Parents voice final concerns about Wake student assignment
Posted January 24, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — Public hearings about the future of assignment in Wake schools over the last two weeks have revealed a community divided.
There are parents who want schools on a traditional calendar, parents who want year-round schools, parents who are concerned that assignment changes will overcrowd classrooms and parents who want to attract students to particular schools.
"York wants to increase its enrollment, continue embracing diversity," said Stacy England.
Other parents simply wanted to thank the board for changes in their communities.
"You have given MacArthur Park stability, proximity and choice," said Paula King.
It seemed every possible point of view on student reassignment in Wake schools was represented at a public hearing Monday.
The meeting, at Cary High School, 638 Walnut St., was the fourth and final hearing on proposed changes to the district's 2011-12 reassignment plan, which could affect the placement of more than 4,700 students.
The greatest point of contention continues to be between neighborhood school assignments and the district's former policy of bussing students to balance out diversity in schools.
Parents who support assignment based on proximity said it will bring families and communities together.
"Our kids can finally get to a school that is ten minutes away," said Craig Duerr.
For Bill Butler, there are five miles between his child's current assignment and the assignment he is hoping for in 2011-12.
Allison Backhouse said the move to neighborhood schools is not going fast enough.
"We are not stupid and are tired of your lip service," she said.
Other parents are concerned that abandoning the diversity policy casts negative attention on the school district, which has been in national headlines for its reassignment controversy.
"We are being held up in the national media for ridicule and disgust," Jamie Dunsten said.
These parents allege that if assignments are based on neighborhoods, children in poorer areas will be at a disadvantage.
"Creating high poverty schools is a move backward, not forward," said Bridgette Burge.
Phillip Butler challenged school board members who have said that diversity has a negative impact on student achievement.
"I have yet to see stats on how diversity program is bad," he said.
The board expects to decide on an assignment plan next month.
Two other groups met Monday night to discuss the future of Wake schools.
Parents for Educational Freedom packed a meeting room at the North Raleigh Hilton to discuss charter schools among other things. They screened "Waiting for Superman," a documentary that focuses on the nation's public school system.
The nonprofit group supports school choice for parents.
WakeUP Wake County, a nonpartisan group of business leaders, educators and concerned citizens, held its annual meeting at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh.
Their meeting focused more generally on growth and development issues in the county. Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker was in attendance.