Education

Wake school board reverses diversity policy

Posted March 24, 2010 12:01 a.m. EDT
Updated March 24, 2010 5:52 a.m. EDT

— The Wake County Board of Education voted Tuesday to end the school system's long-standing student assignment policy.

About 80 people spoke at a heated public hearing before the board voted 5-4 in favor of an assignment model in which students go to schools within a certain community zone.

The decade-old assignment method buses students across the district to help achieve socio-economic diversity, allowing no school more than 40 percent of students receiving free- or reduced-price lunches.

Newly elected board member John Tedesco said the majority's vision for a new model of neighborhood schools is to give parents choices. He said busing students to achieve diversity hasn't been working.

"That has only ended up promoting low expectations, and that model of education has not served us very well," Tedesco said Tuesday.

The community-based assignment plan was a key point in last year's election, in which voters elected Tedesco and three other candidates who said they supported moving away from the diversity policy.

Despite tensions over the plan, which have lingered for weeks, Tedesco joined board Chairman Ron Margiotta and members Deborah Prickett, Chris Malone and Debra Goldman in voting in favor of the neighborhood-schools resolution, while board members Keith Sutton, Kevin Hill, Anne McLaurin and Carolyn Morrison voted against it.

Opponents of the resolution said they fear it will lead to re-segregation.

"It certainly appears we have moved in that direction," McLaurin said.

"I am very disappointed," Sutton said following the vote.

The newly elected board members insist that they have no plans to segregate students.

"Everybody believes in diversity," Malone said. "We are a very integrated community, and we are going to continue being so."

Rev. William Barber, chairman of the state NAACP, said his group plans a "mass forum" to discuss the assignment change and that he will be scrutinizing every move of the board as they work on the community-schools model.

"Let it be known, your press to go backward will only serve to intensify our moral and political and legal fight to go forward. We will never go back," Barber told the board Tuesday.

A crowd of students also chanted, "Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Re-segregation has got to go," outside as the meeting was held in the district’s administration building. Three people were arrested and taken to the Wake County jail.

With the resolution passed, a student assignment committee will take input and create a plan for community assignment zones over the next nine to 15 months.