Longtime supporter of Wake schools concerned

Dr. Ann Denlinger, president of the Wake Education Partnership, says she's troubled about a plan to move toward community-based schools in Wake County and away from the current diversity policy.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The direction of the Wake County Board of Education might not be the way to go when it comes to assigning students to schools, the head of the Wake Education Partnership said Thursday.

Dr. Ann Denlinger, president of the nonprofit organization that's been a 26-year supporter of the school system, says it's still too early to tell the effects of the board's plan to move away from the district's longstanding busing policy to achieve socioeconomic diversity.

Based on the Wake Education Partnership's own study of assigning students to their closest school, however, about 25 schools in the system would likely have a high concentration of poor children if the system went to a community-based system.

"We cannot support that," Denlinger said. "It's not in the best interest of our children."

The issue has been a contentious one that has drawn emotional and tense response from supporters on both sides of the debate and has led to sharp criticism, including accusations of racism, toward the school board's new majority.

In part, opponents of the board's plan say it will lead to segregation; proponents say it will give allow parents to be more involved in their children's schooling.

The board voted 5-4 Tuesday in favor of a resolution to begin planning for the phase-out of the current assignment policy. Board Chairman Ron Margiotta, members Debra Goldman, Chris Malone, Deborah Prickett and John Tedesco voted for the resolution, while members Kevin Hill, Dr. Anne McLaurin, Dr. Carolyn Morrison and Keith Sutton voted against it.

"There hasn’t been a plan that's specific yet," Denlinger said. "I think the board is working toward clarifying what they mean, but in the absence of that, when you say neighborhood schools and you look at what that looks like, (segregation's) what you end up with."

Russell Capps, a former state representative and president of the Wake County Taxpayers Association, supports the new board majority and says he doesn't think the community-based schools plan would result in a segregated system.

"We think everyone needs to give the new school board a chance to see what they can do," he said. "I think they have plans to carry out these proposals that will be good for the children of Wake County."

Denlinger says her group believes there is a need for change when it comes to assigning students and addressing achievement, but she doesn't believe the current proposal will work.

"We have looked across this country for an example of a school system that has segregated children in this way, that gets good results, that sustains strong schools over the years," she said. "We have not been able to find one single school system in this country where you isolate poor children by neighborhood and still have high quality schools."

She hopes the Wake Education Partnership can work with the board in addressing the issue and come to a resolution beneficial for all students and the community.

"We would very much like to find a place to land that is in the best interest of this community, going forward, and that serves all children well," Denlinger said. "I still believe such a place exists. We haven't found it yet."


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