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Cary leaders want to talk reassignment with Wake school board

The Cary Town Council wants Wake County school officials to relay concerns about how students are assigned to schools.

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CARY, N.C. — Cary town councilors say they are willing to use varied methods to communicate about school assignment with the Wake County Board of Education – including hiring an outside consultant or appealing to state legislators.

"It's our job to represent, and we've heard from hundreds of Cary families who are very frustrated and concerned," Councilman Don Frantz said.

The latest round of school reassignments prompted protests from parents and three Wake County mayors, who said it worked against neighborhood schools.

School administrators said students were moved to relieve overcrowding, fill new schools and achieve economic diversity.

In February, the town council voted to host a roundtable for school board members and Wake municipal officials to discuss school assignment policies.

That meeting has not happened, and some school board members said they were not interested in the proposal.

"Just to go to a meeting and sit around and hear complaints and not be able to respond to them adequately is not beneficial to us or to them," Rosa Gill, school board chairwoman, said.

Officials from both sides, though, agreed that a meeting about school construction produced an open dialog.

"I think a lot of things were discussed, and we responded to those the best we could," Gill said.

Frantz, though, said town council members would consider other options if the dialog does not continue and no change occurs.

"If at the end of the day, we don't feel like we're getting anywhere, then we might look at hiring an outside consultant to see what ideas or input they might be able to bring to the table," he said.

The independent consultant would analyze the school assignment process and make unbiased recommendations for improvement, Frantz said. It could study the feasibility of breaking up the countywide school system into smaller districts, he added.

"I would like to see what would be involved in breaking the school district up into two or four districts," Frantz said.

Partnering with other Wake municipalities to hire the consultant would clear up any legal issues, Frantz said. He did not have an estimate of how much such a review might cost.

School board members said they already have processes in place to listen to the community – including asking the town council to create a list of parents' concerns.

"We do listen to what parents are saying," Gill said. "We hope they are open to why we can't do everything they're suggesting."

Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said he thinks outside influences, such as state lawmakers, might be the best bet for school reform.

"I think the school board's very set on what they're going to do and how they're going to manage growth problems we're experiencing," Weinbrecht said. "And I don't think there's much we can do to change that."

Weinbrecht said he and other mayors could lobby for school board elections to be made countywide and for the school board to get the authority to levy taxes for school construction.

"We're going to try to work with other municipalities and come up with common ground that we can use to present to the Legislature," Weinbrecht said.

"This is not a Cary issue. It's a regional issue," the mayor continued. "It's our responsibility to step up and interface with people in the region that make decisions, whether it's school board members or the legislators."


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