With a hotly contested school board election slated for Tuesday, a broad cross-section of Wake County leaders came together this morning to speak in favor of the school system's diversity policy.
Business leaders, teachers, pastors and political candidates characterized Wake's policy of busing to achieve socioeconomic balance as a boon to the economy and insurance that all schools succeed.
Jim Goodmon, the owner of Capitol Broadcasting and a real estate developer, said that the county's successful school system is key to luring new businesses.
"The single most important aspect of Wake County that nobody else can touch is our public school system," Goodmon said.
Four district school board seats in Wake's suburban areas are on the ballot Tuesday, and all four contests are between supporters of the schools' current policy and challengers who want a system of neighborhood schools. If opponents of the diversity policy win, the schools could be dramatically reshaped as children move to the schools closest to their homes.
If those candidates win, Goodmon said, "We will resegregate our schools...We will have failing schools."
He was among several speakers, including Knightdale Mayor Russell Killen and current school board member Keith Sutton, who said that maintaining racially integrated schools was key to the school system's success.
Sutton, who is not up for election this week, called a move to neighborhood schools, which several candidates are pushing for, an attempt to "turn back the clock" on school integration.
Among those gathered behind the podium to show their support were Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker, former Wake Superintendent Bill McNeal and well-known Raleigh businessman Smedes York.
After the official press conference ended, supporters of neighborhood schools took the podium.
"This is not about black and white; this is not about racism," said Dawn Groff of Cary, founder of the parent group WakeCARES, which supports neighborhood schools. "This is about wanting our children to achieve."