Schools panel returns focus to assignment debate

Posted March 10, 2010

Wake County Public School System

— A Wake school board decision to push the district superintendent into administrative limbo rapidly faded to the background Wednesday as the board's Policy Committee refocused on the move to eliminate diversity busing and took up routine matters for the 2010-11 student handbook.

The ongoing dispute over a change from busing for diversity to community-based student assignments will be the focus of a work session that committee Chair Debra Goldman said she will ask board Chairman Ron Margiotta to schedule soon.

Asked about Tuesday night's closed-door decision to put Superintendent Del Burns on administrative leave until his resignation takes effect June 30, Goldman said, "We're focused on moving forward."

Acting Superintendent Donna Hargens, appointed Tuesday night, will "keep things going on an even keel" while the board decides how to replace Burns. Burns criticized the new assignment policy after tendering his resignation, drawing the ire of the majority of the board.

The full board is scheduled to take up the community-school "directive" for a necessary second vote at its March 23 meeting. The directive tells the system to institute policies to implement the approach that the board approved for the first time 5-4 at its March 2 meeting. It voted after hours of intense public comment, much of it against the plan.

Goldman said there might be wording "tweaks"  when the resolution comes up again, but she said that the board's attorney has assured supporters that minor changes do not put them back to the start of the process.

Wednesday, board members Keith Sutton, Kevin Hill and Anne McLaurin urged Goldman to press Margiotta to get the work session scheduled before the Policy Committee's next meeting on April 14. All three voted against the move from busing for economic diversity to geographic attendance districts that are blind to race or poverty.

"We must do what is right for every student in Wake County," Goldman said, adding that all nine board members agree on that.

The Policy Committee also moved to consolidate its emerging power, voting to ask the full board to change it from an ad hoc to a standing committee. Hill questioned whether that meant that all policies, such as human resources, will be funneled through Policy Committee rather than through the committees that handle the areas involved.

McLaurin and Sutton also asked Goldman to consider asking Margiotta to expand board committees from three members to four or more to bring more viewpoints into their work.

"We know how the votes will be before we start," McLaurin said. Goldman made a point of inviting all board members, not only committee members,  to raise issues during the policy discussion that followed.

In routine matters, the committee Wednesday approved a number of policy changes, covering student behavior. Some were technical changes to renumber the policies while others clarified existing language. The changes had to be done in time to make the printing of the district's handbook for the school year that begins July 1.

One issue that will return to the committee is whether school principals should be given more leeway in punishments for misbehavior, for example a suspension between 10 days and the remaining school year for some serious infractions.

Students can appeal such decisions to the superintendent and school board, but principals have no discretion under current policies. Hill, a former principal, said the board should meet with assistant superintendents for various areas to ask whether hard-and-fast, clear rules or more discretion would work better for school-level officials or if they feel constrained.

Goldman asked school staff members to set up such a session.


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  • dib Mar 11, 2010

    MileageDontPlayDat - Exactly. In addition to that, if a school in a community understands the community where it exists, they could cater to the needs of the students in that community. More classes to help those that have problems and also not hold back or punish those who do well. I guess its not racist if you provide opportunity to those who would not have it and take it from people who work and pay for the opportunity. The parents are the ones who set the example and help their kids learn. If parents can't help then the teachers/schools in that community would know and understand and be able to provide assistance. I hate the idea of taking money from poorly performing schools making them even worse for those kids. That is NOT FAIR and that needs to be fixed. I don't think student learn much science and math on a bus. Think it would be better if they were in a real class room and knew they had the right answer.

  • mindofreason Mar 10, 2010

    superman, I agree 100%.

    Hard to believe people in charge could make so many decisions without facts, evidence or any proof. The current system in Washington and in the State government has bled through to the BOE. Money, and personal interests have taken precedence over those these people are supposed to represent. The double standard in place by the current board is sickening, and this kind of behavior does not belong at the BOE, leave that to Congress, State Assembly, President and Governor. This should be about what is best for the kids! Therefore, until someone can show me proof that a change in policy will improve the education for all students, I think we should stick with what works. If you say it doesn't because graduation rates have gone down, remember they have gone down everywhere including in CMS where neighborhood schools already exist, so lets assume a bigger trend is at work here...

  • MARX Mar 10, 2010

    "At least of the people who care enough to vote."
    "If I am missing something I seriously would like to hear it."-tamiya_stars

    You didn't miss it, voter apathy is just as big a problem as parental involvment. The leading new majority person only had a 9% vote with most others around 5%. That typically means a very small number of squeeky wheels are asking to be greased as the real majority of voters thought status quo is or was good enough. C'est Vrai?

  • Heatherbrook Mar 10, 2010

    The NEW BOE just doesn't understand just how much MATH and SCIENCE the children are learning while on the long bus rides.
    Bet they add to their Vocabulary!!!!!

  • tamiya_stars Mar 10, 2010

    The school board districts are drawn where each representative has approximately the same number of citizens they represent....a quick Google search and you can easily see the map. So I can't see how a majority on the school board can equal anything else but a (assumed) majority of the citizens of the county as a whole. At least of the people who care enough to vote.

    Even if your district was not up for election last year, if it was you would still just be voting for your one representative so the outcome of the election would have been the same or worse for the now minority position.

    If I am missing something I seriously would like to hear it.

  • Caveman93 Mar 10, 2010

    Who once mentioned segregation!?? It's about money, teacher contracts and budgets fools!

  • superman Mar 10, 2010

    Where is the support the board is getting? I think the meeting the other night should give them some insight into just how people feel about the job they doing so far. Dont forget the county commissioners and finally the taxpayers control every move the board makes. People want more but they also want to pay less. The board already has a record for moving and not having information to back up their decision. Mr. Chairman, I move that you resign effective immediately. If we can do without Supt. Burns, surely your presence is no longer necessary.

  • superman Mar 10, 2010

    The majority of the funds for busing, school bus maint, school bus mechanics comes directly to the county from the state. Before you make comments about funding-- you should find out first where the money is coming from. Seems the board chairman can excerise executive privilege and say what he pleases but the supt and the NCAAP cant. The board will soon find that there are also rules for them. They are dependent on other sources for their funding. As for whether diversity works or not is not an issue-- nor is it a legal defense. Segregation is no longer tolerated in this country.

  • VT1994Hokie Mar 10, 2010

    The BOE better study and do their homework. If they segregate the schools, it is going to be terrible. I wonder just how much these people truly know about running a school system?

  • MileageDontTakeYourKidsCrap Mar 10, 2010

    garner, if those stats are true, i still dont think the change is a big deal all for nothing. it was a big deal for the 3% of families forced into a failed program.

    if was truly such a minimally impacting % of kids being bussed for diversity, whats the problem with doing away with the program? it was just a few kids, right?

    it either was a big deal, or it wasn't. we can't have it both ways.