Wake County Schools

Wake schools' split over student assignment affects 2011-12 planning

Posted November 30, 2010

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— Divisions over student assignment that have bitterly split the Wake County school board and many residents landed on the table Tuesday at the board's Student Assignment Committee meeting as it took up possible changes in where students will go for the 2011-12 school year.

Next year was supposed to be the third year of a three-year assignment plan approved in response to community anger about how frequently students were being moved from school to school as growth drove demand along with a district policy that tried to keep any school from having more than 40 percent of its students in the low-income program called free and reduced lunch.

The committee had not been considering any changes for the 2011-12 school year.

Tuesday, however, some community members on the assignment panel suggested dozens and dozens of areas – called nodes – whose hundreds and hundreds of students they said should be moved to other schools next year to embrace the district's new policy that emphasizes proximity to schools.

Watch the entire three-hour meeting

That policy change, approved 5-4 by a board that had four of its nine members elected last year, has been a bitter subject.

"What is the best thing educationally for the children who need us most?" committee community member Anne Sherron asked committee chairman and board member John Tedesco.

"We clearly have a disagreement in the board and in the community" about whether moving students to avoid high-poverty schools helps them achieve or if they would do better in schools closer to their neighborhoods, largely in southeast Raleigh. Schools in that area all are magnet schools, ones designed to draw in more affluent students whose parents want special programs for their children and volunteer to have them go there.

Opponents of the new policy have argued that bringing southeast Raleigh students home will cut out magnet seats. The school board has stated that magnet schools continue to be the centerpiece of voluntary desegregation.

Many of the nodes suggested for movement Tuesday are in southeast Raleigh.

Assignment committee members disagreed about whether achievement data is on the side of moving students or keeping them dispersed.

Voices raised over student assignment Voices raised over student assignment

"An 'a-ha' moment for me," community member Tracey Noble said, was seeing achievement data that showed students moved out of economically disadvantaged areas sometimes did worse in distant schools.

Sherron countered by asking how it would make sense to move students who were achieving in their assigned schools to other schools. That brought a flare up from Tedesco, who asked her if she was calling the potential new schools "crappy" and was saying students could not achieve there.

"John, I did not say that!" Sherron shot back

Tedesco, who has been an architect of the move to community-based schools, joined members who said that students in some nodes who are bused from near WakeMed Hospital to a school in the southwestern part of the county should not have to make that long trip.

"We have a lot of nodes like that," Tedesco said.

The long list of proposed moves – which may or may not be accommodated in a proposal that the district's Growth and Planning staff will bring to the school board next week and that will be debated and possibly revised into early 2011 – would come in what was supposed to be a year of minimal change.

Asked if the laundry list of moves suggested to implement the new policy's proximity goal contradicted the intent of the three-year plan, Tedesco said it was not working anyway.

"Minimize changes? They moved 24,000 kids last year," Tedesco said. Starting to implement proximity now is "not at all" in conflict, he added.

Most of the meeting Tuesday was devoted to a report from the staff about changes it seeks to make to balance student load in overcrowded schools and to accommodate the opening next year of Willow Creek Elementary School.

Until October, the Student Assignment Committee had been charged with drawing up a new assignment system to implement the new policy for the 2012-13 year. One of the policy supporters on the board, Debra Goldman of Cary, voted with policy opponents Oct. 5 to pull the plug on that, however. The effort was going too fast and had too little input from the community and some board members, she said.

Absent any movement now toward the 2012-13 plan, proponents of the new policy are focusing on ways to begin implementing it next year by moving nodes used in the current system.

Laura Evans, who heads the Growth and Planning Department, said the full board has set a work session for Dec. 14 to discuss the proposals it gets next week. Public hearings will follow, she said, with staff hoping to have a final plan approved by the board at its first meeting in February.

Meanwhile, the board has yet to schedule a work session for which member Kevin Hill, a policy-change opponent, won support two weeks ago. Hill wants members to agree on what it means with terms such as "proximity" and "equity" before it tries to redo the entire assignment system.

Neither Hill nor Goldman were at Tuesday's committee meeting.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • cjw6105 Dec 1, 2010

    @lineOfDuty: "All that voting ... for nothing.

    Here is the REAL problem in this county- voting. Why is it that your neighborhood can be assigned all over the map to schools that lie far away from your home and your board district, yet you're allowed only one vote every four years despite the fact that there are 9 board members?

    I had no vote in the last election. Why? I live here in Wake County too, and pay taxes to support what's supposed to be a PUBLIC school system. Instead, it's become a social lab for an all-knowing oligarchy of school administrators who know what's best for our children and are determined to ram it down our throats. I've been there, done that in regard to forced assignment to faraway magnet schools, and have never been able to hold pro-busing board members accountable at the ballot box.

    Now, their power has been threatened by a new board that wants to carry out THE one thing most people want here- neighborhood schools. Now don't that just beat all!

  • ctcook1 Dec 1, 2010

    your response is moronic. do you honestly believe that people can just move when they want to? LOW INCOME FAMILIES DO NOT HAVE THE MONEY TO MOVE TO AFFLUENT NEIGHBORHOODS. Hence being a low income family.People in Walnut Terrace would love to live in Wakefield.

  • Peace Love and Cold Meds Dec 1, 2010

    85% of parents don't care. 95% of readers don't care. Close the system down for all we care. We just no longer care. It's become too ridiculous.

  • lunarmodule Nov 30, 2010

    I watched a good bit of this meeting online. It sickened me watching these suburban parents name node after node of Southeast Raleigh students they wanted moved out of "their" schools. Someone else pointed out that they're not moving their own assignments (after all the wailing about the assignment inequities they perceived against them), they just don't want "those kids" in their schools. Bottom line.

  • NC Reader Nov 30, 2010

    geosol -- You are funny AND accurate.

  • rand321 Nov 30, 2010

    The board needs to get on with an overall long term comprehensive plan that takes the needs of parents, acheivement, population growth and changes with a BUDGET!!!

    A billion dollar enterprise operating on this haphazzard, narrow window, goal process is all wrong for the very students and taxpayers they are supposed to be serving.

    We have not even hired a new super yet!!!

    If these are good republicans they will work to spend taxpayer moeny wisely, not increase their taxes.

  • andy2 Nov 30, 2010

    This board still does not have a plan. I agree with an early comment about the board members with no children in the system and a member on a private school board. John Tedesco is a big baby and whines like a little girl anytime he is challenged. Please come up with a comprehensive plan with milestones that people can follow and understand.

  • bombayrunner Nov 30, 2010

    All that voting ... for nothing.

  • harmstrong4 Nov 30, 2010

    In texas Independent School districts you can go to any school.. You just have to bus them yourself if the school is not in your area.

  • dlnorri Nov 30, 2010

    Ahh the smell of Dummies... The schools program has produced one of the best school districts and communities in the USA, I challenge anyone to find a population the size and diversity of Wake county with the quality of schools and quality of life. Community based schools will produce what they always produce, some really great schools in very expensive neighborhoods, and poor to bad schools in all the rest of the area, and some really bad schools and neigborhoods for the poorest of the area. Lets do this, let habitat for humanity build 5,000 low income houses in carpenter/morrisville, and require all new construction greater than 350,000 for the next 10 years to be in SE Raleigh. That would fix the problem.