School board candidates weigh in on Wake assignment plan
Posted October 5, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — Initial response to a plan for how the Wake County Public School System will assign students under a new assignment policy is mostly positive, so far, among the 14 candidates vying for five seats on the school board that will oversee and carry it out.
But many said Wednesday that they still have unanswered questions and unaddressed concerns about the proposal, which would give parents more choices when deciding where their children should go to school.
The plan, which the current school board is expected to vote on at its Oct. 18 meeting, is based on what Superintendent Tony Tata calls four pillars – proximity, choice, stability and student achievement.
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 as well as schools where children already have a sibling attending. Each student currently enrolled in the district also has the option to stay at the school to which he or she is already assigned.
Students in schools considered low-performing will also have an additional choice to attend a school that's considered high-performing, based on test scores and qualified teachers.
Some school board candidates have questions about whether there will be enough seats at high-performing schools to accommodate students choosing to transfer from low-performing schools.
Here's what the candidates had to say about the plan Wednesday:
- Kevin Hill (incumbent): "I'm cautiously optimistic, but I'm concerned about the timeframe we're being asked to do this in."
- Heather Losurdo: "I am excited about it. I think giving parents choice is moving in an innovative direction. I still have some questions about transportation costs."
- Jennifer Mansfield: "I think there are still a lot of unanswered questions, especially when it comes to things like feeder patterns, and I would not feel comfortable voting for it."
- Eric Squires: Calls to Squires weren't immediately returned Wednesday, but he has said that he favors a plan in which students go to school close to their homes.
- Venita Peyton: "I would like to fully read the plan, but based on what I've heard, especially when it comes to choice, I would be in favor of it and would support it."
- Keith Sutton (incumbent): "No plan is going to be fool-proof or perfect, but I think we have seen a lot of progress."
- Cynthia Matson: "I do support the progress that has been made. Although not all of the details are available, because it is based on community input and a tireless effort by administration, I am hopeful it will be what the community has been advocating for."
- Jim Martin: "I stand by what I have written about the assignment plan before. I am neither for or against the plan, but I would like to know what the 20 percent lowest chosen schools are and what will be done to increase the probability that they are chosen."
- Christine Kushner: "I still need more information before I can say whether I would support it. I think it is promising, and it is important that we find a new, stable assignment plan. I still have questions about the real options that students in lower-performing schools will have."
- George Morgan: Calls to Morgan weren't immediately returned Wednesday, but he has said that he still wants more information on the plan.
- Mary Ann Weathers: "I think they pushed it through a little quicker than they should have, but from what I have seen, I think it's a good idea. I do have some lingering concerns that the plan will resegregate, but I think we'll have to give it a chance."
- Donna Williams: "I like it very much. I think they did a great job of presenting all of the information. I am glad they are going back and discussing some specific concerns of some neighborhoods in my district."
- Susan Evans: "I think, with a little bit of tweaking, it is something I could support. The most positive thing is that it promises to offer stability and prevent reassignments. I am still reserving judgment on a few things, including higher-performing schools and whether students in low-performing schools will really be guaranteed seats in the higher-achieving options."
- Ron Margiotta (incumbent): "This is a major overhaul of what we have been doing and such a major improvement from what we have done in the past."
Tata told school board members Tuesday that the assignment plan will be ready for a vote following a final public hearing on the issue on Oct. 13.
The hearing is at 5 p.m. 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.