Wake County Schools

School board candidates weigh in on Wake assignment plan

Posted October 5, 2011

Wake County Public School System
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— 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:

District 3

  • 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.

District 4

  • 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."

District 5

  • 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."

District 6

  • 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."

District 8

  • 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.


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  • hankpayton Oct 13, 2011

    "Parents have priority to schools closest to their home..."

    This is bad news people. It is clearly a game of socioeconomics... i.e. - If you can afford to buy a home, rent an apartment, or etc. in an area where the schools are better, I would guess that 10 times out of 10 you or your family, guardians, or what have you have a higher overall household income.

    So hmmm, let's guess, "Where are the better schools?" Likely, in the area with the higher tax base.

    Nicer Area = Greater Tax Base

    Greater Tax Base ~ Better Schools

    Nicer Area + Better Schools = Systematic Impoverishment (for all others who aren't as lucky).

    The poor get poorer due to the lack of available resources in their communities. The err in this plan and others like it is blatant. The authors of this plan didn't happen to find it. This is intentional.

  • Not_So_Dumb Oct 6, 2011

    t1000, thanks for the reasoned response. I don't disagree entirely, but as I said at the start, the problem I have is when people see assignment as the only solution. That is just plain silly when we don't have any evidence that it works. There is ample evidence to make a case for assignment to be part of a strategy in helping high risk kids, but when, like Evans, people look at it as all that is needed, I think they are being foolish.

  • Krimson Oct 6, 2011

    ...chopped off the rest of my response... Oh well... See you on Tuesday!

  • Krimson Oct 6, 2011

    Not so Dumb: "The question is, was the response by WCPSS effective? We have no proof. All we have are assumptions based on trends." Good point, except to find out whether or not the response was a correct one, we would have had a separate population that was allowed to integrate "organically". I can point to how historically (1957 through 1976) the residents of Wake did NOT intregrate organically, with White Flight sending white children out to the suburbs leaving a devasted system in Raleigh. Would the same occur today, we cannot know... Should we go back to the same social conditions as the 1950s and 60s to see??? I'd rather not...

    As a recent model of comparison, the Charlotte Meck system got rid of their busing model 10 years ago. The grades have improved, but more than a handful of schools have been shuttered (Waddell HS) while the number of high-poverty schools has doubled. Graduation rates are still below state average.

    At some point, the SB has to make assumptions a

  • Not_So_Dumb Oct 6, 2011

    Babbleon, I believe I am familiar with that study and the problem is that it was NOT based on controlled assignment. It was based on performance in existing demographic arrangements. The finding was the greater the percent in poverty, the greater the performance differential. The conclusion that the intentionally altering the makeup of the school would bring about the same results as having the mix occur organically was the NEVER made. It was never studied. WCPSS ignored this and jumped to the conclusion that by replicating one factor, reduced density of poverty measured by school, would bring about the same results. While you can say that this was perhaps a theoretically sound extension of the original findings, WCPSS never reported the actual impact. As you said, the indications of poverty density on achievement we know. No argument. The question is, was the response by WCPSS effective? We have no proof. All we have are assumptions based on trends.

  • babbleon Oct 6, 2011

    @NotSoDumb: I can't find the study right this minute, but there is at least one that shows that mixing lower performing students into higher performing schools raises the lower performing students with minimal lowering of the high performing students progress. The study has been around for at least 20 years, and was part of the reasoning behind using economic diversity as an assignment category.

    It's only in the last few years that people with a financial stake in demolishing public education (Pope, Luddy, Margiotta) have started to claim that it's not true. You want to know what's behind our current situation, read this:


  • injameswetrust2003 Oct 5, 2011

    "but I'm concerned about the timeframe we're being asked to do this in."-Kevin Hill

    Exactly how long do you think this needs to take? Oh, that's right, it's always going to be not good enough because the diversity policy changed and you were voted out [removed] from the board chair with your tail between your legs.

  • Not_So_Dumb Oct 5, 2011

    "Wake County already does an excellent job of identifying those students who need greater academic and behavioral support."-Tawny

    Identifying, perhaps, helping, not at all. Look at the WCPSS achievement gap. We know the problem, yet our gap is larger than the state average in almost every measured case.

    Also, the data you report must be examined carefully. Most of it is comparisons between districts, not within districts. Plus, where is the data from WCPSS? There is a research and evaluation department and yet we don't have a single report that conclusively demonstrates the positive academic record at the student level of the old diversity program. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

    It was a smoke and mirrors program designed to keep business interests and the existing power structure of the area happy. It was never about helping kids in need. It was all about appearances.

  • Tawny Oct 5, 2011

    There have been a number of studies done that indicate that school environments can make a positive differene to children from lower income families. Schools with a greater percentage of low income children are more likely to have lower expectations for academic performance, lower teacher quality, less parental involvement at school and lower per pupil expenditures. Wake County already does an excellent job of identifying those students who need greater academic and behavioral support. Mr. Tata is cetaiinly great at diplomacy in that he chose to listen to ALL groups in opposition to this plan, unlike the school board. However, this does not mean this is a sound plan. Appears that it may cost more than Wake County citizens realize.

  • WakeHammer Oct 5, 2011

    If they approve this plan, it won't survive three years. What a disaster in the making.