Wake County Schools

Board members get preview of Tata's student assignment plan

Posted April 28, 2011 2:23 p.m. EDT
Updated April 29, 2011 4:04 p.m. EDT

— Wake County school Superintendent Tony Tata began sharing his vision for student assignment Thursday with members of the Board of Education. Spokesman Michael Evans said Thursday was the first of several informational meetings between school system staff on the Student Assignment Task Force and board members.

"What we want to do is get board member feedback, and then take it out to the public at large to demonstrate the research we've been doing, where we are in the process and where we are going," Tata said.

The policy change has been more than a year in the making. The school board voted in March 2010 to revise a policy that balanced socio-economic diversity in schools across the county but often resulted in students being bused far from home. The board majority wants to keep students closer to home in a community-schools model. That vote spurred months of protest from those who backed the old policy and say community schools would be segregated and unequal. 

After Tata was hired, the board asked him to take the lead in crafting a new plan. Evans said Thursday that about nine different versions of a plan are under consideration, and the meetings this week are part of the process before selecting and sharing a plan with the public.

"We've not begun to make any decision at this point, but our hope is to inform the board now so in a couple of weeks, mid-May, we can bring some information forward to the public and start getting some feedback," Evans said.

He noted that the Wake Education Partnership and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce followed the same process before they presented their plan to the public in February.

Evans says the decision to meet privately with small groups of board members was not an attempt at secrecy but rather an effort to accommodate the schedules of individual board members. State law requires any meeting of five or more members of the nine-member board be open to the public.

Tata asked that the public trust that there will be plenty of opportunity for input before any plan is finalized. On Friday, he said plans will be posted on the school district's website by the middle of May to get public feedback.

"I am very confident in what we are doing and how we are doing it," he said.

Tim Simmons, vice president of Wake Education Partnership, said he is pleased the process is moving forward. "The partnership is happy to work with the school system in whatever way would be helpful to them," he said.

Tata said he hopes to recommend a new student assignment policy to the board by June.