Local Politics

Outgoing members say challenges await new Wake school board

Posted November 29, 2009
Updated December 1, 2009

— Outgoing Wake County school board members say that newly-elected members could apply lessons learned by their predecessors as they strive to keep campaign promises, including support for neighborhood schools.

Wake County school board member Patti Head Outgoing Wake school board members reflect

During the eight years Patti Head served as the board's chair and vice-chair, the Wake County Public School System grew by more than 40,000 students and 37 schools.

No decision prompted more backlash than student assignment, she said.

"Particularly, what I found over eight years is you can't make everyone happy, that you do the very best you can in putting in balance, resources both financial and human resources,” Head said.

The newly-elected members – Debra Goldman, Chris Malone, Deborah Prickett and John Tedesco – gained endorsements from community groups, including WakeCARES and the Wake Schools Community Alliance, for their willingness to change student assignment policies in favor of neighborhood schools.

The school system's policy is to have no more than 40 percent of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches at any school. Students are reassigned each year to maintain that level of socioeconomic diversity, as well as to fill new schools and relieve overcrowding.

Outgoing board member Eleanor Goettee, who supports the diversity policy, said most recent reassignments have been driven by growth, not diversity. Growth will also make the new school board members' promise of neighborhood schools hard to fulfill, she said.

"It's impossible in some of these really dense neighborhoods for all those children to go to the 'neighborhood school,'" Goettee said. "In fact, the new board is going to have a difficult time determining how you define a neighborhood school."

In the election, support for the student assignment policies came from the North Carolina Association of Educators and the Friends of Diversity, a group newly formed by local political and business leaders that made a last-ditch campaign. Supporters argued that reversing current policies would hurt the district's future, and Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP chapter, said it would essentially re-segregate schools.

"I do not want us to revert to segregated schools, to schools of high poverty,” Goettee said.

Both Head and Goettee said they decided to not seek re-election so they could spend more time with family and pursue other interests. They offered advice for new school members, who will be sworn in Tuesday.

Goettee cautioned that making tough decisions will take a toll.

"Every decision has impact and consequence for so many children, so the seriousness of which we had to address everything is just stressful, to be honest," she said.

Head said the new members should proceed with thoughtfulness and consideration.

"Study the issues, and listen to both those voices that are very loud but also those that are softer-spoken voices, and try to balance the issues,” she said.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • whatusay Dec 1, 2009

    Rev Barber/NAACP will be looking at the "neighborhood school" policy. He is sueing Johnston County for lack of diversity and I am sure neighborhood schools will make race the main issue for the NAACP.

  • time4real Nov 30, 2009

    wow, does anyone love the ones who destroyed the school system in just 8 short years? the ones who destroyed so many families peace with their mandates and forced bunk? NOPE!

  • speedy Nov 30, 2009

    Don't let the door hit 'ya.....

  • HangOn Nov 30, 2009

    C-ya, now go away!
    This is what voters overwhelmingly wanted. Forget all this "segregation" hype - it's just a buzz word played by some racist thugs. Bring your lawsuit. The voters have already spoken, loudly!
    LOCAL schools.
    Think your neighborhood is "segregated" and don't like it? Then MOVE! Kick out the criminals. Do something for yourself other than milk the system while holding down the couch on your porch. At least TRY to educate yourself and make something better, advancement - for everyone.

  • carnival glass Nov 30, 2009

    Good riddance.

  • Suasponte Nov 30, 2009


  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Nov 30, 2009

    I'm surprised that the liberals support socio-economic diversity seeing how much diesel fuel it wastes along with the pollution generated by all of the buses.

    Guess liberals are okay with using diesel fuel and polluting the environment as long as it enables their goal of socio-economic diversity.

    Yet these same liberals tell us how bad our SUVs are that burn a fraction of the gas that the buses burn plus polluting less than the buses.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Nov 30, 2009

    I have no idea why people believed the new lies of "neighborhood schools will save money" and "economic segregation is OK", despite all the evidence to the contrary in Charlotte. - ncwebguy"

    There is a savings in neighborhood schools, if you just look at reduced diesel fuel usage from less busing, less drivers salaries and benefits from less busing, and less bus maintenance because of fewer miles driven and fewer buses.

  • venitapeyton Nov 30, 2009

    Wouldn't it be great if the outgoing school board members would offer their unqualified support to the new members for their collective success in educating all Wake County children and their parents?

    Because the pessimistic 'resegregation' mantra is getting old.

  • Timbo Nov 30, 2009

    I think the current batch of losers should be the last ones handing out un-asked for advice. Especially given they refused to listen to their customer's complaints.

    Good bye, good riddance.