Long-time supporter of Wake schools wants say in drafting new assignment plan

Posted March 29, 2010 10:11 p.m. EDT
Updated March 30, 2010 4:27 p.m. EDT

Wake County Public School System

— A group of business leaders concerned about the move to community-based schools in Wake County wants to be involved in the plan to reassign students, Wake Education Partnership's Board of Directors chair Gordon Brown said Monday.

"We are absolutely for diversity in schools. We think it is the right answer,” he said.

The Board of Education voted last Tuesday to move away from the district's longstanding busing policy to achieve socioeconomic diversity, which allows no school more than 40 percent of students receiving free- or reduced-price lunches.

Tensions over the change have drawn an emotional response from supporters on both sides of the debate. Opponents of community-based schools argue the change could create pockets of poverty and low-income, high-minority schools.

The decision has also heightened racial tensions between the school board and the NAACP, which has accused the board of trying to re-segregate schools.

The Wake Education Partnership, which has been a 26-year supporter of the school system, is concerned moving away from the diversity policy could reflect negative on the county as a whole, Brown said.

"We start getting press that is not quite as flattering as it has been in the past,” he said.

Newly elected school board member Debra Goldman disagrees. She said community-based schools will give parents more choices and that's a good thing.

"This is a positive move,” she said.

Brown said his group wants to make sure balance is maintained and has asked to be included in deciding the specifics of the new assignment plan.

“We want to be involved in those discussions to understand that, and at the end of the day we want stability. Everybody wants stability, but we also want balance,” Brown said.

The Board of Education will be listening to public concerns over the next nine to 15 months as they draft the plan, which would begin to be implemented in the 2011-2012 school year.

"We're looking for the success of students academically, stability and balance,” Goldman said.

Goldman also said one way to continue to have diversity is through magnet schools. She wants to keep existing magnets strong and perhaps create a few more.