Truitt backs schools rival

She wants runoff canceled

Staff WriterOctober 22, 2009 

— Forty-eight hours after warning that John Tedesco would resegregate Wake County schools, school board candidate Cathy Truitt endorsed her rival on Wednesday and asked that the runoff election be cancelled.

Standing next to Tedesco at a news conference, Truitt said she no longer is worried that the new school board majority's support for neighborhood schools will lead to the resegregation she so pointedly warned about during her campaign. She said she's taking Tedesco at his word that he will find a way to have diversity and parental choice in a system built around children going to schools in their community.

"Parents, you can tell your children you're safe, you are cared for," Truitt said. "We will not go back to resegregated schools."

Truitt also submitted a letter Wednesday to the Wake County Board of Elections rescinding her request for a Nov.3 runoff election. She had requested the runoff on Oct. 7, a day after she received less than half of Tedesco's votes to finish second.

Wake County Board of Elections Director Cherie Poucher has called a special meeting of the board on Friday to recommend that it ask the state Board of Elections for guidance. She and Gary Bartlett, executive director of the state Board of Elections, say state law doesn't cover whether an election can be canceled after a candidate withdraws a runoff request.

Early voting began last week, and some absentee ballots have been cast.

Bartlett said the state board could decide whether to cancel the runoff on Monday, the same day it begins a hearing on former Gov. Mike Easley's campaign finances.

Poucher has estimated that the runoff could cost $30,000.

Truitt, a retired educator and now an education consultant, offered to provide in-kind consulting services to make up for any money that the county has spent.

Tedesco said he will continue to urge his supporters to vote on Nov. 3 to ensure that he gets the most votes. If Truitt gets the most votes, the current school board would fill the seat, possibly denying opponents of the diversity policy a majority on the board.

But Truitt's endorsement of Tedesco increases the likelihood he will become the fifth board vote needed to back ending busing for diversity and mandatory year-round schools.

Wednesday's endorsement was a major turnaround for Truitt, who had accused Tedesco on Monday of trying to take away parental choices by cutting the magnet school program. But Truitt said that she was reassured by Tedesco at a meeting Tuesday that he would not follow policies that lead to resegregation.

Tedesco said he didn't tell Truitt anything different from what he'd said throughout the campaign. He said they'll keep the magnet program but will look at changing the way students are selected to make it more equitable.

"We will have community schools, but we will do it at a reasonable pace," Tedesco said.

Despite Truitt's change of view, Diana Bader said she's still worried that a return to neighborhood schools will lead to resegregation. She's chairwoman of Wake's student assignment advisory committee, which helps administrators prepare student reassignment plans.

"The community needs to hold the new board majority accountable so they don't resegregate schools," Bader said.

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

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