Wake County Schools

Wake parents question assignment 'choice,' Peace partnership

Posted April 10, 2012 8:54 p.m. EDT
Updated April 11, 2012 10:34 a.m. EDT

Wake County Public School System

— Wake County parents who are dissatisfied with their child's school assignment – or lack thereof, in some cases – told school board members Tuesday that the new student assignment plan is an unfair lottery that doesn't live up to its promise of proximity, stability and parental choice.

"There were no real choices," said parent Laura Willer. "The plan is a lottery with winners and losers." 

Eileen Taylor said parents are facing "problems with implementation, transparency and the plan itself."

Her daughter remains unassigned, she said, even after she pointed out to school system staff that an error had been made in calculating how many "proximity priority points" her daughter should have received.

She added that she ranked her top three schools without being notified that there were no seats left at any of them.

"It's like selling me plane tickets and, when I arrive, telling me there is no room on any of the flights," Taylor said. 

John Boyne said he feels misled about how the assignment plan works and that he wants help from district leaders to ensure his child winds up at one of his top six preferred schools.

"We don't want to roll the dice. We don't know how to play the game," Boyne said.

The assignment plan requires parents to list their top preferred schools for their children. Proximity to the school, where siblings attend and other factors determine where the children are ultimately assigned, but those factors are only used in deciding whether a family gets its first school choice.

The second, third and fourth choices are more random.

Boyne said the school system didn't make that clear and, as a result, his son remains unassigned.

"We would have ranked our choices differently," he said, going with a first-choice school his son was more likely to get, rather than the school they wanted most. 

Wake schools Chief Transformation Officer Judy Peppler said the ins and outs of the new assignment plan, including how second, third and fourth ranked schools would be treated in the process, was publicly listed, but she acknowledged that there was some confusion.

"It wasn't clearly understood, so we are going to work really hard to make sure that we update our website and make sure everybody understands that going forward," she said.

She added that the plan was designed to maximize the number of people who got their first-ranked choice. About 75 percent of Wake families did get their top choice, Peppler said.

Other speakers at the meeting, including real estate agents and business people, warned board members that uncertainty and instability in the student assignment process was likely to have far-reaching economic effects.

Parents, alums oppose leadership academies on Peace campus

More than a dozen William Peace University alumnae attended Tuesday's meeting to speak out against two proposed single-gender leadership academies at the university's Raleigh campus.

Susan Murray, who has a child in the Wake County school system and another at William Peace, said the institution is in turmoil and that "faculty and student morale is at an all-time low."

"You will not be welcome there," Murray said. "Everyone resents the fact that college students are being pushed aside for high school students."

The school district plans to place both of the academies, which are expected to have about 150 high school students each, on the Peace campus. The programs are slated to begin this fall and are designed to feature small class sizes, advanced courses and specialized leadership training.

Miriam Dorsey questioned whether the campus has enough room to accommodate high school students.

"I urge you to look at these spaces (that would be used for the academies). I think you will find they are small and compact," she said.

The university, which could not be reached for comment Tuesday, has come under fire from alumnae after a dramatic restructuring that included a switch from a single-gender student body to enrolling both men and women.

For that reason, Murray said, it's not a suitable location for leadership academies, an idea she would support at another institution.

"Peace is experiencing one of the worst times in her history," she said.

Dorsey went one step further, saying the university's leadership can't be trusted.

"The leadership is secretive and high-handed," she said. "Any dollars spent at Peace are dollars at risk."