Wake County Schools

Questions linger about Wake student assignment plan

Posted January 9, 2012 4:06 p.m. EST
Updated January 10, 2012 5:23 a.m. EST

— An outspoken critic of the old Wake County school board majority is calling on the new board to delay the district's new way of assigning students to schools.

Great Schools in Wake Coalition issued a statement Monday calling the implementation of the choice-based student assignment model "rapid and reckless" and said it was "being driven through at breakneck speed."

The group said more time is needed to determine how much the plan will cost the school system. Feeder patterns also need to be re-evaluated, and how it will affect magnet school seating also needs to be assessed, it said.

"The public has been offered what is essentially a glorified PR and marketing plan," Great Schools In Wake Chairwoman Yevonne Brannon said.

The plan, which goes into effect in the fall, aims to provide more stability and choice by allowing students to go to the school or schools they prefer without the possibility of being reassigned, which can happen under the current decade-old policy of busing students so that all schools have a diverse socioeconomic student population.

Parents start the so-called choice selection process on Jan. 17.

Some school board members, last week, cited similar concerns to Great Schools In Wake, and also called for the plan to be halted temporarily.

The board has a meeting Tuesday, during which Superintendent Tony Tata and his staff are expected to address those concerns. (Watch the school board meeting live on WRAL.com beginning at 1 p.m.)

If the board decides to make changes to or delay the plan, it's unclear how that could affect student assignment for 2012-13.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Tata said he wasn't expecting a delay.

"I think the student assignment plan is broadly supported by our community," he said. "So, we are proceeding with the long-standing timeline to give parents the greatest amount of time to consider their options."

But Brannon said parents still don't fully understand the plan and "are unaware of the significant costs and considerable upheaval that awaits our community."

"There is little guarantee that the purported priorities of the plan – proximity, stability and choice – are, in fact, actually realized if the plan is implemented in its current state," she said.

Some parents, like Beth Lewis, however, are ready to move forward.

Lewis has three children at Middle Creek Elementary School, where she serves as PTA president.

Under the old plan, she said, her rising sixth-grader would have been split up from friends assigned to three different middle schools. Under the new plan, they can stay together at the closest school.

"In general, I am pleased with the assignment plan," she said.

Lewis said a guaranteed elementary, middle and high school path will also help PTA groups with volunteers and fundraising.

"It dramatically weakens the PTA if you have an assignment policy where parents are not guaranteed their children will go to that school the next year," Lewis said.