Book Review

Brick Walls: Reflections on Race in a Southern School District

by Thomas E. Truitt, University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, S.C., 2006, 160 pp., $34.95 hardcover

Brick Walls: Reflection on Race in a Southern District is an insider's account of a community divided by racial conflict arising from the school boardÕs decision to build a new elementary school to replace one serving a predominantly African-American community. As the board and superintendent struggled to secure a site for the school, tensions erupted, resulting in complaints to the U.S. Justice Department and a lawsuit.

Tom Truitt, whose career in education has spanned 43 years and three states, tells the story of race relations in Florence, S.C., during his 11-year tenure as superintendent. Truitt here remembers an event that led to student attend-ance zones and school board elections being hotly contested and changed from at-large to single member districts. Seen through a superintendent's eyes, the book provides details regarding a court-ordered plan for integrating schools, the conflicts between races and the building of Carver Elementary School.

I particularly enjoyed the book because it reflects the stress of being a superintendent and facing the politics of a racially charged community. Truitt describes the problems encountered, the dealings with the press and the change in dynamics as new school board members were elected to give readers a vivid picture of the superintendency.

Truitt writes about personnel issues, student discipline, planning and building facilities and other issues administrators face regularly. The chapters are relatively short so the book is an easy read. It takes the reader inside the superintendent's office and the board room to experience first-hand the problems faced when trying to bring a community together on such a divisive issue and with such a distrustful atmosphere.

Fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, school systems in the South are still dealing with racial problems. The fact that administrators often face "no win" situations is brought to life in Brick Walls. Experienced superintendents and those aspiring to the superintendency would learn from this story.

Reviewed by Paul A. Shaw, superintendent, White County Schools, Cleveland, Ga.