Goldman: Dump the assignment plan, start over

Staff writersOctober 5, 2010 

Wake County school board vice chairwoman Debra Goldman (right) and chairman Ray Margiotta listen to public hearing comments on the diversity policy on Tuesday.

ROBERT WILLETT - ROBERT.WILLETT@NEWSOBSERVER.COM

— The Wake County school board has just thrown out its controversial, zone-based assignment plan on a motion by vice chairwoman Debra Goldman.

A directive passed out by Keith Sutton, a member of the former board minority, calls for the following action:

"Any and all efforts to create a zone-based assignment model will cease effective immediately."

The motion underwent brief discussion by the board in a meeting that has already lasted for nearly five hours.

Goldman made the motion and Sutton, formerly part of an opposing faction on the board, seconded it.

It passed on a 5-3 vote, with Goldman joining her four former opponents on the board.

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Wake County’s school board majority fell apart this afternoon as members tossed insults and engaged in verbal warfare over the ongoing development of the student assignment plan.

School board vice chairwoman Debra Goldman accused other members of the majority of trying to shut her and the public out of the process as the new plan is developed. Board members John Tedesco, chairman of the student assignment committee, accused Goldman of grandstanding in front of the cameras and called her a “prom queen.”

At Goldman's urging and with the support of minority member Kevin Hill, an item has been added to tonight's agenda to vote again on the resolution calling for the creation of community-based schools. It's uncertain whether Goldman, who says she supports community-based schools, will ask for the entire motion to be voted on or just to change the wording about how the new plan will be developedl

“I have grave concerns about the way this plan is being presented,” Goldman said. “It’s not taking the viewpoint of the people serving on the committee"

Goldman’s opening remark triggered a lengthy and often heated verbal exchange between her and other members of the majority faction. Goldman, one of four new members elected last fall, has been one of the consistent members of a 5-4 faction that has voted on issues such as eliminating the diversity policy.

Goldman complained that the only voices being heard in the student assignment committee are Tedesco and committee member Chris Malone. The committee is working on a plan that calls for dividing the county into 16 school assignment zones that would stress proximity, stability and family choice.

Goldman has objected to not being a voting member of the student assignment committee and that the plan does away with guaranteed school assignments for every address.

“Every time you have a meeting the temp in the community rises,” Goldman said to Tedesco,

Goldman accused other members of the majority of holding private meetings in the hallway that excluded her.

“It wasn’t a question, it was more grandstanding in front of the cameras,” Tedesco shot back at Goldman’s question about the committee process.

Goldman said that every step of the new plan should go before the full board instead of waiting until the end when they’re told they don’t have time to make major changes. There’s a push from some members to have a plan in place for the 2011-12 school year.

“We’re making a draft a little tighter to present to the board,” Tedesco said of the changes that were made to the line boundaries at a committee meeting last week.

“You’re spinning the wheels of everyone in this county without getting feedback from the board,” Goldman responded.

Majority member Deborah Prickett defended Tedesco, accusing Goldman of not speaking up for residents of the Lochnere section in Goldman’s Cary district at last week’s committee meeting.

“For the people in the Lochmere area, even though I don’t have them in my district, I’ll be very glad to represent them,” Prickett said.

Malone urged his colleagues to “calm down a little bit.”

“Nobody should think what they see in the maps is the end all be all,” Malone said. “Stick with us. Pay attention. Things will be alright.”

Goldman said they don’t have to tear apart the current assignment plan to make a new one work.

“You’re building on a foundation that hasn’t been approved by the board,” Goldman said.

The complaints continued even on to the next discussion about the search for a new superintendent. Goldman heads that committee.

Tedesco complained that they still don’t have criteria for a new superintendent at this late date. Now, John don't get all upset,” Goldman said. “Calm yourself down."

“You calm down, prom queen,” Tedesco shot back at Goldman.

Goldman said that Tedesco and school board chairman Ron Margiotta had gone to her home last week to ask her to not voice her complaints publicly.

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

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