Wake County Schools

Wake school board to slow adoption of new student assignment plan

Posted September 18, 2012 7:31 p.m. EDT
Updated September 19, 2012 5:31 a.m. EDT

— Wake County Public School System staff presented the school board Tuesday evening with a new student assignment plan proposal for 2013-14 that will link base schools to every address in the district.

But the board decided to slow adopting a new plan by putting off a scheduled Oct. 30 vote on the staff proposal in favor of careful study and discussion in board work sessions.

They also said parents need more information from staff about what the proposal would mean for individual families, so five public hearings that were scheduled to start next week will also be postponed.

The board has not set a new deadline for adopting a student assignment plan for 2013-14.

Student assignment in the district has been a messy and contentious issue for several years, and board members said they wanted any new plan to provide stability for Wake County families.

"This community has already had so much upheaval in assignment," said board member Christine Kushner.

In June, the school board voted on a directive to change the current "controlled choice" plan so that students would, in part, be assigned to a school or schools within a "reasonable distance" from where they live.

Under the changes that were outlined Tuesday, each address in Wake County will be assigned a "base" elementary, middle and high school.

All new families, as well as families who move to a new address within the county, will be assigned to a base school.

Parents, however, will have the option to stay at the base school or rank among a list of other schools where they would prefer their children to attend.

Students in school this year will be allowed to stay in their current school, if parents wish. If that's not the base school, they can choose the base school, if there's room.

"Everybody can stay in your current school with current busing. That is stability," said Laura Evans, who presented the staff's student assignment proposal at Tuesday's board meeting.

Superintendent Tony Tata, who spent a lot of time promoting the 2012-13 controlled choice plan, said he thinks the new proposal is "moving in the right direction."

"The choice plan was the compromise middle-of-the-road plan – now we are making the next logical step," he said.

During the public comment portion of Tuesday's meeting, several parents charged that the school system used Chief Facilities and Operations Officer Don Haydon as a scapegoat amid ongoing problems with busing in the district.

Haydon, who announced Monday that he plans to resign Dec. 31, oversaw busing, which has been plagued with problems since traditional calendar students returned to school last month. Parents have complained about buses being late or not arriving at stops.

"We had a large-scale failed mission, and the wrong person has been relieved of their duty," said parent Amy Lee.

Board members praised Haydon Monday, calling him a "very good administrator" and "a consummate professional."

No reasons for his resignation were given, and Haydon has not been available for comment.

Tata refused to comment on Haydon's resignation Tuesday, calling it a "human resources matter."