Local Politics

Runoff to go on without Wake school board candidate

Posted October 19, 2009 9:37 a.m. EDT
Updated October 19, 2009 6:34 p.m. EDT

— Cathy Truitt, who earlier called for a runoff in the District 2 race for the Wake County Board of Education, conceded the election Monday to John Tedesco.

The move gives neighborhood-schools advocates a majority on the nine-member school board.

"If I thought I could win this fight, I would stay in it today. I would fight to the last breath," Truitt said at a news conference. "By withdrawing at this point in time, I'm saying to you clearly what's done is done."

Official results of the Oct. 6 balloting show Tedesco had just under 50 percent of the vote, while Truitt finished with about 24 percent in the five-person race. Incumbent District 2 school board member Horace Tart finished third.

Wake County Board of Elections director Cherie Poucher said Monday that Truitt's name will still appear on the Nov. 3 ballot. The runoff must go on even if a candidate drops out, Poucher said, because ballots have been printed and some absentee and early voting ballots have been cast.

"The main reason we can't cancel it is because we have to follow the state election laws," she said.

The runoff will cost Wake County more than $30,000 in printing and personnel costs, she said.

If Truitt were to win the runoff, the seat would remain vacant, and the school board would appoint someone to fill it.

Tedesco, like the three candidates who won seats in the Oct. 6 election, was endorsed by community groups like WakeCARES and the Wake Schools Community Alliance. That slate said they were willing to change the district's student assignment policies to favor neighborhood schools.

Truitt has said she supports community schools, but also values diversity through magnet schools.

"I cannot save our schools. No one board member can," she said Monday. "It will take you partnering with me and our school board. Being elected is not the answer. It will take all of us voluntarily getting involved because it's not just politics, it's our children."

Chris Malone won the District 1 seat on the school board, while Deborah Pickett won in District 7 and Debra Goldman took District 9.

In the weeks leading up to the election, the traditionally nonpartisan school board elections became a heated referendum on the district's policy in which students are assigned to schools not by geography, but based on socioeconomic factors.

The North Carolina Association of Educators and the business-backed Friends of Diversity argued in favor of the status quo, saying reversing them would hurt the district's future.

Together with school board member Ron Margiotta, the four new board members opposed to the diversity policy will give the neighborhood schools position a majority bloc.