Wake County Schools

Elections might not derail Wake student assignment plan

Posted October 12, 2011
Updated October 17, 2011

Wake County Public School System

— The election of four Democratic-backed candidates and a runoff for the final seat on the Wake County Board of Education might not necessarily mean big changes to a new student assignment policy that's been two years in the making.

Four Democratic-backed candidates – incumbent Keith Sutton in east Raleigh (District 4), Jim Martin in south-central Raleigh (District 5), Christine Kushner in central Raleigh (District 6) and Susan Evans in southern Wake County (District 8) – won seats on the Wake County school board in elections Tuesday.

Incumbent Kevin Hill, a Democrat, and Republican challenger Heather Losurdo are expected to face off in a runoff Nov. 8 to decide who will represent north Raleigh (District 3) on the governing board of the state's largest school system.

Hill finished election night with 49.7 percent of the votes in District 3, just shy of the 50 percent he needed to win. Losurdo requested the runoff.

"I won't stop, no matter what happens," Losurdo said Tuesday.

School board vice chairman John Tedesco, part of a Republican-backed majority elected to the board in 2009, said Tuesday night that the new student assignment policy is at stake in the runoff. He promised to support Losurdo.

"Do we go to neighborhood schools, or do we go to busing-for-quota systems?" Tedesco said.

Losurdo stressed that no party would be influencing the way she votes on the board, if elected. 

Kevin Hill Fight is on in Wake school board run-off

"I think we all need to calm down and talk as adults and professionals and figure out what's best for our children," Losurdo said. "I am an independent voice and independent thinker and no big party or John Tedesco is going to influence me."

Hill said he is nonpartisan as well. 

"We're supposed to be in it for the students. (It) doesn't have anything to do with the majority or minority members (and) doesn't have anything to do with the Republicans and Democrats," Hill said. 

But David McLennan, a political science professor at William Peace University, said Wednesday that it's impossible to take politics out of the equation. 

"The stakes are high, the sides are very polarized and active," he said. "Here we saw $400,000 spent across the school board races. (That) broke all records."

According to the State Board of Elections, Hill pulled in more than $24,000 from donors and Losurdo raised $40,000 – numbers that are sure to grow in the run-up to Nov. 8.

Hill said that he disagrees with Tedesco that the runoff will decide whether the new assignment plan moves forward or whether the district returns to assigning students to help achieve socioeconomic diversity. He said he's unsure what will happen with the proposal at a vote planned next Tuesday.

Evans, who defeated school board Chairman Ron Margiotta, said Tuesday night that she doesn't think the new board, whatever its final makeup is, will make any rash decisions.

"We're looking at having a school board again that will talk together, collaborate together, make thoughtful decisions together in a respectful manner," she said.

Superintendent Tony Tata said Wednesday that he believes his team has put together a good assignment plan that doesn't involve politics.

"We have had a very non-political process. It has been a completely transparent process," he said. "We've had over 20 public-engagement meetings on the assignment plan, and we feel like we have a very solid plan."

Tata said he's ready to work with the new and current school board to ensure that the plan moves forward.

Kevin Hill, Heather Losurdo New school board members undecided about assignment plan

The proposed student assignment policy aims at giving parents choices for their children's education while keeping students closer to their homes. Opponents, including the state chapter of the NAACP, say the move would create pockets of poverty in the school system and segregate schools.

Under the plan, parents could choose among at least five elementary schools and two middle and high schools – including traditional, year-round, magnet and high-performing schools – based on where they live.

Parents would have priority at schools closest to their home and where children have a sibling attending. Students already enrolled in the district may also stay at their current school. Students in schools considered low-performing will also be able to chose to attend a school that's considered high-performing, based on test scores and qualified teachers.

Before the election, none of the eventually victorious school-board candidates said they would not support the new plan. They all said they had questions about it, but most also said there are elements of it that they agree with.

  • Sutton: "No plan is going to be foolproof or perfect, but I think we have seen a lot of progress."
  • 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."
  • 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."
  • Hill: "I'm cautiously optimistic, but I'm concerned about the timeframe we're being asked to do this in."
  • 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."

The new school board members will take their seats in December.


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  • Plenty Coups Oct 13, 2011

    " Meanwhile previously backwards countries like India continue to kick our behinds in the fields of science and medicine."

    except for the 300 million in their country that can't even read.

  • CarZin Oct 13, 2011

    WRAL must be so dissapointed. You could almost see the glee on their face as all the republican candidates werent elected. To find out that they probably won't revert back to the old system must be so disheatening!

  • Da Toy Maker Oct 13, 2011

    Just would like to throw something into the mix:

    New Jersey has small school districts: Each township/city has its own school system. Please look at the Property tax for the school districts that are good/high performing. The gap between the rich & poor school districts are crazy. The old WCPSS (with Diversity policy) was highly regarded as one of the best in the Nation. is it perfect? No. Was it decent? I personally believe so.

    For those of you stating Kids are being bused to farther away schools instead of neighborhood you are in, what do you think is going to happen when a few Mega Neighborhoods are built in new area without schools to accomplished them? Just saying.

    Well. I'm kind of glad I no longer has as much in this fight since my son just graduated from the "Failed" social engineered WCPSS. He got a great education!

  • Tim in Raleigh Oct 13, 2011

    Losurdo needs to concede. A run-off is going to cost taxpayers $150,000. She lost by 10% (1500+ votes). I think it's clear that voters have spoken.

  • luvbailey Oct 13, 2011

    Babbleon, I have enjoyed reading your posts. You sound like a thinker, someone reasonable to talk to. Like you, I think it is unreasonable to think that we cannot change SS & Medicare. We are going to have to defer the starting age on those 2 programs. What angers me is the lib ads showing grandma pushed off the cliff. No one is proposing any changes for anyone below age 50. As to Clinton tax rates, there was nothing magical about those rates but many libs act like those rates are somewhere in the constitution. I could accept the Clinton tax code if EVERYONE is paying something instead of the almost 50% who pay only ss taxes. SS taxes don't count - they are for ss. As for social issues, I don't agree with the gay lifestyle but if that's what someone wants then it's their choice. I do feel strongly (personal opinion / values) that abortion should be stopped.

  • UCannotBSerious Oct 13, 2011

    "Just check the last names of doctors in the yellow pages."

    So, is it Dr. TooMuchGovt ?

  • TooMuchGovt Oct 13, 2011

    All this ranting over race and not over quality of education. Oh my! Meanwhile previously backwards countries like India continue to kick our behinds in the fields of science and medicine. Just check the last names of doctors in the yellow pages. No bussing for racial diversity nonsense in India.

  • babbleon Oct 13, 2011

    Self reliance, not government reliance. Low taxes, where everybody pays something, not tax hike after tax hike on just one group. luvbailey

    I respect many of the mentioned TeaP's stands. I don't respect the ignorance in polls that show 60% of TeaP's want Social Security and Medicare *unchanged*.

    As to low taxes: I just want to go back to Clinton-era tax levels for all. We have 2 wars to pay for.

    While you and other TeaP's have an economic focus, many TeaP's, especially the elected ones, have a social agenda that I can not support. It's NONE of their business whether I use birth control, have a partner of my same gender with whom I want the legal assurances that come with marriage, or get an abortion. My life, my choices, none of their business.

  • babbleon Oct 13, 2011

    "If Democrats win control of the board I don't know if the neighborhood schools plan will continue as scheduled."

    They won and it will not. YouMakeItSoEasy

    Even Tata, who built and presented the plan, has said there's holes in it that he would like to see addressed. The plan itself says that assignment to the closest schools will lead to 53 schools over capacity and 50 under. It was NEVER going to be going to the closest school.

    In 2008, 86% of assigned students went to a school within 5 miles of their home, and 99% went to one within 10 miles. The issue of 'neighborhood schools' was bull. We already had them.

  • babbleon Oct 13, 2011

    So the $11K+ per student spending has a lot to do with smaller districts than student teacher/student ratios. Nancy

    Yeah, it is an interesting comparison. I don't know enough to really estimate the impact of the various differences - I know higher special ed (Boston) is higher per capita, but I don't know if higher minorities / school lunch (NC) would increase per capita requirements.

    From what I know has impacts - smaller districts and more special ed students, higher teacher pay due to higher cost of living, Boston should have higher per capita costs. It would be very interesting to see a breakdown of the two budgets and see where we're spending more.