National NAACP leaders want Wake school board chair to resign

Posted March 9, 2010 5:41 p.m. EST
Updated March 10, 2010 10:48 p.m. EST

— Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, joined the state chapter on Tuesday in calling for the resignation of Wake County School Board Chairman Ron Margiotta after comments he made during a heated public hearing on March 2.

Margiotta could be heard saying, “Here come the animals out of their cages," during the meeting on the school system’s long-standing policy of assigning students to ensure schools had no more than 40 percent of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches.

Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP, says the comment by Margiotta is evidence of "racist attitudes" on the board.

Margiotta says his comment was out of line but had nothing to do with race. He insists he was responding to how rude people in the crowd were following statements by Bill Randall, a black Republican congressional candidate who spoke in favor of the board’s move to end the diversity policy in favor of community-based schools.

The back-and-forth between proponents of the Board of Education’s move to end busing for socio-economic diversity and those in favor of the current student assignment policy has evoked heated and sometimes intense debate.

Margiotta’s comments came shortly before the board voted 5-4 in favor of a resolution to move away from the diversity policy.

The resolution requires a second and final vote, which is expected at the next school board meeting on March 23.

The state NAACP has threatened legal action against the school system if the diversity policy is dropped. The civil rights organization has been an outspoken critic of the school board's idea for community-based schools, saying it is a "racially discriminatory policy" that will segregate poor students and keep them from receiving the same quality of education as more advantaged students.

School board members, however, have insisted that they have no plans to segregate students and that student achievement is their top priority.

Meanwhile, the board plans to hold a closed-session meeting Tuesday evening to discuss the contract of Wake County schools Superintendent Del Burns.

In several interviews last month, Burns, who announced he's resigning June 30, accused the board of "partisan political gamesmanship" and said ending the system's diversity policy would segregate rich schools and poor schools.

Several community groups have called for Burns' immediate removal, while others have come to his defense. Board members also appear to be divided with many in the new majority offended and concerned about the ability to work with him for the next four months.

Stay logged on to for more on this developing story, and watch for a live report during WRAL News at 11.