Wake County Schools

Wake will consider school transfers, but likely fewer than proposed

Posted December 7, 2010 11:17 p.m. EST
Updated December 8, 2010 7:35 a.m. EST

Wake County Public School System

— The Wake County school board Tuesday tackled its most divisive issue – student assignment – and its own operations and came away with patchwork actions in both cases.

In a more clear-cut action, it decided that end-of-course and end-of-grade exams, which the state abandoned earlier this school year, will stay in effect for Wake students through 2010-11 in order to send a message to students that the rules for advancing from 3rd, 5th and 8th grades and graduati

During a work session, when members discuss issues but do not vote on them, the board argued over what proposed reassignments it wanted to consider for the 2011-12 school year.

During the evening, at its voting meeting, the board tried to re-establish standing committees it had wiped out in the fall, but could not get enough votes to have that take effect right away so the Finance Committee could hold a meeting already set for Wednesday afternoon.

In a legally confusing action, the board voted instead to have a group with the same chairman and members as the abolished Finance Committee start working on what promise to be hard decisions about how to cut next year's budget in the face of plummeting state funding.

On assignments, the 2011-12 year was once expected to bring relatively minor changes to the last year of a three-year plan that a previous board intended to stanch parent complaints about frequent reassignments in the rapidly growing district.

Last week, however, three citizen members of the board's Student Assignment Committee offered pages of moves they proposed as a way to begin implementing the district's community-based assignment policy, passed earlier this year.

Many of the moves would send students from schools where they are now back to their neighborhood schools in Southeast Raleigh, creating schools with high concentrations of low-income students.

For a decade,the district had a policy that stressed socioeconomic diversity across the 143,000-student system's 163 schools. One of its actions had been to move some Southeast Raleigh students out to higher-income areas.

All Southeast Raleigh schools were made magnet schools with special program offerings intended to draw in students from outlying areas voluntarily.

Tuesday, the staff presented 12 pages of proposed changes, including the ones that surfaced last week. Half of those were ones that listed committee members or "parents" as the proponents and did not say how they stacked up on a list of criteria the staff used in proposing its changes.

Discussion of how many of the changes to consider for next year got heated at times.

"We ought to call a spade a spade and put a face on the students we're talking about," said member Keith Sutton, who represents Southeast Raleigh and its large minority population. With the U.S. Department of Education beginning to investigate a complaint that the district is being re-segregated through the community-assignment policy, Sutton said, "Moving 6,000 African-American kids" in the face of the investigation "would be stupid."

In the end, the members told the staff to explore transfers to fill the new Walnut Creek Elementary School, ones for schools that are at 112 percent of their capacity or more and ones to make better use of schools that are at 75 percent of capacity or less.

The school board had intended to implement a totally new, community-based assignment policy for the 2012-13 school year, but that effort stalled in October. Since then, the policy's backers have been pushing to implement it within the existing assignment system that used hundreds of "nodes" or small areas to build each school's assignment area.