Surprises annoy Republicans, too

Norwalk adds to Wake agenda

Staff WriterJanuary 20, 2010 

— In a contentious meeting Tuesday, members of the Wake County Board of Commissioners started to sound like their school board colleagues - with a twist.

Democrat Stan Norwalk brought up items for consideration that did not appear on the panel's printed agenda, a practice that drew criticism when practiced by members of the school board's Republican-backed majority.

This time, it was the GOP that raised an issue about last-minute additions. Items Norwalk added to the agenda would have required nearly $350,000 annually to hire additional school nurses, along with a task force on the topic.

"You should have given us the motions ahead of time," board chairman Tony Gurley said.

Norwalk said he had sent colleagues e-mail messages about his proposals Sunday. Both items failed by 4-3 votes. Democrat Lindy Brown agreed with the need for more nurses, but sided with the Republican view that the spring budget process was the best means to address it.

Debate grew heated among Norwalk, Coble and members Betty Lou Ward, a Democrat, and Paul Coble, a Republican and a former Raleigh mayor.

Coble called the task-force proposal a "bizarre motion," and Gurley criticized Norwalk's presentation: "He's rambling, and he could go on all day."

Said Ward: "You're rambling now."

With ailing member Harold Webb voting via telephone, the board agreed to explore hearing a presentation from education scholar Richard Kahlenberg, who has supported Wake County's policy of diversity-based school assignments.

Under a motion by Norwalk, Kahlenberg would be paid with private monies and would speak to the board of commissioners and the school board, too, if thatbody wished.

Coble opposed the motion as designed only to counteract the appearance last week of William Sanders, author of a SAS report that said lower levels of black and Hispanic middle-school students took Algebra I than white middle-schoolers.

Gurley supports the new school board majority, which has cited SAS statistics to bolster claims that diversity efforts have failed to help low-income and minority students.

thomas.goldsmith@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8929

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