Plan for Wake schools to take more time

Debate over Wake assignment policy gets testy

STAFF WRITERSNovember 10, 2010 

  • The school board voted to use the name "Rolesville High School" for the high school being built on Rolesville and Quarry roads.

    The board chose the name over two alternatives - Buffalo Creek and Quarry Road. The school is scheduled to open in 2013. The school board opted for the Rolesville site after abandoning Forest Ridge High School, a school that would have been built on Forestville Road in northeast Raleigh.

    The vote means that Wake Forest-Rolesville High School might have to be renamed when the new school opens.

    The school board reversed its prior decision to eliminate all standing board committees.

    The vote was 5-3, with board member Debra Goldman reversing her vote in August to eliminate the committees. Goldman said she was concerned about work backing up without having the standing committees. A second vote will be needed to reinstate the committees.

    The school board agreed to cap the enrollment of Forest Pines Drive Elementary School in North Raleigh to deal with projected student overcrowding. Under the cap, administrators will be able to deny admission this school year to new families who move into the school's attendance area. Newcomers will be able to go to Wakefield Elementary School or Rolesville Elementary School.

    Administrators told the staff that they plan to present a 2011-12 student assignment plan to the school board Dec. 7.

    Next year's assignments had originally been approved by the previous school board in 2009 as part of a three-year plan. The plan will be revised to take into account suggestions from three public meetings next week, changes in enrollment since 2009, and the revised student assignment policy that stresses proximity and eliminates the use of socioeconomic diversity.

— Poised either to slow down or ramp up the Wake County student reassignment process, school board members stepped back from the brink Tuesday, pushing a decision into next week.

In the background of the board meeting: Republican member Debra Goldman's uncertain role in her party's coalition, plus dire budget predictions that had Chairman Ron Margiotta denying a Democratic county official's claim Monday that 2,000 teachers could lose their jobs next year.

The action, or lack of it, on developing a plan came after an often testy discussion of Democratic school board member Kevin Hill's proposal to hold an extensive set of discussions with the community, determine financial costs and define the terms they'll use before beginning work on a new plan.

"I still think as a board we need to come to some agreement amongst ourselves on key terms," said Hill, a former board chairman.

Goldman didn't come down on one side or the other on the proposal, but told the board she remained committed to community-based schools despite her Oct. 5 vote for a directive that killed a zone-based plan that other Republicans favored.

"What was the point of the Oct. 5 directive?" GOP board member Deborah Prickett broke in.

"Can I finish my sentence?" asked Goldman, who declined an interview request.

Goldman was one of four board members elected last fall who joined Margiotta in a new GOP majority that eliminated the use of diversity as a factor in student assignments. But the school board has found it has been hard to develop a new assignment model.

Republican school board members called the proposal a stall tactic, with member Chris Malone labeling it "gobbledygook." Both Malone and fellow Republican John Tedesco said it might take the next round of school board elections, in 2011, to accomplish a full makeover of the system.

Five of the nine board seats are on next year's ballot.

"Obviously we are going to keep on pushing on this as hard as we can and hope that a few extra members that could put us over the top," Tedesco said after the work session discussion of Hill's proposal.

During the discussion, Hill said they shouldn't go ahead with a plan unless they had at least some general idea of the costs. He cited the steep potential funding cuts that Wakefaces over the next few years.

"It's important that with the looming budget cuts that we understand the fiscal implications for any plan that we recommend," Hill said. "I fear that we would build a plan and not have enough money to adequately fund it."

School board Chairman Ron Margiotta said they'll discuss Hill's proposal at a work session next Tuesday.

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

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