Wake County school board member Debra Goldman broke with the majority again Tuesday night, by siding with the board minority in voting down consideration of multiple student reassignments, mostly effecting Southeast Raleigh.
The set of reassignments that majority members were hoping to consider reflect what the board’s student assignment committee had come up with. The board was also considering a different set of reassignments vetted by the school board staff, which were more limited in scope.
The vote at Tuesday’s work session to consider the reassignments was the second in as many meetings. Chair Ron Margiotta was absent from the last meeting, which allowed the minority members to defeat the measure 4-3, with the presiding chair Goldman not needing to vote. The chair does not vote unless to break a tie.
Goldman indicated that her vote on Tuesday to table the large scale reassignments reflected concern over an October 12 student assignment committee meeting in which only three of the committee members were asked to bring their “laundry list” or “wish list” of student assignments. Each board member has a hand picked representative who serves on the committee, but only majority members Margiotta’s, Tedesco’s and Prickett’s were notified.
Considering the reassignments would mean having public hearings, before the reassignments can be voted on by the board. “I’m simply going to make a simple statement,” said minority board member Chris Malone. “These people have a right to be heard.”
Deborah Prickett, with the board majority, called the potential reassignments that arose from the committee meeting a “real consensus,” to which minority member Keith Sutton asked, “Are you serious?”
“Three of the minority member’s representatives are considering resigning because they feel their voice is not being heard on the committee,” said minority member Kevin Hill.
Anne Sherron, Carolyn Morrison’s representative, said that Hill and Sutton’s representatives were considering resigning and that Barbara Walsh, Goldman’s representative, had also voiced discontent over not being heard.
“Nobody trusts anyone else on either side,” said Anne McLaurin.
“It’s crazy. It’s absolutely nuts. We just keep putting it off,” said Margiotta in a meeting that got through only slightly more than half of the staff’s intended agenda.
When opposites collide
The board minority is trying to “limit disruption,” said Hill of voting against major reassignments. “The fewer reassignments we make now, the less likely we are to cause disruption. The debate going on right now is, ‘what’s more important, proximity or stability?’ If we make some of these changes, we are just going to have to revisit them a year from now.”
The board majority (which is now more or less minus Debra Goldman) wants to begin instituting its neighborhood schools policy, which it says the public supports, as soon as possible. Chair Margiotta cited a school board policy that empowers the board to annually re-examine student assignment and “make adjustments when needed,” in supporting consideration of the sweeping reassignments.
“Stability means we do what’s good for the parents and the families, not the institution,” said Chris Malone. “It means getting kids home sooner.” Malone’s definition of stability “trumps having black kids in your school,” said McLaurin.
Hill said that the minority view of stability over proximity means following through with the three year assignment plan, which was instituted last year, “so that parents will know where their kids are going to school.”
Goldman returned to voting with the majority in supporting consideration of a reassignment moving children from Jeffreys Grove Elementary School to Leesville Road. The school board’s staff chose to not recommend this reassignment to the board because “it’s a move from East to West,” said staffer Laura Evans. “And schools in the West are already overcrowded.”
Goldman made it clear that she did not necessarily support the reassignment, but that she wanted to give parents the opportunity to talk about it. The board would need to vote on the reassignment again before it could go into effect.
For now, the jury remains out on bringing neighborhood schools to Raleigh. Minority member McLaurin says she has an open line of communication with Goldman, but that she doesn’t know if the fragile coalition will last.