Raleigh, N.C. — The Wake County Public School System’s new superintendent met with the state NAACP on Wednesday afternoon to talk about diversity and the school board’s controversial move away from the district's longstanding practice of busing students.
The meeting was part of Superintendent Tony Tata's countywide tour to get acquainted with his new school district and its current issues and challenges.
The civil rights group requested the meeting because of its concerns about high-quality and constitutional educational opportunities for all students enrolled in the Wake County schools.
Tata said the meeting with state NAACP President Rev. William Barber and others went well.
“It's important to understand exactly where the reverend and the NAACP and the African-American community stand on many different issues, and the important thing is we are very, very close on just about everything that we talked about,” Tata said.
“We only challenged them, we said, not just to move around and just listen to people, but listen to the law, listen to research and listen to the lessons of history,” Barber said after the meeting.
Barber said he worries that changing the student assignment policy to a neighborhood schools model will concentrate poor students into schools in poor communities.
"We know that radically identifiable, high-poverty schools are the enemy of student achievement," Barber said.
Tata has taken the lead in developing a long-term plan for student assignment. He said he will focus on student achievement.
"A student assignment plan that does that will result in diversity," Tata said.
Tata says his task force to create a new assignment policy will be in full swing starting Friday.
Barber said that he will be watching the school board's progress on the matter and that the NAACP will act when it needs to.
"You should not try to create unhealthy schools and try to fix them on the back-end, " Barber said.
Some members of the NAACP team who attended the meeting were banned last year from the school board administration building after they were arrested there during protests over student assignment. Exceptions were made for them to attend Wednesday’s meeting.
Also on Wednesday, Tata met with parents and students at Martin Street Baptist Church during a forum sponsored by the student group NC Heat (Heroes Emerging Among Teens) and the Parent Advocacy Work Group.