Local News

Reassignment, Growth At Issue In Wake School Board Elections

Posted November 5, 2005 10:18 a.m. EST

— Since the 1999 school year, 20,000 students in the Wake County Public School System have been reassigned.

Part of the reason for the reassignments has been growth, and part has been diversity.

But some parents said reassignment goes too far, and they want to return to neighborhood schools.

When Wake County resident Cynthia Sweere sends her daughter to middle school next year, she said she has two choices: a base school 11 miles away or a year-round school that is 20 miles away, even though some schools are closer.

"Because of the situation and distance, a lot of families have chosen to go to private schools," Sweere said.

This Tuesday, voters in Cary and eastern Wake County -- two of the county's fastest growing areas -- will elect two new school board members during runoffs. And this election, current and prospective school board members said, has become a referendum on the school system's reassignment policy and how it manages growth. More than 6,000 new students enter Wake schools each year.

Kathryn Quigg, an outgoing member of the Wake County Board of Education, said busing keeps schools socio-economically diverse. She said the practice should continue.

"I think this is a critical election," she said. "I think certain people can change the balance."

Ron Margiotta, also a school board member, said long bus rides are also the product of overcrowding. He said the reassignment process needs some work, and he does not know why the system cannot have socio-economically balanced schools and neighborhood schools.

For the upcoming runoff election, Quigg said she supports Lori Millberg for the District 1 seat and Eleanor Goette in District 9.

Quigg said she believes those candidates will make the diversity policy a priority.

"If it becomes a have and have-not system, there will be great change and our children will not be getting the education they deserve," she said.

Margiotta said he supports Tillie Turlington in District 1 and Curt Stangler in District 9.

He said they will make reassignment a better process for parents.

"We have to do a better job of incorporating diversity and letting people have some choice," Margiotta said.

The school system said nearly 86 percent of its students are assigned to a base school that is five miles or less from their home.

Schools officials added that the average bus ride is 45 minutes, and the maximum bus ride is about an hour and a half. They said diversity allows all of its schools to perform well on state and national tests.