Local News

Parents Want More Say Over Makeup of School Board

Posted March 5, 2008 8:15 p.m. EST
Updated March 6, 2008 3:29 p.m. EST

— Parents frustrated by Wake County School Board policies say they want more say in choosing the decision-makers.

Town officials in Apex, Garner, Holly Springs and Cary all support at-large school board elections to replace the district representation used now. They said they plan to lobby lawmakers in the upcoming short session.

“I've had my kids redistricted. I've had one of my son's schools converted to mandatory year-round,” Cary parent Joe Ciulla said.

“School board members don't believe they're accountable to all citizens of Wake County. That can be changed in the way they're elected,” Apex Mayor Keith Weatherly said.

The school board has nine members. Voters select one member for their geographic district.

“Eighty-nine percent of the decision-making power is really in other board members' hands and we don't get the chance to vote, and we think that's fundamentally wrong,” Ciulla said.

Ciulla launched TakeOurSchoolsBack.org to petition lawmakers to change the school board to nine at-large seats.

Rep. Dan Blue, D-Wake County, opposes it.

"It just would not make sense to have all the individual school board members convince 900,000 people as to why they ought to vote for them,” Blue said.

Supporters point out that county commissioners are elected countywide.

“It will drive accountability to the entire county and not to individual districts,” Ciulla said.

A school board member with whom WRAL spoke with said at-large elections are not a cost-effective way to choose members.

Other opponents question whether at-large elections would violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by diluting minority influence.