Wake County Schools

Wake school board disagrees on goals for 2011-12 student assignment

Posted December 14, 2010 8:34 a.m. EST
Updated December 14, 2010 10:54 p.m. EST

Wake County Public School System

— Sixty-five student reassignments, proposed last month, brought the Wake County Board of Education to another 5-4 vote Tuesday as opponents again kept them out of a plan for changes for the 2011-12 school year.

The rejected proposals had come came mostly from citizen members of the Student Advisory Committee and parents at a series of community workshops. They have been championed by a board faction that is pushing to implement the 143,000-student system's new community-based assignment policy as quickly as possible.

Opponents argued during work sessions last week and Tuesday that the board should only look at changes needed to fill a new elementary school and relieve some overcrowding in the third year of a three-year student assignment plan that was supposed to minimize transfers.

Plaguing the board's discussions is the domino effect of crowding that could result from any moves from one school to another. Staff several times urged the board not to consider some proposed changes without first having a comprehensive plan for the district.

"We just keep putting off what's necessary," Chairman Ron Margiotta said in some frustration as hours of discussion neared an end.

The district used to use socioeconomic diversity as an assignment criterion, but dropped that earlier this year.

The session, which began at 4 p.m. in the board conference room at school district headquarters, was open to the public. It was not an official public meeting, and no binding votes were cast.

The board spent the bulk of the meeting discussing which node assignments to present to parents next month for public feedback. The board holds public hearings before voting on a package of reassignments each year.

Margiotta said that Tuesday's maneuverings are part of a required annual review and are separate from the board's longer-term goal to redo how students are assigned to schools across the county.

"It's unreasonable and irresponsible to ignore" parents' transfer requests, Margiotta said in asking for the 65 assignment requests to be included in discussions. "We have not followed through" on promises to change the assignment goal to have children attend schools near their homes, he said.

Margiotta often forms a majority on the board with four members elected in 2009 on a platform of community-based assignment and stability so students are not moved as often as has happened in the past.

Two members of the board wanted to take a larger view. 

"We need to comply with Policy 6200," board member Debra Goldman said, "but we also need to be working as a board to craft an assignment plan."

Goldman was the deciding vote in changing the school system policy to focus student assignment on geography rather than economic diversity, but she joined opponents in October to stop a new assignment map being devised by member John Tedesco.

"Families want to bring their kids home," said Tedesco, chairman of committee tasked with figuring out student assignment. "I think we give parents the opportunity to do that this year."

Public hearings on assignments for 2011-12 are scheduled for Jan 10, 11, 13, 19 and 20. Parents of students in nodes in question will be notified of times and places for the hearings.

Tuesday evening, the board got through 17 of 23 reassignments that had been discussed last year but were not acted upon. It will meet at noon Jan. 4 to try to finish that list and to look at 11 more that the Growth Management staff said need more direction from the board on what should happen.

The transfers discussed Tuesday ranged in size from 10 students at Reedy Creek Middle School to 203 at Panther Creek High School.

Another 49 transfers are on a list that the staff has brought to the board already this year.

The board will meet in work sessions Jan. 25 and 27 and hopes to have a comprehensive plan for next school year approved in February.