Former board members say they support Wake students

Posted April 26, 2010 4:52 p.m. EDT
Updated April 26, 2010 7:16 p.m. EDT

Wake County Public School System

— A group of 25 former members of the Wake County Board of Education spoke out Monday in support of the school system, saying they are willing to help as controversy lingers on how students are placed in the district's schools.

"We really want to stick and be on the positive note of not being complainers but being people who have our hand out to help, if we can," former board member Judy Hoffman said.

The move comes as a school board student assignment committee is beginning to look at a community-based assignment model to replace the system's current plan, which buses students to help schools maintain a socio-economic balance.

"Every child is important, and the educational success of every child is what we need to be focusing on," said former board member Bill Fletcher.

Supporters of the community assignment plan say it will keep students closer to their homes, allow for more parental involvement and give parents more options in their children's education.

The plan's opponents fear that changing the current assignment model would create pockets of poverty in the school system and ultimately re-segregate the schools.

The neighborhood schools initiative, however, was not specifically mentioned at a news conference Monday.

"We want to join with others in the community to ensure an equal opportunity for a sound basic education for every child in Wake County public schools," the group said in a statement.

"For over 30 years, the Wake County Public School System has been a model for school districts around the nation," the group continued. "Because research consistently shows that challenges to success for all students in high-poverty and racially isolated schools are greater, we have worked to prevent the creation of such schools."

Others disagree.

"The question is whether these past members – whose policies put us in this place –  really want to constructively take a hard look at the problems facing our school system and how to make those better," said Joey Stansbury, with the parents group WakeCares, which supports neighborhood schools.

School board Chairman Ron Margiotta said it appears that the group has the same goal as the school system but said it was the same group that "created the problems that we are living with today and that we now have to correct."

"We welcome the support from everyone and everybody, as they (the current board) undo and correct the problems of the past – and by doing so, they will be able to offer stability and choice."