Wake County Schools

Federal civil rights investigators hear community thoughts on Wake schools

Posted May 4, 2011

— Nearly a year after filing a federal complaint against Wake County Schools, the state NAACP and others got the chance voice their concerns directly to those investigating it.

A five member panel from the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights traveled from Washington D.C. to Raleigh on Wednesday for a public hearing.

Last summer, the NAACP filed a complaint with the office alleging a plan to change how students are assigned to schools across the county would concentrate poor students into schools in poor communities.

As part of its investigation, the OCR wanted to hear directly from citizens about the Wake County school board's student assignment policy.

Thirty-two people spoke at the forum held at the Martin Street Baptist Church in Raleigh.

Many told the panel the change in policy would kill diversity in the schools.

“Neighborhood schools mean re-segregated schools," retired educator John Eberhard said. 

Amy Lee, the parent of a Wake County student, said the board is "our schools into have and have nots.”

While voices against the change in assignment policy dominated the hearing, some also came to speak out in favor of it.

Substitute teacher Jeral Mooneyham argued the old policy did not work.

“The policy of busing for diversity has amounted to dump them and flunk them," Mooneyham said. 

“We already had racially identifiable schools and nobody said anything about it,” parent Jennifer Mansfield said.

Office for Civil Rights holds forum on Wake schools Office for Civil Rights holds forum on Wake schools

Two Wake County school board members, Deborah Prickett and Keith Sutton, also attended the meeting.

Earlier in the day, the OCR met with school board members to discuss reasons behind their decisions.

Board member John Tedesco told WRAL News that he thinks the investigation will have a positive outcome.

"It's a great opportunity for us to showcase all of the good work we've done, and to showcase how this is much more detailed and substantive than bumper sticker politics that have been tossed around," he said. 

Tedesco questioned the venue for the public hearing saying that Martin Street Baptist was not a neutral spot because it has been the site of several other pro-diversity meetings.

“It's a group of people brought together and hosted, and even the speakers were screened by the plaintiffs in the case. That seems a little unfair to me," he said. 

State NAACP President Rev. William Barber denied Tedesco's claims. 

“This is a church, one of the most outstanding churches. This is a fellowship hall. We have done better than they did. They kept everything small, wouldn't open it up. People had to sign in to get in. You don't see anyone being denied here, everybody can come," Barber said. 

Barber spoke out during the public meeting telling the OCR that getting rid of the previous student assignment policy was a big mistake.

"This majority of the school board came in and dismantled a nationally recognized, successful plan without a plan," Barber said. "The board came up with their own ideas and ignored solid research."

After months of heated debate among board members and within the community about how to assign students closer to their homes, the board has deferred to Superintendent Tony Tata to develop a student plan.

Tata has temporarily reassigned six members of his staff to focus entirely on that task. Last week, he began sharing that plan with members of the school board.

Tata said he hopes to recommend a new student assignment policy to the board by June.

There is no timeline on how long it might take the OCR to wrap up its investigation.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • beachboater May 5, 2011

    Please tell me the problem with community schools in the first place? Growing up in another state, I walked or rode my bicycle to school every day. And it was mile, not a city block like the busses seem to pickup now.

    With community schools, it is much easier for parents to participate in school functions, it makes after school activites and sports participation available to kids that have transportation issues.

    Where's the beef?

    So called leaders like the Reverend Barber thrive on racism. Always play the race card. That's how he makes his living. The Reverend Barber even has his own website now. I read parts of it before reading this story. His website states that the State of North Carolina is responsible for providing food, health care, education, living wages, housing and anything else you can think of. Never a mention of helping people achieve anything.

    It's all about what the state has to provide.

    Tax the cost of this "investigation" to the NAACP.

    1000 characters

  • WakeHammer May 5, 2011

    I went to the meeting, what an absolute joke. Nothing but racist platitudes and accusations. There is zero basis for the OCR complaint. Unfortunately OCR ruling in favor of the school board does not mean the end of this, the NAACP and NC Center for Social Justice have unlimited resources and they will spend years fighting progress.

  • Rebelyell55 May 5, 2011

    Did the OCR give the church any money for holding the meeting there? Just wondering, ya know.

  • Nancy May 5, 2011

    wakemom, calling someone a "know it all" isn't very mature. Just presenting facts to you, if it disturbs you, don't reply.

  • Nancy May 5, 2011

    wakemom, Yes, one week before the meeting, which had been planned between NAACP and OCR privately, where OCR asked them to find a meeting place, all without the input from the school board or public.

    And the only way to know how to sign up for the meeting was through a flyer handed out by the very people who filed the complaint. And there were three names and numbers of people to call to get on the speaking roster, and yes, they too were from the people who filed the complaint.

    Not an unbiased approach for an "investigation" or do you feel comfortable with how this was handled?

  • wakemom May 5, 2011

    Yes, taylor81, and it got reported on the news media after Cash Michaels blogged about the meeting, the news media (WRAL and N&O) got their information from his blog.

    Now, how was it advertised beyond that? How did anyone know how to sign up to speak? Through a flyer the church handed out, did you get one?

    but ms nancy.. it was up here! smh! folks think just bc they dont know about it, things cant possibly have been true!

  • wakemom May 5, 2011

    wakemom, could you provide a link to the story you claim was here two weeks ago? I never saw it. In fact, no one saw it apparently.

    i love you too nancy!! now go see taylor's post ms know it all!

  • Nancy May 5, 2011

    Yes, taylor81, and it got reported on the news media after Cash Michaels blogged about the meeting, the news media (WRAL and N&O) got their information from his blog.

    Now, how was it advertised beyond that? How did anyone know how to sign up to speak? Through a flyer the church handed out, did you get one?

  • taylor81 May 5, 2011

    Just a post for #wakemom's statement:


    Posted to WRAL on 4/27. Not two weeks, but I definitely remembered reading about it!

  • Nancy May 5, 2011

    excuse me, that WakeEd blog is in the N&O online, NOT wral.