Local News

3 Mayors Speak Out Against Wake Reassignment Plan

Posted December 13, 2007 5:46 a.m. EST
Updated December 13, 2007 5:42 p.m. EST

— Three Wake County mayors sharply criticized Thursday the Wake County school system's latest reassignment plan for elementary school students.

Wake County schools are bracing for another 6,000 students in 2008-09. District administrators said the reassignment plan for elementary students would help to fill seats in new schools and balance out dropping enrollment in other schools.

When they announced the plan last week, administrators also said they wanted to keep an economic balance in schools so no school has too many poor or too many well-to-do students.

As part of the reassignment, more than 3,000 students will be moved from traditional-calendar schools to year-round schedules.

Superior Court Judge Howard Manning ruled in May that the district couldn't require students to attend a year-round school without parental consent. Hundreds of parents opted out of switching to year-round schools last summer, leaving many traditional-calendar schools overcrowded this fall.

Apex Mayor Keith Weatherly, Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams and Holly Springs Mayor Dick Sears on Thursday joined members of Wake Cares, the community organization that sued the district over the year-round conversion plan, to express frustration with the new reassignment plan.

"Our issue is not about reassignment. It's about how reassignments are done," Williams said.

"This is a kids issue, not necessarily a numbers issue," Sears said. "Kids. They're real, live people. They have parents who want to support the schools. These reassignment plans completely knock that concept apart."

Reassignments cause confusion and disruption in local communities and turn families into pawns, Weatherly said, adding that the school district should be more concerned with educational excellence than enrollment diversity.

School board Chairwoman Rosa Gill said the district needs to shuffle students to make room for growth.

"We weigh what we have to do to provide access to all students, and then we try to come up with the best solution," Gill said.

But Dawn Graff, one of the founders of Wake Cares, said half of the students being reassigned are for diversity and not to fill new schools. Some students would be forced to attend their third school in three years under the proposal, she said.

"Every year, the policies and the actions of the (school) board affect more and more families and disrupt more schools. This is bad for the community and bad for our children," said Kathleen Brennan, another founder of Wake Cares. "The Wake County Public School System has lost its focus and continues to be more concerned with reassigning students than with educating them."

School officials have said students will be guaranteed a seat in a traditional school if they don't want to attend the year-round school to which they're assigned.