Wake County Schools

Panel proves proposed Wake school map is 'fluid,' voting for changes

Posted September 28, 2010 3:59 p.m. EDT
Updated September 28, 2010 8:20 p.m. EDT

Wake County Public School System

— The Wake County school board committee charged with implementing community-based school assignments made a point Tuesday of proving its proposed map is, as proponents have said, "fluid," deciding to change the lines to accommodate requests from some parents.

The action came at the same meeting that emphasized the clear divide between supporters of the new policy and those who believe the 140,000-student system was wrong to jettison socioeconomic diversity in deciding who goes to which schools.

"This isn't a move yet. This is about making a plan!" the chairman of the Student Assignment Committee, John Tedesco, told the panel after its three school-board members had voted 2-1 to change the proposed zone in which some neighborhoods lie. The zones are based on current high-school attendance zones.

Exactly how many areas and students wound up in different proposed zones was unclear after the meeting. The

The decision caught non-voting citizen members of the committee and board member Carolyn Morrison by surprise. After Tedesco and Chris Malone outvoted Morrison, Tedesco began a review of which areas they had voted to move.

The action was based on comments that the district's planning staff had selected as examples of concerns they were hearing from parents who had viewed the proposed map on the district's website since the committee settled on it as a starting point a few weeks ago.

"Let's move those lines. Then we'll look at capacity problems at the next meeting," Tedesco said.

Part of the meeting had been about the questions that accompany trying to have community-based assignment, including drawing zones so each has enough school seats for the children who live in it.

Several citizen members argued that not enough is known yet about fiscal and capacity issues to begin shifting the map.

"There is no reason for us to come in here!" member Anne Sherron said. "You know what you're going to do when you come in here."

The staff had not intended the examples to be representative of overall comments, but Tedesco said the committee should fix problems it finds as it goes along.

The proposed map has lines that divide neighborhoods that had been together in school or otherwise seemed to be problems, Tedesco said. After the vote, he went through the staff's examples, asking school board members attending the meeting if they wanted areas in their districts moved.

Some on the list were decided to have been moved while others were not.

Tedesco had begun the meeting by laying out the differences between his position against diversity considerations and opponents of the change to a community-based system that emphasizes keeping children near their homes. In the current system, some children are bused to schools away from their homes in a bid to balance diversity at schools, though many are moved because there are not enough seats in schools where they live.

“I think we have serious disagreement,” Tedesco said. There are two views of “how we move forward with student assignment in this county,” he added. He called the diversity approach a “quota” system that needs to be abandoned.

At the same time, however, he is insisting on setting performance goals for all schools regardless of their student makeup and holding administrators and teachers accountable for reaching them.

“I’m going to recommend an academic accountability model” for all students, Tedesco said. “As a system, we have to be held accountable for getting those kids to proficiency,” he said.

Others on the committee argued that poverty is clearly linked to student achievement and that creating community-based districts with high percentages of poor families will make it more difficult to raise achievement.

"Why would we concentrate" low achievers in one classroom to give teachers bigger challenges, a citizen member asked the group. "I think we setting teachers up ... for failure."

I think what we're doing is setting ourselves up" to evaluate teachers to understand who teaches low-achievers best, Tedesco said. "We need to get the right teachers in front of the right kids."