Wake County Schools

How board wants to work dominates Wake school action

In votes Tuesday, the school board decided it will bring back committees it killed in August, but it will not meet more often. Action on a new student-assignment plan remains stalled.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — How to move ahead, more than where to take the state's largest school system, dominated the Wake County Board of Education's efforts Tuesday.

The board decided to restore four standing committees it had abolished in an August vote, but it also decided they do not need to have regular meeting schedules.

The board almost decided to go back to having two voting meetings a month, also abandoned in August, but then decided not to decide until next year.

And, the board was unable to agree on a proposal from member Kevin Hill to have a meeting with the sole purpose of trying to reach consensus on the board's values so it can get on with its marquee challenge – implementing a student assignment system – and face what promises to be a tough time crafting a 2011-12 budget with shrinking resources.

A year ago, voters installed four conservative board members who ran on a platform of getting rid of a diversity-based assignment system and replacing it with one that stressed community-based assignment. A board committee had been working on that, but the process stalled when member Debra Goldman began to have doubts about the speed of the process and some aspects of a draft system and joined plan opponents in a 5-4 vote to hit the brakes.

The 143,000-student system also is looking for a superintendent after its previous chief executive resigned in protest over the assignment votes.

Tuesday, Hill stressed that the board has never defined what it means in saying that parents in different parts of the county should have "equity" in school choices or in emphasizing "proximity" to schools.

"We need to parse this thing out" in "a rubber room for eight hours" before anyone can devise a system that will get more than a 5-4 vote, Hill said during an afternoon work session called the Committee of the Whole.

In other action during its evening voting meeting, the board opted to switch the district's hundreds of cell phones from Sprint to Verizon, a move that staff told them would shave about $400,000 from an annual bill of almost $900,000 and get better coverage.

The board also voted that a new high school on Quarry Road will be called Rolesville High School. The name was never controversial. What had caused a flap was when one of the first decisions by the new board was to scrap planning already under way for land the system had bought to put the school on Forestville Road.

During the work session, Chairman Ron Margiotta, who had been the lone conservative voice on the board before November 2009, told the group that he thought they should begin to consider bringing back the committees, beginning with the Finance Committee that will have to take on the  budget.

It was Margiotta who had proposed abolishing the committees and having board work sessions take on issues that used to first go to committees.

The board had killed a policy that established its committees, so bringing them back to life requires a new policy, which means the board will have to vote again for that at another formal meeting, likely in December.

The board's next meeting is a work session slated for 1 p.m. next Tuesday.



Ron Gallagher, Web Editor

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