Blues mark school appeals in Wake

Emotions run high among parents in pursuit of the best for their child

Staff WriterJune 2, 2009 

  • Wake parents have two minutes to make a presentation in private to a panel of two school board members. The board members make a recommendation to the full board, which votes on each request.

    The board has traditionally approved between 40 percent and 50 percent of transfer appeals. Board members say they weigh factors such as space and the impact it would have on the health of the sending and receiving schools.

    Staff writer T. Keung Hui

— Tears are flowing from many Wake County parents who hope to persuade school board members to allow them to send their children to the school they want this fall.

Some parents, walking out of Monday's school board transfer appeal hearing with watery eyes, say it's hard not to get emotional at the prospect of their children being moved to a new school or being shut out of a magnet or year-round school.

"He should be able to go to the school he can walk to," said Tamra Green of North Raleigh, who was still crying after making her pitch for her son to go to the middle school in their neighborhood.

The experience can be so emotionally trying for parents that school board member Ron Margiotta has compared the mood at transfer appeal hearings to a wake.

Thousands of parents request transfers annually to send their children to a school different from the one they're slated to attend in the fall. Often, parents are trying to reverse a move that was adopted in the student reassignment plan.

As of Friday, school administrators said 2,415 of 3,884 transfer requests had been approved. Monday was the last day for parents to file their transfer requests.

Families who receive transfers usually lose bus service. But the school board is expected to approve a policy today that would allow families who receive transfers to request bus service.

This year, school board members tried to expand the number of students who could have their transfer requests automatically approved by staff members. For instance, the board increased the number of situations in which siblings would be able to stay at the same school rather than be reassigned.

But even with the extra flexibility, staff still had rejected 1,469 transfer requests as of Friday. Those parents can appeal their rejection to the school board, which held the first of several hearings Monday.

Battling the odds

Tony and Mara Cappelletti of Garner knew the odds were against them on Monday when they asked the board to allow them to keep their 5-year-old daughter, Alyssa, at Timber Drive Elementary School. Her neighborhood is being moved to help fill an under-enrolled East Garner Elementary School.

The Cappellettis said Alyssa has experienced behavioral and sleep issues adjusting to attending kindergarten this school year. They worry about what it will be like for her to start her second school in two years.

"She just started getting used to the school," said Mara Cappelletti. "I don't feel that she should have to make that adjustment again."

Imani Arthur of Raleigh is hoping that getting her 8-year-old son, Immanuel Slaughter, into the magnet program at Poe Elementary School will allow him to reach his potential. She said her magnet application has been rejected for three years in a row.

"I've been crying out for help," said Arthur, whose son is a third-grader at Forestville Elementary School in Knightdale. "I'm hoping this will be the turning point."

Few options

The options are limited for families whose requests are rejected. Parents can file a lawsuit, but it's an expensive process.

Green, the North Raleigh mother, is considering homeschooling her 11-year-old son, Noah, if her request to send him to Durant Road Middle School is rejected. She had unsuccessfully applied to attend the year-round program at Durant.

The problem with staying at home is that it will delay Green's completion of her own classes to get her teaching degree from Peace College.

"It's not what I want to do, but I'll do what I have to," she said.

keung.hui@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4534

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