Supporters of school board majority plan to attend meeting

Posted July 20, 2010 11:19 a.m. EDT
Updated July 20, 2010 9:01 p.m. EDT

— Supporters of a community-based student assignment plan for Wake County schools waited in line Tuesday to get seating vouchers for an afternoon school board meeting.

About 60 people showed up at the Wake County Public School system headquarters on Wake Forest Road by to be among 250 able to attend in person the school board's 3 p.m. meeting.

The school board's decision to stop basing student assignment on socio-economic diversity and move to a community-based assignment model has been a contentious issue in the community, and approximately 1,000 opponents of the policy rallied in downtown earlier Tuesday.

The decision is supported by a 5-4 majority on the board, including four members elected last November.

"This is what they promised when they were running for office," said Donna Williams, president of the Northern Wake Republican Club, who was among the first in line for Tuesday's meeting. "I just feel like they should have a positive thank-you from some people in the group today."

Opponents of the policy change are also expected at the afternoon meeting.

Williams said she would have no problem with them coming to the school board meeting.

"That's part of what makes America, America. We are all allowed to have our own thoughts and feelings," she said. "Personally, I do not agree with what the other side is saying today, but it's not up to me. I am not going to get into a confrontation with them."

About half of the seating vouchers were still available as of shortly after 1:30 p.m.

Seating is limited inside the school board's meeting room, so vouchers are used to guarantee seating. About 100 are available for the meeting room itself, and 150 for overflow rooms with a video feed of the meeting.

Once the rooms are full, people will be asked to stand outside the building until seats become available.

People who wish to speak during the public comment period can sign up between 12:30 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. They will be admitted to speak regardless of whether they have a seating voucher.

The policy lead to a lawsuit earlier this year in which a group of Wake County residents claimed the school board violated state open meeting laws. A judge dismissed the complaint in May but asked that some changes be made.

In addition to the vouchers, the school system has hired eight off-duty police officers to provide security for Tuesday's meeting.

The move comes after a June 15 meeting in which state NAACP President Rev. William Barber and three others were arrested on trespassing charges after they disrupted the meeting.

Security costs for school board meetings have gone up dramatically amid crowded meetings since the new school majority was seated last December.

School system data shows that between July and November of last year, $451.58 was spent on security at school board meetings, while $14,719.39 was spent between December 2009 and April of this year.