Wake County Schools

Partisanship on Wake school board part of national trend

Posted September 26, 2012

Wake County Public School System
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— The 5-4 votes along political lines that have marked the Wake County Board of Education's actions in recent years, including Tuesday's firing of Superintendent Tony Tata, are part of a growing national trend.

Bitter partisanship at the national level is trickling down to school systems across the country, according to Ann Denlinger, head of the Education Department at William Peace University in Raleigh.

Denlinger spent 24 years in the Wake County school district before serving as superintendent in Wilson and Durham counties. She came back to Raleigh in 2007 to lead the Wake Educational Partnership before joining the Peace University faculty last year.

A lot of politicians start their careers on school boards, where they deal with some pretty hot topics, from charter schools to tuition vouchers to unions, she said.

In Wake County, she said, the politicization of the school board has been building for years.

"It's not something that happened overnight," she said.

Two decades ago, rapid growth led to a school building boom. Students' schools were changed repeatedly as the board struggled to fill new schools according to an assignment plan written in the 1980s.

Denlinger said the board didn't listen to parents as they grew more frustrated over the reassignments.

Wake school board work session Political lines on Wake school board not drawn overnight

"We missed the opportunity to have those discussions, and so, as in most cases when it gets to the political arena, we go from one extreme to another," she said.

The pendulum started swinging in 2009, with the Republican takeover of the board. Denlinger said it was the first time she had ever heard a school board member claim a political party.

Last year, Democratic candidates retook the majority position on the board.

"Instead of it being about sitting down and talking about our children all across this county, it was about winning and losing. It was about Democrats and Republicans," she said of the election cycle.

Partisanship takes the focus off students, she said, adding that community leaders from both parties will need to pressure the school board members to work together.

"There's a reason you're not elected as a Democrat or a Republican," she said. "It was designed correctly, and so folks, let's get back to what made us great."

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  • superman Sep 27, 2012

    How long did she serve in Wilson and Durham counties. Seems she has moved around more than her share. What position she hold in Wake County? I recall she was a teacher.

  • Da Toy Maker Sep 27, 2012

    "disagree totally....I have lived in a dozen cities/states over the last 2 decades and I have NEVER witnessed such baloney anywhere else!
    ctkane"

    I believe it is referencing to today's political climate. DOn't you agree?

  • Ready2Taxi Sep 27, 2012

    "Two decades ago, rapid growth led to a school building boom. Students' schools were changed repeatedly as the board struggled to fill new schools according to an assignment plan written in the 1980s. Denlinger said the board didn't listen to parents as they grew more frustrated over the reassignments."

    Bingo! I've lived in Wake Co since 1980 and watched this unfold. The school system has been behind the growth curve since the late 80s. Not because they didn't plan, or were not competent leaders. In spite of the school building boom, the region's rate of growth exceeded the speed of government. Every time a new school opened, it was already over-crowded. Which prompted the annual reassignments. Add to that a succession of aloof school boards that seemed to really care less what the parents were having to put with.

  • Da Toy Maker Sep 27, 2012

    "...
    Guess what, that county has 240,000 population with 24 elementary schools and has no magnet schools or socio-economic diversity (race) based busing.

    This county has neighborhood schools and the only busing is within each school's attendance area.

    ...
    ConservativeVoter"

    Where is the County? What is the local Property Tax Rate? What is per student spending there? (Wake County is about $7,700 per student BTW). My buddy moved to Seattle and his kids have no problem keeping up with the Honor program there. What is your point? I have seen Private schools kids struggled in Colleges and Public school graduate excel in Colleges. My personal take is: If the kids are doing well, it really doesn't matter a whole lot where they go to schools.

  • ctkane Sep 27, 2012

    disagree totally....I have lived in a dozen cities/states over the last 2 decades and I have NEVER witnessed such baloney anywhere else!

  • Rebelyell55 Sep 27, 2012

    Time to do away with school boards. Waste of tax dollars.

  • Scubagirl Sep 27, 2012

    As long as school board members are elected by the public-who ARE partisan-then the make up will be as well. It then becomes about the 'party' NOT the children; which we are seeing here.

  • tarheelgrad1998 Sep 27, 2012

    Yes, let's put the blame on a "nationwide trend", not on a bunch of people who mismanage the school system, and let their personal egos and agenda get in the way. Nah.

  • FairPlay Sep 27, 2012

    Why in the world are school board members part of political parties? They are supposed to be for the children and nothing else. This needs to stop.

  • handbasket Sep 27, 2012

    this is NOT part of a nationwide trend... this is ideological differences by which the liberal hippies & un-diverse baiters have infiltrated our universities & media & they are ignorantly destroying our blessed country.

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