Wake County Schools

Wake student assignment vote draws criticism

Posted June 20, 2012
Updated June 22, 2012

— Democratic school board members who voted in favor of changing the Wake County Public School System's barely year-old student assignment plan reassured parents Wednesday that the vote wasn't an effort get rid of the current plan but to improve upon it.

After hours of debate that went into the early hours of Wednesday morning, the Democratic-controlled board voted 5-4 along party lines in favor of a directive for school system staff to develop a revised plan for the 2013-14 school year that integrates the best practices and strategies from both the current plan and the previous plan.

The current plan, commonly referred to as the "controlled-choice" plan, allows parents to rank among a list of schools where they would prefer their children to attend. The school system, however, ultimately decides placement based on the feedback.

Under the previous plan, the school system shifted students to schools across the county in an effort to keep schools socio-economically diverse.

“The importance of diversity in our schools – how we try and maintain diverse schools – is something we have to look at with whatever plan we put on the table," school board Chairman Kevin Hill said. "Let’s try to find what is the best of the plans that we have.”

In the directive, board members say the revised plan should focus on student achievement, stability and proximity and that each address should be assigned a school or schools within a "reasonable distance."

“The idea is to find ways to continuously improve," Hill said. "I don’t know how you do that if people are afraid to put those things on the table – what's not working and what could work."

Superintendent Tony Tata, the architect of the controlled-choice plan, and his staff have until September to bring forth a new plan.

Wake student assignment vote draws criticism Wake student assignment vote draws criticism

"We serve at the direction of the board, and we will take that direction, and we will try to make an even better plan, going forward," he said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Over the past few weeks, he has said that, despite the need for some tweaks, most parents have been satisfied with the new plan.

Student transfer numbers appear to support that claim. They are down by almost half, from 4, 227 to 2,439, according to the school system.

Other board members, however, pointed to numbers that show the choice plan is creating a higher number of schools with a larger number of low-income students – something that prompted the state NAACP last week to complain to federal civil rights investigators already looking into the student assignment plan.

The group released a statement Wednesday evening in support of the school board's decision to revise the plan.

"The North Carolina NAACP, which has been deeply involved in student assignment issues and integration of public schools since its inception in 1909, regards this critical conversation as long overdue," state NAACP President Rev. William Barber said in the statement.

Wednesday morning's vote is the latest chapter in an ongoing public struggle over how students should be assigned to schools in the state's largest school district.

In 2010, a Republican-controlled board majority voted to replace the diversity-based assignment plan, saying that it caused instability in Wake County families and that it wasn't working to improve student achievement.

Opponents of the Republican-backed plan argued that it would lead to student segregation, high teacher turnover and a lower quality of education for low-income students.

Board member John Tedesco, who voted for the controlled-choice plan in 2010, said changing the assignment plan now would be a step in the wrong direction.

"To go back to the old business as usual with reassignment year in and year out down the pipe, that is the wrong way to do," he said.

The board's latest decision drew similar reaction from both parents and groups with a stake in Wake County education.

About two dozen people addressed the school board Tuesday night about the student assignment issue – both in support of and against changing it without giving it a chance.

Parent Erin Gaynor was among them.

"They're trying to tweak something that hasn't even been put into place," she said. "The infighting is not going to solve this problem, and we need to get past that."

The Wake Education Partnership called the decision disappointing and frustrating.

The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to members Wednesday afternoon saying that reopening the student assignment discussion without giving the current plan a chance would create "new community uncertainty."

"The problem remains inadequate school capacity, an issue to be discussed in the months ahead," the chamber said, referencing the need for school construction bonds next year.


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  • westernwake1 Jun 22, 2012

    "A suggestion for the board, make the neighorhood school dummies happy, I use that word because they ignore the fact that neighborhood schools are a failure everwhere they exist ..." - dlnorri

    Over 95% of the school districts in the U.S. use neighborhood-based school assignment. Every single one of the top 100 academic achieving schools districts in the U.S. use neighborhood-based school assignment.

    Are you saying that 95% of the school districts in the U.S. are failures including the top 100 school districts with the top test scores? No wonder we have an issue with attaining educational excellence in Wake County - the parents posting on WRAL can not deal with facts or statistics.

  • vogelkb Jun 22, 2012

    Changing the policy every year and the home school for kids every year is exausting, stressful, and bad for children. This new policy may not have worked for a few, but it did work for many many families. The school board isn't even giving this new plan a chance. While the opposition voice are loud, they are few. This plan really did work well for the majority of parents and I appreciated the more enpowerment I had to have a say in what school my child may have the opportunity to attend.

  • josephlawrence43 Jun 21, 2012

    Its simple folks--IF the parents are not educated and do not care about education--the kids won't care either. An easy way to find out what parents think of education--look around their houses--how many books, newspapers, magazines--even Bibles do you see. ?? If you see a lot of those items then the higher likelihood that the parents have an interest in education. The fewer you see--the less concerned they are about learning.

  • charmcclainlovesdogs2 Jun 21, 2012

    if you go home to parents who don't help you with your work and help to continue your education...I'm just saying.


    You could be right on that. But in the long run, the parents are not always going to be there to help them. Like on a job. Agree? That is when they won't be shinning like the sun.

  • charmcclainlovesdogs2 Jun 21, 2012

    A child can learn in any school if the parents would realize this. Allow your child to expand their minds. In the end you will be so proud. If the certain schools was no good or up to standards, do you really believe NC would allow that particular school to remain open. So therefore, all school is great. Students has to want to learn all that they can obtain.

  • Juststatingthefacts Jun 21, 2012

    What you learn in class, the quality of the teacher who teaches you,and being bused across town to attend a "better school" means nothing if you go home to parents who don't help you with your work and help to continue your education...I'm just saying.

  • Juststatingthefacts Jun 21, 2012

    What ever happened to the days when we just went to the school that was the closest to your house, played with the kids you went to school with, were involved with extra curricular activities, and had parents that told you what was right from wrong. The problem with Wake County is that the parents have too many options and choices, go to school where you're supposed to and stop complaining.

  • shortcake53 Jun 21, 2012

    dlnorri, exactly where do you get your info?? We went to neighborhood schools and did just fine. We walked to and from, knew all our classmates and stayed together all the way through. Sorry your experience was such a flop, but a lot of us did great.

  • Commen Jun 21, 2012

    The various “socially chaos” groups disrupted the last elected county school. The last Wake County School Board was not given a fair chance. Now; live with the consequences!

  • casp3r Jun 21, 2012


    Ok sense the administration doesn't bother putting minorities in the better classes cause they won't get the help at home..

    How does busing them help? It all boils down to home life right? It doesn't matter where they go to school, or how many white kids are there. It is all because minorities don't have the home structure to help the kids. And whose fault is that? How does busing help that?

    Thanks for the debate, and no name calling :) it is refreshing