Raleigh, N.C. — Wake County school board members voted 6-2 Tuesday to cooperate with a national accreditation firm looking closely at how the board conducts its business.
Board members Chris Malone and Deborah Prickett voted against the motion that board member John Tedesco put forth in an effort to send “a unanimous message” that the board would be “fully engaged participants” in Atlanta-based AdvancED’s review.
The vote comes after several weeks of back-and-forth correspondence between school board attorneys and AdvancED about the fairness and scope of the review.
AdvancED is looking into how the board reviews, changes and adopts policy for the school system following concerns last year from the North Carolina NAACP and some in the community after the board adopted a controversial student assignment policy.
Mark Elgart, AdvancED’s president, has said the purpose of its Feb.17-18 visit is not to review the policy change itself but to look at how the board operates within its own procedures.
“Our role is not to dictate policy. Our role is to help the board, within the context of our standards, govern effectively,” he said in a Jan. 14 interview with WPTF-AM. “We’ve come in here wanting to help.”
The review and visit next month, he has said, would have happened with or without the board’s cooperation.
Malone said Tuesday that he thinks the review can be fair but that it remains to be seen whether it will be.
“I hope they will, and to that end, I will be,” he said. “I will give them what they need.”
In offering up Monday’s motion, Tedesco said he still has serious concerns about the agency’s review but that AdvancED has since clarified its intent, scope and process.
“I strongly value the democratic process and believe it is our citizens who should dictate through the election process,” he said but added that it is important for the board to show that it is committed to the district’s students.
“We will proudly show a district continuing in its commitment to excellence, regardless of what those that wish to divide us can espouse,” he continued.
The issue in recent weeks has sparked an outcry by parents concerned about high schools possibly losing their accreditation if the board decided to drop it or loses it as a result of the AdvancED review.
“We've probably heard more about accreditation and diversity than anything else,” board member Keith Sutton said. “We received countless e-mails in the last two weeks encouraging us to keep the accreditation intact.”
Accreditation is important, because higher institutions of learning can use it as a factor in determining a student’s acceptance.
“As a parent of a junior in high school, the thought of him graduating from a school without accreditation is very scary,” Diana Young-Paiva, a mother of three, told board members Tuesday. “To submit an application to school without accreditation is terrifying. Move forward and do what’s best for our children.”