction and former superintendent of public schools in Forsyth County and Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, died early Tuesday in Wilmington. He came from a distinguished family of educators and was related to former Gov. Locke Craig (1913-17). Phillips oversaw state education, including the shift to integrated schools in many districts, from 1969 to 1989.

Years after he left Raleigh, Phillips became superintendent of Vance County schools up on the N.C.-Virginia border. I dropped in on him one afternoon to talk about his time in Raleigh, where he was known as something of a bulldog. "You know, my whole record was in pushing people. I never really learned to work with the General Assembly. I was more inclined to push 'em than to play their games," he told me.

Phillips wasn't universally popular, but he did what he thought was right -- and spoke out when he thought others were wrong. I was looking at a copy of a 1995 column I wrote about him, and was struck by a warning he issued about how this state's schools were changing. He didn't believe in decentralization of schools for most districts. It might work well in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, he thought, but not in smaller counties with fewer resources. He feared it might lead to two kinds of schools in this state -- elite ones for white kids and poor ones for everyone else. "We're going to end up with a private school problem," Phillips said. "What'll be left is the public schools mostly for the poor, largely black kids who can't go anywhere else."

Here's a copy of the N&O story on Phillips


Anonymous said...

Well, it's just like Lyndon Johnson feared when he signed Civil Rights bills into law.

He knew he was delivering the South to the Republican party, but he probably didn't know he was also delivering the public schools to the blacks.

It's time we all just faced reality about this because it is not going to change.

People with the means to do so will take care of themselves first no matter what the liberals tell them to do.

blpadge2 said...

Mr. Phillips was right. The difference is that in 2011 the Republicans are using tax dollars to create white flight schools un the aegis of SB8 and the charter schools.

Anonymous said...


A higher percentage of Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act than did Democrats.

One of the most forceful critics of the CRA was Al Gore Sr.

David P. McKnight said...

The name A. Craig Phillips is synonymous with bold and progressive leadership throughout the entire field of public education in North Carolina and across the Nation.

Phillips also had great people working with him when he was state superintendent of public instruction, such as Tom I. Davis of Johnston County.

Anonymous said...

If people are fleeing tradtional public schools and embracing public charter schools and private schools, it is becaue the tradtional public schools are failing to deliver. I have seen the very fine public schools that my children graduated from in the nineties be dumbed down by much of the "no child left behind" nonsense of the new millenium.

No wonder parents are anxious to get their children in charter schools which have gone back to the basics plus they challenge students instead of teaching to the mediocre middle.

I was never impressed with Craig Phillips. Our own local school system was so great because it paid little heed to his minimalistic guidelines. Our public local school system had much higher standards to challenge and enrich all students at every level. Sadly that has gone by the wayside, for the reason I wrote of in the first paragraph.

Those who are fighting the charters are foolish and ignorant. Have they forgotten that the free flow of ideas and inventiveness are what has made America great?

The charters are in the great American tradition. The traditonal schools should learn from the charters in stead of trying to run them out on a rail.