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Board member recalls W.Va. school segregation

February 15, 2001

Board member recalls W.Va. school segregation



Editor's note: This is the sixth in a week-long series of stories profiling members of the black community who are making contributions in the Tri-State area.

By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

Larry TogansMARTINSBURG, W.Va. - When Larry Togans presides over meetings of the Jefferson County Board of Education, the surroundings are familiar to him.

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He attended classes in the building when it was Page-Jackson High School, named after two black educators. Black students from seventh through 12th grade were taught there.

In 1965, "We were the last class that graduated from it" when it was still segregated, said Togans, 54. "We were a real small class, only 11 or 12 of us."

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Togans was raised in Charles Town, W.Va., and said the school situation didn't seem unusual to him.

"I was a young person during that time and I didn't see much outside those walls," he said. "We all knew each other. We liked each other and for the most part all got along."

After school, he spent part of the next four years patrolling the Gulf of Tonkin in the U.S. Navy, and another four years at Shepherd College. He got a job with the U.S. Geological Survey, where he is a human resources officer.

He belongs to such groups as the NAACP and Blacks in Government. He served on the district's Cultural Diversity Committee before being appointed to the school board six years ago. He remains on the committee.

"I like to be active and part of the solution, not part of the problem," Togans said.

Encouraging blacks to get involved in schools is one of the reasons he ran for the school board, he said.

The district hasn't hired as many blacks as he would like, but has done a good job of making teachers in the school system aware of cultural diversity issues, he said.

"It think that it's excellent we emphasize black history during February," which is Black History Month, he said. "It's important to society and it's important to our children."

His wife, Cynthia, is a teacher in Frederick, Md. They have two children, Tamara, 31, and Chad 24.

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