Local News

Poll: Wake Voters Say Schools Not Making The Grade

Posted September 26, 2002 4:08 a.m. EDT

— Wake County School leaders are wondering what it will take to impress Wake County voters. Despite news of improved test scores and school performance, a new poll shows a growing number of people do not think things are getting better.

The numbers are not hard to figure for students at Cary High School. The school is one of two in the state that will be picking up a Blue Ribbon Award next week in Washington, D.C. The award puts the school among the nation's elite.

The award is just one of the good things school leaders said is happening in Wake County; however, a new poll by the Wake Education Partnership shows most registered voters are not impressed.

"The latest report is a call to action. The public schools, we believe, must redouble its efforts to inform citizens at all levels in every community about its successes," said Tony Habit, of the Wake Education Partnership.

The survey reflects opinions of Wake County voters on school quality, financial management and issues of school size and diversity.

"While we enjoy one of the best public school systems in the nation, that fact is lost on way too many of our citizens," Habit said.

The survey presented to Wake County school leaders Thursday shows only 36 percent of those polled think the system is improving, a 20 percent drop from two years ago.

The survey was completed before recent headlines trumpeted success.

"Nearly 90 percent of our students are performing at or above grade level on end-of-grade tests. SAT scores are at an all-time high," said Lynne Garrison, of the Wake Education Partnership.

When it comes to money, 74 percent said they would support a $400 million bond, without raising taxes to build new schools.

"There's some good results that we can use. There are results that we are going to have to do some significant work on. We will use all the results in order to build to become the best," said Bill McNeal, superintendent of Wake County schools.

McNeal said his office will set up a strategic plan for educating the public so good news, when it happens, will not go unnoticed.

"We need to do a better job of telling our story," he said.

Another big change in opinion since the 2000 poll is that only 40 percent of voters in Wake County support maintaining racial and economic diversity in the school system. That is down 20 percent from two years ago.