Wake board splits on 'integration'

Federal grant calls for pledge

Staff WritersApril 7, 2010 

  • Wake school board members agreed Tuesday night to complete changes to school assignments for more than 1,000 students next fall.

    Most changes reversed decisions from the previous board. Members' requests for individual changes led member Kevin Hill to complain that the reassignments are not following a coherent process.

    "We're cherry-picking," Hill said.

    Members heard from parents in North Raleigh and Morrisville disappointed by recent reassignments. Elizabeth Benjamin of Morrisville brought a petition with 300 signatures objecting to her neighborhood's reassignment to under-enrolled Weatherstone Elementary.

    "We are all stunned and somewhat blindsided," said Trudi D'Ambrosio of Cary.

    Members agreed to try to accommodate parents in the Morrisville neighborhood.

    Board members agreed to reassign families in neighborhoods near Glen Eden in West Raleigh to Lacy Elementary from Stough Elementary after neighbors waged an extensive campaign for the move.

— The diversity issue in Wake County Public Schools is far from resolved; that became clear when school board members argued Tuesday about whether to submit a federal grant application that required the board to commit to integrated schools.

The board's majority, which last month discarded the system's longstanding commitment to diversity in favor of community schools, passed a resolution supporting integration required for the application. It did so only after extended objections from the four-member minority.

The grant, which could amount to $12 million, would jump-start the district's three newest magnet schools - Smith and Brentwood elementary schools and Millbrook High.

The diversity policy's strongest supporters argued against the integration resolution. The majority had passed up chances to make a more genuine commitment to integrated schools, board member Dr. Anne McLaurin said.

"I believe this is wordsmithing to get the money, but not carry out the direction," McLaurin said.

Last month, the board majority voted down board member Carolyn Morrison's amendment to the community-schools directive; she wanted it to include a guarantee that Wake would not return to segregation.

"That amendment at that particular time was political rhetoric," said member John Tedesco, a supporter of community-based schools.

There will be plenty of time to make sure there's no return to segregated schools in Wake County during the nine to 15 months it will take to develop a plan for community schools, Tedesco said.

"It's like waiting for Santa Claus," McLaurin responded. "We've never seen this plan."

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

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