Wake County Schools

Wake school board members open to 'school choice' plan

Posted February 11, 2011

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— At least three Wake County school board members spoke out favorably Friday about a new student assignment plan on the table that authors say will not only meet the school board’s goal of community schools but also ensure all students get an opportunity to succeed.

“We’re going to send it to our superintendent and our staff and let them sort of look at some of the nuts and bolts of the system,” board member John Tedesco said.

The Wake Education Partnership and Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce unveiled the so-called “Wake School Choice” model at a news conference Friday morning, during which leaders of both groups said it would satisfy the board’s objectives of stability for students, choice for parents and assigning students to schools close to home.

“It adds a fourth goal, which is student achievement, the primary reason schools exist,” said Gordon Brown, chairman of the Wake Education Partnership’s Board of Directors.

The way the plan works is that parents get a choice of at least 10 elementary schools, five middle schools and five high schools – including schools with traditional calendar, year-round calendar and magnet options – based on their address.

Students get priority based on proximity and if they already have siblings at that school. Under a grandfathering clause, students can also opt to stay put in their current schools. (Read more about the Wake School Choice plan.)

But Brown warned it is not a detailed assignment plan but only a “flexible framework” that requires many critical decisions by the school board and school leaders.

“Student assignment plans do not teach children,” he said. “Teachers teach children, but a good assignment plan can aid or hinder teachers in that effort.”

Under the assignment policy that the school board adopted last year, students will be assigned to schools closer to their homes instead of some being bused to help achieve socio-economic diversity across the county.

Groups release 'controlled choice' plan for Wake schools Web only: Wake School Choice news conference

Tedesco was one of four Republican board members voted into office in 2009 who ran on a platform of neighborhood schools. All four and Chairman Ron Margiotta adopted the policy last February, despite outcries from the public and the board’s four Democratic members.

“What we were saying all along is that this county is very diverse already, and if you allow choice, you will inherently drive more diversity in a lot of our schools,” Tedesco said. “That would be a natural component of a parental choice model. So, we were pushing for that, just in a different way, using different tools, and this model is in sync with that.”

Debra Goldman, the school board’s co-chairwoman and a member of the board’s Republican majority, also expressed support of the Wake School Choice model.

In a statement, she pushed for an implementation plan of the board’s new assignment policy to be in place and approved by summer to be applied in the 2012-13 school year to allow a full year for schools and families to prepare.

“I believe this deliberate and reasoned process will produce the best overall result for all involved in this crucial decision,” she said. “I recognize that we as a community want to do what is best for our children and their academic future. I encourage my fellow board members to join with me and embrace this approach.”

Board member Keith Sutton, a member of the minority who have defended the long-standing policy of busing for diversity, called the plan “a good framework that makes a good attempt to try to include many important factors.”

Speaking on the issue of diversity Gary Joyner, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors, said their proposal doesn’t specifically focus on diversity but recognizes that it is important.

The diversity issue has created a firestorm as community members and civic groups, including the state NAACP, register fears that community-based schools will lead to segregation and unequal access to a quality education for poor students.

“We expect diversity to be a natural outgrowth of the plan, but this proposal does not mandate diversity,” Joyner said. “The mix of students this plan cares about most is a mix that provides every child with an opportunity to succeed and schools staffed by excellent principals and strong teachers.”


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  • emprice00 Feb 16, 2011

    I was bused every year to a different school yet never moved...never went to a local school. After battling the school board and coming out unsuccessful every year, my parents finally sent me to a private school for highschool so I could actually stay in one place and flourish academically and put roots down socially.

    Personally, I have never understood how this redistricting helps students. Those who are bused in (as opposed to bused out as I was) struggle just the same and find it hard to fit in. More disruption is caused and students have an added hurdle to be able to focus and achieve academic goals. It's a strain on everyone and needs to be ended. I hope redistricting is finally axed and students are given the fair and just option to attend a school within reasonable proximity to their household. When speaking of discrimination - it goes both ways. Why was I bused out? Why were others bused in? It divides people and communities and harbors resentment and discrimination both ways

  • geosol Feb 11, 2011

    "This expose just how incompetent the board majority is. Someone else had to perform their duties." That explains so much! The Chamber is basically offering another version of the nieghborhood schools that the wingers were screeching about, and someone told them that it's BAD!! Reminds me of how the Democrats took the same basic health care bill that the GOP had proposed, but someone told the right wingers that it was BAD now! Too funny!

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Feb 11, 2011

    School Choice is brought to us by the same people that brought us the failed socio-economic diversity (race) based busing policy.

    School Choice is nothing more than a relabeling of the failed socio-economic diversity (race) based busing policy.

  • harmstrong4 Feb 11, 2011

    really funny how incompetent voters are to require incompetent outsiders to come in and be incompetent. You folks need some whine with your cheese

  • TheAdmiral Feb 11, 2011

    JMOP - then if there was bad schools - then the parents did not have to go very far to dump the school administration.

  • blackdog Feb 11, 2011

    ...And now they are going to turn it over to an inexperienced superintendent....

  • blackdog Feb 11, 2011

    This expose just how incompetent the board majority is. Someone else had to perform their duties.

  • TheAdmiral Feb 11, 2011

    As I said before - they should keep their nose out of the reassignment plan and focus on Science and Math objectives.

    These are the same folks whining that they can not find people to fill the jobs, hence outsourcing it to a country that pays twelve cents a month.

  • whatelseisnew Feb 11, 2011

    "No opportunity to get away from "bad schools" (real or perceived)"


  • geosol Feb 11, 2011

    Looks like the Chamber's plan has drawn the ire of both the far right and far left. It must have some merit, then. Let's move forward and reverse the damage.