Wake County Schools

Long-awaited assignment plan called 'Wake County's plan'

Posted October 4, 2011
Updated October 5, 2011

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— Wake County school board members have gotten their first look at a long-awaited student assignment plan aimed at giving parents more choices when it comes to where their children go to school.

School system Superintendent Tony Tata and his staff spent about three hours at a work session Tuesday answering the board's questions and going over the 92-page proposal, which Tata characterized as "a very strong plan" that has been through a "very thorough public vetting and an unprecedented level of genuine engagement with Wake County families."

"This plan has broad community support, precisely because we have listened to the public," he said.

The plan, based on four key elements – proximity, choice, stability and student achievement – replaces the district's longstanding practice of busing students for socio-economic diversity.

Under it, parents would have at least five elementary school choices, two middle school and two high schools – including traditional, year-round, magnet and high-performing schools – based on where they live. Parents have priority to schools closest to their home.

"If a parent likes a school they're in, they can stay there," Tata said. "The key to this plan is that you just get to stay where you are if you like your school. If not, you have a choice to go somewhere else."

The school board could vote on the plan at its next school board meeting on Oct. 18. If approved, it would go into effect the 2012-13 school year.

"This is a major overhaul of what we have been doing and such a major improvement from what we've done in the past," board Chairman Ron Margiotta said.

Margiotta School board gets first look at Wake assignment plan

Concerned that the plan leaves unanswered questions, some critics, however, have called for the board to hold off on moving forward with the plan until more is known about its effects on the district.

"This sounds like magic for everyone," said parent Amy Womble, who's concerned about possible long-term effects of the plan.

"I would really like to be assured that we're not going to create high-poverty schools," she said.

Tata said magnet schools would help mitigate the spread of high-poverty schools.

"We have 59 schools, right now, above the old plans' target of 40 percent (of students receiving free or reduce-price lunches), which is an indicator that it became cumbersome and that the plan was unable to keep up with the changing demographics of the county," he said.

After more than a year and a half of debates on this issue, it appears two sides are getting closer.

"I'm cautiously optimistic," board member Kevin Hill, a supporter of the old student assignment policy, said, "but I'm concerned about the timeframe we're being asked to do this in."

Based on what he heard Tuesday, Hill hasn't ruled out supporting Tata's proposal. Neither has Keith Sutton, also a proponent of the old student assignment policy.

"No plan is going to be fool-proof or perfect, but I think we have seen a lot of progress," Sutton said. "If there is one thing I would change, it would be to see (achievement) more built in the plan, but I think we have a good start."

Other board members say they've been involved in the process throughout and that it's time to move forward.

"I think we're moving in a very powerful, positive direction that's changing the culture of Wake County to empower our parents, support our students and put taxpayers first," Board Vice Chairman John Tedesco said.

Tata and a special task force began work on the plan seven months ago and studied how 22 school districts across the nation assigned students. They held 20 public hearings, providing interpreters and Internet access for those who didn't have it.

More than 20,000 families participated in a test drive of a previous version of the plan, and the student assignment task force looked at more than 4,000 comments.

"This truly is Wake County's plan. We have been open, transparent and approachable," Tata told the board. "We have listened to every viewpoint presented."

The Oct. 13 public hearing is at Broughton High School in Raleigh. Online registration begins at the school system's website at 9 a.m. on Oct. 8. Anyone interested in speaking can also sign up at the door between 4 p.m. and 4:50 p.m. on the day of the hearing. Speakers are limited to two minutes.

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  • Nancy Oct 5, 2011

    "Don't have an attitude about it just b/c your child didn't get into a magnet school." - missparrothead

    You're sadly mistaken, it's not an attitude, just the truth. And would you believe, way back in the early 90's, my kids were ASSIGNED to a magnet school? Ya, that's how old my 'kids' are ;)

    Oh, and for a period of about 4 years I also drove a WCPSS bus route for three schools, so please, I have no attitude, just a real honest outlook on the matter.

  • Not_So_Dumb Oct 5, 2011

    "The "sacrifice" is the longer bus ride, and it should NOT be that AND any parents having to leave work early to pick up their child at an express bus stop. "-missparrothead

    FWIW, those forced to send their kids to year round got little sympathy from the school system for the impositions of the different schedule so I am not sure that you will find them overly concerned that your choice of school makes your life more difficult.

  • wakemom Oct 5, 2011

    Nancy and WakeMom- You're not getting it about magnets. I'm not complaining about the time on the bus either to or from school. Equality, thats all. If you provide neighborhood busing for non-magnet schools, then you need to provide the same for magnet schools, period. They are both part of the public school system. The "sacrifice" is the longer bus ride, and it should NOT be that AND any parents having to leave work early to pick up their child at an express bus stop.

    Don't have an attitude about it just b/c your child didn't get into a magnet school.
    missparrothead

    dont have an attitude. just get tired of you complaining when you had a choice and got in. and what you're saying now is completely different than your original post!

  • missparrothead Oct 5, 2011

    Nancy and WakeMom-
    You're not getting it about magnets. I'm not complaining about the time on the bus either to or from school. Equality, thats all. If you provide neighborhood busing for non-magnet schools, then you need to provide the same for magnet schools, period. They are both part of the public school system. The "sacrifice" is the longer bus ride, and it should NOT be that AND any parents having to leave work early to pick up their child at an express bus stop.

    Don't have an attitude about it just b/c your child didn't get into a magnet school.

  • Vietnam Vet Oct 5, 2011

    If you want to see student achievement stop making them get up at the crack of dawn to ride a bus for hours in the name of diversity! Let them sleep and have time for breakfast instead of wasting time on a bus. Isn't that what neighborhood schools are all about???

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Oct 5, 2011

    Nancy - "...my subdivision for the last 10 years has had 3-4 different elementary school buses, two middle school buses and one high school route in it, for 137 homes."

    WOW!!!

    Think of all the gas (oil, tires, etc.) that was wasted with all that.

  • Not_So_Dumb Oct 5, 2011

    The other thing to remember is that nodes still exist, so if you chose a base school and are the only one in your node who does so, that choice may not be granted.

  • Not_So_Dumb Oct 5, 2011

    WakeCountyTeacher, the transportation budget and classroom budget don't necessarily work how you would think. Yes, ultimately they are the same pot of money, but if I cut $2 million in transportation expense, the way the appropriations work, there is no guarantee that it will end up in the classroom.

    Yes, it always best to minimize all non-classroom expenses, but whether or not that will help you isn't certain.

  • Nancy Oct 5, 2011

    WakeCountyTeacher, my subdivision for the last 10 years has had 3-4 different elementary school buses, two middle school buses and one high school route in it, for 137 homes.

    Reassignment is a wonderful thing huh?

  • WakeCountyTeacher Oct 5, 2011

    As a teacher whom has seen 7 of my coworkers laid off in the last 2 year, I am wondering where they are getting the money to pay for all the extra busing. I mean, if parents get to choose their schools, one street could have 3 different buses taking kids to 3 different schools. And, I am forced to have 36 students in a classroom that has 29 desks...and I am having to buy a great deal of the REQUIRED materials my students must have to do activities for the budget ran out of money!

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