Wake County Schools

School controversy could mean big Wake voter turnout

Posted September 23, 2011
Updated September 25, 2011

— Wake County elections officials said Friday that they are expecting a larger turnout this year than in previous off-year elections because of the school board races.

Fourteen candidates are running for five seats in the Oct. 11 election that could shift the balance of power on the Board of Education.

The nonpartisan races have become very political and heated in previous weeks, with personal attacks, anonymous fliers and at least one website throwing into question a candidate's online behavior, political views and ability to serve.

The school board attracted national attention last year when the board's Republican-backed majority changed the district's student assignment policy, which, for years, bused students across district lines to help balance the socio-economic make-ups of each school.

The controversial move toward a neighborhood, or community-based, assignment model divided the county, because it eliminated diversity as a factor when it came to where students should go to school.

Hundreds of people attended school board meetings and spoke for and against the change. People protested and held sit-ins, and a handful were arrested.

"We have felt for a long time that the Board of Education was going to draw voters out," Wake County Board of Elections Director Cherie Poucher said.

School controversy could mean big Wake voter turnout School controversy could mean big Wake voter turnout

So far this season, the elections board has received requests for more than 1,000 absentee ballots, Poucher said. In 2009, it received about 300 requests.

"We're very hopeful, and we are anticipating that the turnout is going to be increased,” she said.

North Carolina State University political science professor Andy Taylor says this year's election is unlike any other because of the amount of public interest.

Taylor and Toby Parcel, also an N.C. State political science professor, have been talking with parents and educators about key issues in the school board race as part of a research project.

They have found that concerns about a new assignment plan are more complex and not as polarizing as some think.

"It's not just a matter of being for diversity and against neighborhood schools," Parcel said.

"People are really wrestling with these kind of issues and see positives in both and problems in both," Taylor added.

For several months, Wake County Public School System Superintendent Tony Tata and a team of his staff have been working on a plan to implement the policy. As it stands now, it allows parents to choose from a variety of schools based on their address and takes into account achievement balance and capacity at each school.

Tata has said he plans to submit a final proposal to the school board at its Oct. 4 meeting. A vote would likely come after the election.

Many of the school board candidates have said that they still don't know enough about Tata's plan to say whether they support it or oppose it but have said they do see positive aspects in it.

At least one, Jennifer Mansfield, a candidate for the District 3 seat, however, has called on school staff to stop work on the plan and to look for an alternative measure that addresses parents' needs.

Another, Keith Sutton, the incumbent in District 4, has said that although he doesn’t oppose the plan, he would like to see the diversity factor added back into it.


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  • Realthoughts Sep 26, 2011

    I plan to vote for whatever "republican" candidate is running for my district.

    The reason for my vote because Rev Barber and the NAACP has made the whole community school issue about RACE!

    It is sad!

  • Shamrock Sep 26, 2011

    Good posts Juniper! I find it amuzing that those that whine the most are calling others whiners! How ironic.

  • Remy Sep 26, 2011

    "The good people of Wake Co. are tired of being made the laughingstock of the country on TV because of this and we're tired of the negative attention that the current Board has drawn to our county."

    Nope, just a few whiners like you feel that way. YouMakeItSoEasy

    If you believe there are only a few that feel this way, you are delusional. Either way, do you really think after all your comments on the weather story Friday, that anyone takes you seriously on anything else? Now those comments would certainly qualify as whining.

  • Remy Sep 26, 2011

    I predict a big shake up with the board after the elections.

  • loprestw Sep 26, 2011

    Ok can someone please explain to me if I work hard to afford a nice house in a safe neighborhood so I can send my children to a school close to home for a good education how will it help them in diversity to bus them accross the county to a drug/gang infested school?

  • Follow_The_Money27617 Sep 26, 2011

    I lived in Franklin County and went to Enloe. Who is crying about a bus ride?

  • LBJ192 Sep 26, 2011

    I have a lot of trouble understanding how this issue became dems vs reps. My children are neither.

  • Coolbeans11 Sep 26, 2011

    I can't wait to get out and vote to get rid of Ron! If anyone thinks wake county isn't a laughing stock in this country, then it is because you aren't paying attention!

  • Screw WrAl Sep 26, 2011

    "The good people of Wake Co. are tired of being made the laughingstock of the country on TV because of this and we're tired of the negative attention that the current Board has drawn to our county."

    Nope, just a few whiners like you feel that way. The rest of us could care less and realize that people like you are the reason it will take a few more years to dig out of the grave those you elected in past elections have buried us in. Neighborhood schools have arrived, and even though there will be problems with some of them, diversity is no longer what our children's education is about. No matter what the clowns want to believe.

  • Screw WrAl Sep 26, 2011

    "please stay home and don't vote. That way my vote for neighboorhood schools and an end to bussing for diverrrrsiitttyy will count for that much more!"

    That's great advice for most in Wake County because most simply have no clue what they're doing or know a single thing about any of all this. They just get their info from 1 sided media outlets. Who never tell both sides of the truth.