Wake school board tackles community-based assignment policy

Posted April 14, 2010

Wake County Public School System

— The Wake County school board's effort to put the rubber of community-based schools to the road hit slippery patches Wednesday as the board's Policy Committee began to try to craft a new assignment policy.

What should top the list of assignment factors and how much of a role diversity should play were woven through the discussion of a draft policy written by committee Chairwoman Debra Goldman of Cary.

Committee discusses assignment policy's wording Committee discusses assignment policy's wording

Almost all discussion about assignment since voters elected four new members in November has divided the board 5-4, with the newcomers and Chairman Ron Margiotta on one side and four veteran board members on the other.

When member Kevin Hill, a member of the board's minority, asked if the board was going to have a work session to look at data about the effects of diversity on student achievement, Margiotta said, "I don't see the need for a work session, to be honest."

"We have a lot on our plate beyond this issue. For some reason, this seems to be all-consuming," Margiotta said. Neither he nor Hill, a former school principal, are on the three-member Policy Committee, but the meeting drew eight of the nine board members.

The committee will wrestle with the issue for some time. A directive in which the full board voted 5-4 to establish community-assignment zones predicted that creating a new assignment model would take nine to 15 months.

The board factions have split over the new majority's decision to move away from an economic diversity policy that has been part of student assignment decisions for a decade.

The current board approved a resolution restating its commitment to voluntary desegregation of schools. However, the five-member majority, led by Margiotta and John Tedesco of Garner, says it sees magnet schools as the primary tool for encouraging distribution of students.

Tedesco, who has stated repeatedly that diversity and community-based assignments are not opposites, said, "I'm all about looking at at academics" and student achievement, not "whole groups of people."

The school system bases diversity calculations on the number of students in a school who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, which are federally subsidized and depend on family income.

Much of Wednesday's discussion focused on what constitutes "higher need" students who might benefit from assignment to different schools. The current policy lists four categories. Goldman's draft would eliminate two of those – qualification for lunch subsidies and whether students perform below grade-level on state end-of-grade tests.

Limited English proficiency and the need for special education services would remain.

Board member Keith Sutton of Raleigh said that limiting the qualifications that way could send "unintended messages" to the community and to federal education officials, who are reviewing an application for magnet schools that all members agree help encourage voluntary diversity without mandatory assignments.

Board member Carolyn Morrison of Raleigh wondered aloud if "the people in Washington will take a dim view of this?"

The current assignment policy lists a series of goals for the system, then states: "Maintaining diverse populations in each Wake County school is critical to ensuring academic success for all students. This is supported by research. The school system will also consider other factors that impact communities, families and costs."

Goldman's draft, which she encouraged members to revise with their suggestions, states: "Maintaining stable student populations that consider proximity to home in each Wake County school is important to ensuring academic success for all students. Assignment policies will recognize the impact of student assignment on students, families and communities and the costs involved. The promotion of community schools with choice will increase stability, encourage parental involvement, support and strengthen the community and place emphasis on the education of every student."


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  • yabo2k3 Apr 14, 2010

    "Neighborhood schools would be the one closest to your neighborhood..."

    This is a complete misunderstanding. This cannot possibly happen. There are too many neighborhoods that are close to a single school. The schools cannot accommodate the population density in many, many cases. Neighborhoods are going to be split as to who can go to that close school and who cannot. Therefore, the dividing factor for a neighborhood will be to get a census from random gridlines to determine who is in and who is out. One school will have anyone within 3 miles and another will be anyone within 0.5 miles.

    No matter how much you agree or disagree with it, the plan is messed up. They need much more research and data before they can survive any lawsuit. BTW, the lawsuit will come from wealthy white families who are zoned out of the "neighborhood" school.

  • yabo2k3 Apr 14, 2010

    The best part of "community based schools" is that the term "community" is too vague to have clear definition. What is going to end up happening is some communities will not be "community" enough to two schools they are between and then get bussed further away. An example will be Wakefield and all of the extremely wealthy estate communities around it. Which Wakefield communities will be within the "community zone" for those 3 schools? The lawsuits from Wakefield Plantation alone after it gets cut in half will be insane. This is an example of just one school with a "community" around it. Just imagine how many more communities are like this in Cary, Leesville Road area, Heritage, etc. You will see segregation of the Have's. There will be the Have-Have's and the Have-Have-not's.

    Many people do not realize how drastic splitting a community in two for schools will be to the property values. Community Schools will get shutdown with lawsuits before they can even occur.

  • Chole Apr 14, 2010

    why do everthing has to be about OUR President??????

  • mindofreason Apr 14, 2010

    momeeee, tell me how WCPSS will save busing money please?

  • jgegbgmg Apr 14, 2010

    Which member was not at the meeting today?

  • momeeee Apr 14, 2010

    rich son : They will save money by bussing my son to a school a mile away instead of past two other schools to his school 10 miles away.
    I want to cut costs across the board. Too much fluff in admin! The HS has WAY to many administrators...
    Neighborhood schools would be the one closest to your neighborhood...

  • mindofreason Apr 14, 2010

    smcallah, What about Southeast Raleigh, Ligon, Enloe, etc...We have "inner city" schools, they may not be like New York or Baltimore but normalized they are...

  • mindofreason Apr 14, 2010

    I have asked that for a while rich son. Also momeeee, I am so glad we are all concerned about the state budget when it comes to fuel costs, unfortunately WCPSS will not get that money to hire the additional teachers or buildings required for this plan. I am all for saving the state budget, where are you all though when it comes to reducing state budget through other factors. However, we need to remember that schools get their fuel money through the state, so lets not talk about how much money WCPSS will save through this...

  • smcallah Apr 14, 2010

    "and bussing good students into inner city schools to raise the standards at bad schools."

    Inner-city schools? What are you talking about? Wake County doesn't have "inner-city" schools. In fact, one of the closest high schools to downtown, the only thing that can be considered "inner-city" around here, is Broughton. A place where kids of some of the wealthiest families in Raleigh that don't go to private school attend.

    The surrounding neighborhoods to Broughton aren't exactly "poor."

  • Garnerwolf1 Apr 14, 2010

    "...came up with the ridiculous notion of bussing..." They've been doing this in Raleigh since at least 1970. I was a student here then and can still remember the uproar when it started. Newcomers seem to think this is some kind of 'new' policy directed at them. It's not, and never was. The name of the policy just changed. And since only about 3% of students were ever bussed for 'diversity', it never was that big a deal. People just made the mole hill into the mountain.