Many student reassignments remain deadlocked

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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.

2 thoughts on “Many student reassignments remain deadlocked

  1. Fair piece, but nobody is seeking to keep one set of people out of their school.They just want a local or neighborhood school… its not such a strange idea. Most of the country does it that way. The minority is set in their ways in believing that anything that would be good for the suburbs that is suggested as board action is really a slight of hand that is aimed at harming black families. The concept is alien to people like me, and incredibly insulting. If I had heard Dr. McLaurins rejoinder I would have rebuked her. Finally wherever I go people of all demographics come to me to ask me to keep the faith and not give up. Trust this. I won’t because I believe it is the moral and more inclusive approach.

  2. I’m sorry, Mr. Malone, but your side has yet to prove how exactly your plan for “neighborhood schools” doesn’t amount to a re-segregation of the Wake County Public Schools. I’m one of the rare people who has lived in Raleigh my whole 36 year life. I was a white kid who was bussed around in order to maintain racial diversity in the schools just like many other kids were. Diversity is far more important, socially and culturally, than getting kids home 30 minutes earlier from school. Just because other places in the country have neighborhood schools doesn’t mean it is the right policy here (or there, for that matter). Neighborhood schools consistently end with the rich white-dominant schools getting better teachers, technology, and general resources compared to the poorer minority-dominant schools. By bussing and maintaining racial diversity, we better ensure that all students have equal access to quality educational resources because those resources are spread more evenly across the school system when white kids are in every school.

    Further, because neighborhoods are divided by matters of economics, the people of rich neighborhoods would just be able to further ignore the issues of the poor if they wall themselves and their children off from ever meeting poor kids in the schools, or at a PTA meeting. Racial and economic diversity in the schools is of paramount importance because richer kids see college as inevitable. By being around poor kids, those rich kids’ college ambitions begin to rub off onto the poorer kids, which means that the poor kids then see college as a way to rise up from their economic despair. And that is a good thing, since the goal of our society should ultimately be to move people up from poverty as much as is possible. Higher education is the greatest determining factor for economic success. Therefore, anything which encourages poor children to enter college (namely being around rich kids who see college as inevitable) is ultimately a good thing.

    Perhaps people from up north or out west don’t know or remember that the south had real problems dealing with race in our past. Those problems are what ultimately led to the creation of the current Wake County Schools plan of assignments based on racial and economic diversity. That school assignment plan has allowed us to, in a matter of a couple of generations, shed many of the problems of our past and begin to move forward on making our community more socially and ethically advanced. One of the main reasons Raleigh is seen as a national beacon of education, science, and economic growth is because our school diversity plan allowed us to shed racial divisions, and to work and grow together in a way that most other areas of the south have yet to do successfully.

    I don’t currently have the interest or time in writing a full 20 page thesis on why economic and racial diversity in the schools is the best method of educating our youth, but believe me, I could. Mr. Malone, your side’s plan for neighborhood schools, as currently outlined, seems selfish and foolhardy at best, and racist at worst. I don’t believe that you, or anyone on the board currently, are a racist. However, your failure to understand the necessary benefits of maintaining racial and economic diversity in our schools has the unfortunate probable outcome of creating a racist educational system.