The state Board of Education has approved the first of 16 school merger petitions that it plans to hear today. The board voted four-to-three to approve the annexation of the Bright Star School District into the Fouke School District. The deeply divided board approved the request despite concerns from black parents in the Bright Star district about sending their children into a new district that currently has no black students. Both districts are in southwest Arkansas. Board member Luke Gordy told parents that while he understood their concerns, the board considered student`s educational opportunities to be more important. The parents had wanted Bright Start to merge with Bradley, which is more racially balanced but is also not meeting progress goals set by federal education law.