Advocacy group asks Wake school board to change meeting venue

Posted April 14, 2010 5:21 p.m. EDT
Updated April 15, 2010 2:22 p.m. EDT

Wake County Public School System

— A local advocacy group asked the Wake County Board of Education Wednesday to change where it meets allow more participation by the pubic.

Yevonne Brannon, chair of the Great Schools in Wake Coalition, said in a letter Wednesday the board’s decision to limit the number of people attending meetings by requiring tickets has limited the public’s access to the proceedings.

The school system said it started the ticket policy, which began with the March 23 meeting, because of security and safety concerns. A video feed of the meeting was provided for those weren't able to get inside, the school system said

WRAL-TV and The News & Observer offered to pay for the board to move that meeting to the Fletcher Opera Theater at the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh.

School Board Chairman Ron Margiotta described the offer as "generous" but declined it, school system spokesman Michael Evans said. The board meeting was already posted, and there was no time between meetings to change locations, Evans said.

A number of attorneys sent a letter to Margiotta last month saying that the ticket plan would "unfairly prevent many parents and other members of the public" from attending, which violates the state's open meetings laws.

"As a political subdivision of the state of North Carolina, the board exists solely to conduct the people's business, and, as current chairman of the board, you have a duty to ensure that all hearings, deliberations and actions of the board be conducted openly," the attorney-signed letter said.

The letter was signed by attorneys for the UNC Center for Civil Rights, the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, the North Carolina Justice Center and other groups.

The decision to require tickets came as the school board was holding its final vote on the controversial resolution to begin planning for a new assignment policy focusing on community-based schools. The resolution passed.

The board’s next public meeting is scheduled for Tuesday at 3 p.m. in the school system board room on the second floor at 3600 Wake Forest Road in Raleigh. The board has not said whether tickets will be required for attendance.