Wake mayors talk with school board

Mayors of several Wake County municipalities met Friday with members of the county Board of Education to talk about how they can work together more effectively.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Mayors of several Wake County municipalities met Friday with members of the county Board of Education to talk about how they can work together more effectively.

The mayors have no authority over the school board but often face pressure from residents over education-related issues. Ten of 12 mayors and six of nine school board members attended the meeting; the mayors of Wake Forest and Garner and board members Chris Malone, Deborah Prickett and Keith Sutton did not.

School board Chairman Ron Margiotta described the officials' common ground: "We all do recognize we do have a good school system here in Wake County."

Margiotta indicated that the school board expects to continue making changes. "You can't wait for results tomorrow. You have to act pretty quickly, and we're going to move in that direction," he said.

"We've got to be about continuous improvement," school board member Kevin Hill said.

The mayors' expectations for the school board largely split along geographic lines.

Mayors of eastern Wake County towns, including Rolesville, Knightdale, Wendell and Zeublon, said their schools lack the resources and programs offered in the bigger towns. They would like to see all Wake schools have equal resources.

"It's not just about assignment, not just about diversity, not just about magnet schools. It's about creating a school system where you can go to any school in Wake County and compete globally," Knightdale Mayor Russell Killen said.

Mayors of western Wake County towns, including Cary, Apex and Holly Springs, said that their residents are fed up with student reassignment. Those mayors encouraged the school board to be open to parents' concerns.

Holly Springs Mayor Dick Sears says mayors and board members should put aside their differences to work for the common goal. "It's not your school, it's not my school. It's our schools. And I'm just excited about what can happen in this county as it relates to that kind of attitude."

Apex Mayor Keith Weatherly said past boards have not listened to parents' concerns about reassignment and offered praised to the newly-elected board. "Thank you to the things that you're doing to bring a more responsive attitude back to the school system."

"There's a lot of work to do. I think it needs to be done in a manner that can sustain itself," school board member Debra Goldman said.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said that mayors often bring a different perspective and said that he would like some input, specifically with student assignment.

This week, the school board narrowly passed a resolution aimed at eliminating mandatory assignments to year-round schools. School system staff members are working on a new student assignment plan, and Meeker said he would like city planning staff to have a look at the finished report.

"They will look at it somewhat differently than your staff and give you comments as to what changes make sense, what other changes you ought to consider," Meeker said.

The discussion Friday largely steered away from heated topics, and both groups pledged to work together.

"Our communities are only as good as our schools, and if we have a strong school system, it really helps our community," Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said.