Wake County Schools

Wake school assignment changes stalled

Posted October 5, 2010 8:26 p.m. EDT
Updated October 6, 2010 11:14 a.m. EDT

— The Wake County Board of Education voted Tuesday night to immediately halt the movement toward student assignment based on zones.

Vice Chair Debra Goldman had been outspoken about her opposition to the use of zones as a basis for the school system's transition from a system that assigns students to balance a school's socio-economic makeup – a policy opponents said resulted in long bus rides – to one that focuses on keeping students closer to home.

Goldman claims the Student Assignment Committee, headed up by board member John Tedesco, has been unwilling to listen to input from her and others as they hashed out a way to convert the county-wide school district, the state's largest, with 141,000-students.

When Tedesco tried to brief the board on his progress at a work session earlier Tuesday, Goldman repeatedly challenged him, saying, "The only votes considered are the three of you. These decisions should be brought to the entire board." The committee has nine community members, but only its three board members can vote.

At last week's committee meeting, committee members Tedesco and Chris Malone voted on some tweaks to the proposed assignment maps, saying that the changes proved their assertion that the maps were a work in progress with lines that could change.

Carolyn Morrison, the other Board of Education member on the committee, voted against the change, saying she thought the committee was moving too fast.

"Each time you have a meeting, the temper in this county rises," Goldman said to her board colleagues Tuesday.

"You are building and building and building something on a foundation that has not been approved by the board, and that is what I have a problem with."

"We have had many inputs from many board members," Tedesco said. "You came to the last meeting ... and we listened to you."

But during the public comment period of the ensuing public meeting, parent Barbara Garlock contradicted that claim.

"You said you were told by Mr. (Ron) Margiotta (school board chairman) and Mr. Tedesco to keep quiet," she said to Goldman.

Asked during a recess whether Garlock accurately characterized that meeting, Goldman said, "Yes. That is all I will say."

Goldman got her say in a big way Tuesday when she proposed a resolution to immediately abandon the effort to establish zones, the favored method of Tedesco's committee.

She reiterated her commitment to community-based schools saying, "I am doing what's in my heart and in my conscience."

"This process is not working. The zone model is not working."

Goldman's proposed that "any efforts to create a zone model" cease and that schools stay with the current, board-approved, three-year student assignment plan in the interim.

"The Wake County Board of Education abandons its effort to establish Community Assignment Zones. Any and all efforts to create a zone-based assignment model will cease, effective immediately," the resolution said.

Four other board members – Kevin Hill, Anne McLaurin, Carolyn Morrison and Keith Sutton – sided with Goldman.

Margiotta, Malone, Tedesco and Deborah Prickett voted against the motion.