Yesterday Wake County’s school board met amidst a packed house of supporters for Wake’s diversity policy and supporters for the new school board majority. The school board’s agenda for Tuesday received national coverage from the Associated Press and The New York Times because of the board majority’s intent to enact a resolution to end Wake’s diversity policy. The measure passed in a 5-4 vote.
Though, the new majority was elected by a vocal, well-funded faction of Wake County parents, supporters of the diversity policy toted the biggest signs at yesterday’s meeting. And they represented a majority of the voices during what’s become almost the standard 2-hour public comment period.
Photo by Will Huntsberry.
The board agenda listed the fiscal implications of the new neighborhood schools policy “to be determined.” Board member Keith Sutton requested that the vote on community schools be deemed “out of order” at this time on the grounds that its fiscal implications have yet to be presented. Another board member, Kevin Hill, asked for a “work session” on the matter before the vote.
36 of the 55 speakers spoke out in support of the Wake County diversity policy at yesterday’s meeting and one of those speakers was on the verge of being forced out by police.
Police almost ejected Curtis Gatewood of Granville County, right, from the meeting. Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP, center, intervened. Photo by Will Huntsberry.
Several other parents asked how equity could be achieved by uprooting current policy in a recession. Creating a majority of high poverty schools within the Beltline, as many think the neighborhood policy would achieve, would require additional funding to provide equal education in those areas.
This has lead many to deem the new policy “re-segregation” or a return to “separate but equal.”
Yesterday’s meeting reported a negative increase in county appropriations per student. The number went down this school year by $37 per student and in 2010-11 will go down another $63 per student.
The public comment session was cut short to proceed with the agenda, but not before one commenter was allowed to cede her two minutes at the podium to North Carolina NAACP President William Barber.
Barber spoke of “data and morality not supporting” the new school board majority’s direction and then asked the crowd to join “an old country preacher” in singing the hymn, “We Shall Overcome.” While the crowd sang, Barber resumed making his comments to the school board, asking why it wouldn’t allow the NAACP, “an expert on high poverty schools, 45 minutes to give a presentation to the board?” He answered, “it’s because you know you’re wrong.”
Before Dr. Barber stepped down over three-quarters of the room was standing after he asked for those in favor of Wake’s diversity policy to rise.
As a mix of snow, rain, and ice fell outside Wake County schools four-story building, the school board minority, lead by Carolyn Morrison, desperately sought for half an hour more time before a vote should take place. Finally, a last-ditch attempt to recess was voted down 5-4, as the audience nervously chuckled.
After the monumental vote took place, a large crowd gathered in the center of the room at the the urging of Rev. Barber. He lead the congested and tearful mass in chanting, “We’re not going anywhere! We’re not going anywhere!”