Goldman goes a wee bit rogue

She tweaks stand on ending mandatory year-round school

Staff WritersJanuary 21, 2010 

— A crack has emerged in Wake County's new school board majority that could slow the pace of major change in the state's largest school district.

Ron Margiotta, the chairman who has led board efforts to end Wake's diversity policy and revamp its magnet schools, expressed deep disappointment Wednesday that new board member Debra Goldman cast the deciding vote on a resolution that falls short of guaranteeing the elimination of mandatory year-round schools.

In an interview, Goldman defended her vote as effectively killing off mandatory year-round assignments while still giving the district some flexibility to handle future enrollment growth. She also said she's an independent person who will not vote in lock step with other members of the board's ruling coalition.

"I'm an independent thinker," Goldman said Wednesday. "The other new board members and Ron and I have the very same, strong goal. I haven't deviated from that goal. But if I don't feel 100 percent on something, I'll do something about it."

Goldman, the mother of two Wake students, said she wants to avoid making additional major changes for the 2010-11 school year such as converting school calendars, changing how students are selected to attend magnet schools and implementing a new student assignment policy that eliminates the use of diversity.

"Now is not the time to make major changes," said Goldman, the board vice chairwoman. "The envelope has been stretched as much as we can."

With the board split 5-4, any instances where a member of the majority breaks away could have major consequences.

Goldman was one of four Republican-backed school board members who were elected last fall after campaigning in opposition to mandatory year-round schools and the diversity policy. They joined Margiotta in forming a new majority on the board.

Margiotta: We agreed

Margiotta said the coalition had agreed to vote together on issues, including ending mandatory year-round schools.

"I was very disappointed with her position on that issue," Margiotta said of Goldman's vote on mandatory year-round. "That was a campaign issue. When you make a commitment to the voters and to your fellow candidates, you're supposed to keep that."

Goldman said she had kept her campaign promise because the revised resolution will greatly expand parental choice. The resolution says every effort will be made to eliminate mandatory year-round assignments beginning this fall.

"I was surprised that some of the other board members were down that I supported it," Goldman said. "It accomplished the same thing."

At the first meeting of the new board on Dec. 1, it was Goldman who had suggested sending the revised student assignment policy to a committee for review after some members complained it was added to the agenda without prior notice. Goldman said Wednesday that she supports changing the assignment policy but wanted to avoid "ramming the changes" through.

Margiotta said Wednesday that he had not discussed Goldman's vote with her.

"That's not for me to do," he said. "She's going to go where she wants to go. But you ask yourself, 'Where next?'"

Margiotta acknowledged that the board's term hasn't been entirely smooth since members took office Dec. 1.

"We're going to have some stumbles," he said. "We've been in business for a month and a half, and we've made an awful lot of gains, but I feel we've backed away from some of the commitments, and I think we have to reinstate them."

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

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