Local Politics

Voters call for end to Wake schools diversity policy

Posted October 6, 2009
Updated October 7, 2009

Wake County Public School System

— Wake County voters gave a thumbs-down Tuesday to assigning local students based on socioeconomic factors by electing candidates to the Board of Education who oppose the controversial policy.

Chris Malone won the District 1 seat on the school board, while Deborah Pickett won in District 7 and Debra Goldman took District 9.

John Tedesco was leading in the five-person race in District 2, with incumbent Horace Tart a distant third. But Tedesco lacked the majority of votes that would preclude a runoff next month.

Cathy Truitt, who was running second to Tedesco, said late Tuesday she was considering her options as to whether to force a Nov. 3 runoff.

Deborah Prickett on election night Neighborhood schools backers revel in victory

The three winning candidates and Tedesco were endorsed by community groups like WakeCARES and the Wake Schools Community Alliance because they said they were willing to change the district's student assignment policies to favor neighborhood schools.

The district aims to have no more than 40 percent of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches at any school. Students are assigned every year to maintain that level of socioeconomic diversity, as well as to fill new schools and relieve overcrowding.

The traditionally nonpartisan school board elections became a heated referendum on the district's assignment policy in recent weeks, with the topic dominating candidate forums.

The North Carolina Association of Educators backed candidates who favored the existing student assignment policy and who focused on other issues, such as retaining quality teachers and maintaining state-of-the-art facilities.

Also, a group calling itself Friends of Diversity that includes local political and business leaders made a last-ditch effort Monday to uphold current policies by saying reversing them would hurt the district's future.

Together with school board member Ron Margiotta, four new board members opposed to the diversity policy would give the neighborhood schools position a majority on the nine-person board.

"I'm feeling like the parents finally have a say now," Prickett said as she celebrated her victory with supporters. "There is just way too much reassignment, and parents are just tired of their children being moved from school to school. They need some stability."

She said she entered the race because she was upset about her own child's reassignment. Her son is scheduled to switch high schools before he graduates.

Former board member: Results bad for district Former board member: Results bad for district

School board member Keith Sutton, who supports the diversity policy, said he was disappointed with Tuesday's results.

"My heart is with the kids in the Wake County school system, and (I'm) hoping we can preserve as much as we can in terms of the policies that we do have in place and still maintain diversity," Sutton said.

He said neighborhood school proponents did a better job at mobilizing voters than supporters of the existing policy.

Former school board member Beverley Clark said most reassignments in recent years have been growth-related, not to balance diversity. She said the elections could bring major disruptions to the school system.

"We know what folks ran against, but we don't know what they ran for," Clark said. "I hope they're running for student achievement. I hope that's their No. 1 goal. If it is, they will see that keeping schools strong and vibrant is important to keeping quality teachers in all of our classrooms across the county."

Tart was the only incumbent running for re-election this fall. District 1 board member Lori Millberg, District 7 member Patti Head and District 9 member Eleanor Goettee decided to step down.


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  • JOBMO Oct 8, 2009

    "Wake Co. Resegregation Lie

    From Venita Peyton's blog (she's black and she dares to think and speak for herself).

    http://venitapeyton.com/2009/10/wake-co-resegregation-lie.html Unbelievable. The newest words to emanate on the supposed ‘behalf’ of minority families is a return to segregated schools.

    NO ONE HAS ADVOCATED A DESIRE TO RETURN TO SEGREGATED SCHOOLS! However, Raleigh/Wake County black leadership must be held accountable for failing our children. It's their indecisive leadership and laziness that has allowed whole families to fall into such high disrepair.... (see blog for whole post)."

    Thanks for posting this. Not sure why you're surprised by her opinion though. Despite what you see in the media, black people are not a monolith. Furthermore Jesse and Al don't speak for all black folks.

  • riversxing Oct 7, 2009

    I'd view any Kahlenburg study on the wonderfulness of diversity as suspect. Here's a man who wrote in an article on race and class "...consider the Bush administration’s outrageous response to Hurricane Katrina." as if Bush was to blame when in reality the blame should be on Nagin and Blanco. Repeating the same tired BS is not indicative of an objective scientist when the facts are there for anyone to see. The NYT lost their credibility badge years ago. They've manipulated information to serve their liberal agenda once too often. What we do know is this: we've had 40 years of forced busing for the express purpose of diversity. What has been the end result? No matter what some social scientist in an ivory tower says, the proof is there for all races to see. Communities in decline, lack of parental involvement, long commutes for kids, a continuing decline in test scores and student performance, and pollution. All this constant fooling around with school assignments for th

  • veekee Oct 7, 2009

    I am not at all surprised by this vote. As a parent, I am amazed at the school board's utter disregard for families. I think the early release Wednesday stupidity really just put the nail in the coffin of the school board. I am a proponent of diversity, but underprivileged children (and all children) suffer when they are forced to travel across town to go to school. Their parents struggle to get them to schools, they have a harder time attending school events, and the whole system suffers as a result. I thought the magnet program was put in place to solve this problem. Put more money into underachieving schools, and make sure students who are struggling are given extra attention. It's not that hard. Moving kids to a different school every year is NOT the answer.

  • time4real Oct 7, 2009

    "She said that she would try to promote diversity"

    but she also said she doesn't support the diversity policy.

    so which is it Ms. Truit?

  • Ken D. Oct 7, 2009

    "Rev: I'd like to see extra money go to the school that needs the most. Add teachers and programs. Bring the lowest performers up."

    That's been Charlotte's approach. The results have been disappointing. They spend about $500 more per student (all students, not just at the poor schools) and it seems to have little effect. Wake schools outperform them in almost every way. And their worst performing schools aren't improving despite the influx of cash.

    If, ten years from now, Wake schools have dropped to Charlotte's performance level, there will be a lot of people scrambling to explain why this policy change had nothing to do with it.

  • momiam Oct 7, 2009

    The Charlotte paper is actually good place to follow this story:

  • speedy Oct 7, 2009

    Rev: I'd like to see extra money go to the school that needs the most. Add teachers and programs. Bring the lowest performers up. Pick the 5 underperforming schools each year and slam dunk them with training, resources, teachers, counselors, whatever. Get them going and move on to the next 5. Splitting valuable resources to all schools, as it is now, just dilutes the effectiveness of any of it.

  • Professor Oct 7, 2009

    I am creating a world that thinks like the goodness of me and my good spiritual ways.


  • gov watchdog Oct 7, 2009


    As a husband and a parent, just about everything I do is for the benefit of my family, in so much as that I do not take from anybody else. When winter arrives, I buy a coat for my child and donate my child's old coat to someone that is "economically disadvantaged". At Christmas time, I buy presents for my family and also donate presents for the children of "economically diverse" families. When it came time to buy a house in Wake County, I knew about this idiotic program and purchased a house (literally) across the street from the school that I wanted my child to attend. I did not choose my house based on race make up of the neighborhood. For all of you that think only right wingers want to control where their children go to school, give Obama a call and ask about his kids' school. Why aren't THEY in an "economically diverse" school??

  • Professor Oct 7, 2009