Wake County Schools

Tata: Student assignment plan will move forward

Posted October 14, 2011 12:44 p.m. EDT
Updated October 17, 2011 2:10 p.m. EDT

Wake County Public School System

— Wake County school Superintendent Tony Tata said the Board of Education will move forward with a vote Tuesday on the proposed student assignment plan, despite calls by some parents to wait.

In his weekly press briefing, Tata said it is important to seek approval as soon as possible so that parents can begin ranking their school choices in January.

At a public hearing Thursday, some parents asked leaders to delay the vote until new school board members are seated in December. Others asked that three newly elected members be involved now.

The hearing came two days after the election of four Democratic-backed school board candidates. A runoff election for the final seat will be held Nov. 8 and will decide whether the four Republican board members keep their majority or if the four Democratic members gain it. 

"I think it would be insulting to Anne McLaurin and Carolyn Morrison and Ron Margiotta to say, 'You don't get to finish your term. You don't get to do what you were elected to do,'" Tata said Friday. 

When the new board members take office, parents like Katie Sommers fear the assignment plan won't stick.

“It’s stressful that my son is going to be moving to a new school, and he keeps asking me and everyone keeps asking me, ‘Where is he going next year?’ And I can’t say where, because I don’t know for sure at this point what’s going to happen,” she said.

In 2009, a newly elected majority on the school board threw out a decade-old plan that bused students for socioeconomic diversity. For the past two years, they've been working on a new plan.

Some parents at Thursday's hearing said they wanted more focus on student achievement, as opposed to student assignment. 

“Student achievement is it,” said parent John Dion. “I don’t care who they go to school with or where they go. I just want to know when they go somewhere it’s a good school to go to.”

Tata pointed out Friday that student achievement wasn't part of older plans. 

"It was all aimed at leveling a free and reduced rate (for lunches)," he said, referring to the method used to measure family income. "Here, this plan intends to give every student displaced by a magnet school the choice to go to a top one third, 40 percent school." 

The proposed student assignment policy aims at giving parents choices for their children's education while keeping students closer to their homes. Opponents, including the state chapter of the NAACP, say the move would create pockets of poverty in the school system and segregate schools.

Under the plan, parents could choose among at least five elementary schools and two middle and high schools – including traditional, year-round, magnet and high-performing schools – based on where they live.

Parents would have priority at schools closest to their home and where children have a sibling attending. Students already enrolled in the district may also stay at their current schools. Students in schools considered low-performing will also be able to choose to attend a school that's considered high-performing, based on test scores and qualified teachers.