Wake County Schools

All but Hill, Sutton vote to approve Wake student assignment plan

Posted October 18, 2011 7:46 p.m. EDT
Updated October 18, 2011 11:02 p.m. EDT

Wake County Public School System

— The Wake County school board voted 6-2 Tuesday evening to approve a new choice-model student assignment plan proposed by Superintendent Tony Tata that includes four key elements – proximity, choice, stability and student achievement.

The plan, developed by Tata and a special task force made up of staff members in the state's largest school district, will allow parents to rank their top school choices and keep students closer to home.

Keith Sutton and Kevin Hill were the only board members to vote against it.

"Where we are today is with a plan that certainly will not satisfy 147,000 children's parents, everyone of them, (but) I think is on target to help us deal with the most pressing issue of our community, which is growth," said Vice Chairman John Tedesco.

The vote follows nearly two years of controversy, debate and protests after a newly elected Republican-backed board majority took office in 2009 and threw out the district's longstanding practice of busing students for socio-economic diversity.

Tata and his task force spent several months developing a choice-model plan, testing it and gathering community feedback before presenting the proposal two weeks ago to the school board.

During a series of public hearings on the plan, parents and community members urged the board to delay voting until newly elected board members, who will ultimately be responsible for implementing the plan, take office in December. They also questioned why the board was "rushing the vote."

Debra Goldman, however, said the board took its time with the plan.

"This has been a solid two years in the making, not to mention all the discussion in this county for years prior to that," she said.

Tata stuck to his schedule and asked the board to approve a resolution Tuesday evening putting the assignment plan in place for a minimum of three years.

"We are confident it is ready to move forward," he said.

The resolution passed after Deborah Prickett, Debra Goldman, John Tedesco and Carolyn Morrison praised Tata's efforts in going "above and beyond" to deliver a plan that takes board and community feedback into consideration.

Sutton, who won the election Oct. 11 to keep the District 4 seat in east Raleigh, said he wanted to postpone the vote for 30 days to build consensus on the board and in the community.

"(Building) more support than what we saw tonight would have been worth the wait," Sutton said.

Hill, who faces a runoff election Nov. 8 against Republican challenger Heather Losurdo for the District 3 seat in north Raleigh, said he thought it was a good plan, but could not support it because it doesn't guarantee spots at high-performing schools for students from historically low-performing areas.

Tata said approving the plan on Tuesday was imperative in order to move forward with implementing it, which is estimated to cost more than $700,000, in time for the 2012-2013 school year.