Second school board vote approves community schools policy

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Members of the Wake County Board of Education voted 5-4 Tuesday in a second vote for community schools, ending the diversity policy based on economic status.

Eliminating diversity has been inevitable since March 23, when the board finalized a vote declaring its intent to establish a community schools plan. The anticipated outcome of Tuesday’s vote was reflected in the the smaller crowd and media presence.

Board members John Tedesco and Dr. Anne McLaurin. Photo by Will Huntsberry.

Board member Carolyn Morrison received a standing ovation from virtually everyone in the half-full board room when she moved to “indefinitely suspend” the vote to establish neighborhood schools.

After the measure was defeated in a 5-4 vote, Morrison pointed out that the Wake County public school system’s federal grant applications are based on its implementation of the diversity policy. She maintained that changing the policy would lower the chances of receiving federal grant money and proposed another measure to “definitely suspend” the vote until the school system’s lawyers can decide if eliminating the diversity policy will lower the chances of receiving much-needed grant money.

Again the crowd erupted in cheers and whoops but, it seemed as if they only served to galvanize the intent of board member John Tedesco and the rest of the board majority. Morrison’s measure was again defeated in a 5-4 vote, this time to boos and hisses.

In a surprising turn of events, board members Dr. Anne McLaurin and Keith Sutton, who have repeatedly voted against the community schools plan, made an effort to compromise with the board majority. Both said they would vote for the directive if it included the amendment, “School assignments will not allow schools to be segregated on the basis of socioeconomic status. No school should have more than 50 percent poor students.”

Board member John Tedesco, author of the community assignment directive, said he could not support such a measure because it sent the message to poor children that “You’re not welcome here. You can’t go to school with your friends because your parents don’t have enough money in their pockets.”

Morrison then asked Tedesco, “if your plan will help economically disadvantaged children so much why do leaders of that community like Dr. Barber, of the NAACP so vehemently oppose your plan?”

Tuesday’s meeting was not nearly as crowded as previous meetings, but some students did attend to protest the board’s new community schools policy. Photo by Will Huntsberry.

Supporters of the board majority have often argued that the board should make better attempts to seem unified in the face of what has been an extremely divisive public issue, yet the board majority chose to vote down Mclaurin and Sutton’s amendment 5-4.

After the final vote was cast for the community assignment directive, students and diversity supporters stood up and began chanting “Shame on you! Shame on you!” No attempts were made to remove the chanting crowd. Within minutes, their cries died down completely but, diversity supporters say they are not giving up the fight.

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