Margiotta puts allies in power slots

The Wake school board chief favors the newly elected over veterans.

Staff WriterJanuary 14, 2010 

  • Go to www.wcpss.net/ Board/ com mittees. html to view the committee assignments of the WakeCounty school board.

— Wake County's new school board majority continued to flex its political muscles by securing control of nearly all of the major committees, including the group that will review the elimination of the diversity policy, a key campaign promise of the majority.

A committee list released Wednesday shows that new members make up the leadership and membership of most of the committees while some members of the board minority have nearly been shut out. In one example, school board chairman Ron Margiotta said he assigned Kevin Hill to only one committee because of Hill's actions against the board majority.

"Kevin Hill has been the most critical of what we're trying to do," said Margiotta, who deposed Hill as chairman last month. "The committees can be adjusted once I feel Kevin Hill is willing to be more cooperative."

Margiotta said he had received copies of e-mail messages sent by Hill to members of the public in which he was trying to "stir the pot" against the new board. Margiotta didn't elaborate on the messages.

Hill complained that he and board member Anne McLaurin were put on few committees when they've been on the board longer than anyone other than Margiotta. He questioned why the four board members who were sworn into office last month are serving on so many more committees.

"My new colleagues are talking about the need to work together, and we have to," Hill said. "The committee assignments don't back that up."

Tensions have been high since four board members were elected last fall and joined Margiotta in creating a coalition on the nine-member board. The new majority is pushing changes such as ending mandatory enrollment in year-round schools, ending the socioeconomic diversity policy and moving toward neighborhood schools.

At the past three meetings, Hill and other members of the board minority have repeatedly complained about the majority introducing resolutions at the board table for a vote without notice.

Hill had drawn up the composition of the committees before he was unexpectedly removed as chairman seven months before his term ended. He had Margiotta staying on as chairman of the policy committee and new board member Debra Goldman leading the facilities committee with members of the minority leading three other committees.

Margiotta said he accommodated nearly all the requests by board members to serve on the committees they had requested. New school board member John Tedesco is on five committees, including two newly created ones he heads: the student assignment committee and the economically disadvantaged student performance task force.

Tedesco noted how they're able to work with some members of the board minority, including Keith Sutton and Carolyn Morrison. Combined, Sutton and Morrison lead one committee and are vice chairmen of four committees.

Margiotta argued that he is treating other board members better than how he was treated as the lone dissenter for the past six years. He said he had been asked to lead the policy committee because the old majority considered it "a meaningless committee."

But Margiotta explained that the policy committee is not meaningless anymore, especially now that it has been charged with reviewing changes to the student assignment policy that would eliminate all references to diversity.

Goldman, chairwoman of the policy committee, said she isn't sure when the group will start reviewing the assignment policy. But she said she expects it will take some time.

"I think I did what was in the best interests of the school board," Margiotta said of the assignments.

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

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