Education

Wake boards want to change public perception

Posted January 20, 2010 1:43 p.m. EST
Updated January 21, 2010 5:32 a.m. EST

— Wake County commissioners and school board members say they want to change the public perception that they don't get along.

In the past, the relationship between the two entities has been viewed by some as volatile, with public battles over the school board's budget and, most recently, concerns about overspending on a new high school for the Rolesville area.

The two elected bodies reached a low in 2008 when the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce held a news conference to say bickering is not good for business or education.

The boards met Wednesday to discuss plans for the new high school, tentatively called Forest Ridge High School, including where to build it. The school system has looked at about 40 sites for the school, which has been delayed nearly two years.

There was no final decision, but members of both boards said after the two-hour meeting that they are pleased with the day's talks and progress on the matter.

"This is critical," school board member John Tedesco said. "This is the two leading bodies that steer the direction of this county and our future together, and I think what you've seen today is the start of something – two boards that have gone from being contentious to now being cooperative."

Wednesday's meeting was the first of the two boards under new leadership.

Commissioner Tony Gurley, a Republican, was elected chairman late last year, and Ron Margiotta took over as school board chair in December.

Margiotta and four newly elected school board members – they were all backed in part by the Wake County Republican Party – share similar ideas about the school system with Gurley, particularly on the issue of ending mandatory year-round school assignments.

Gurley has stated that year-round schools should be a choice parents are allowed to make.

"I certainly have made it clear that I want to cooperate with the school board," Gurley said. "I look forward to this year – working together."

"I think we're going to have a good relationship," Margiotta said. "I think the commitment was made by Chairman Gurley and myself. We want to make sure we have that relationship, certainly at least through the budget process, and once we get there, it will continue."

There's still some potential for division, however. Democrats hold a majority on the Board of Commissioners. Also, newly elected school board member Debra Goldman on Tuesday split from the board majority to support a revised resolution on mandatory year-round calendars.